HUDSON — Achievement and discipline gaps were found in an equity audit of the Hudson School District.
The audit, conducted by Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity, also found people were positive about the district and the capabilities of its teachers and administrators, and wanted the district to continue to grow and thrive.
Equity is about high quality teaching and learning for all students, across race, disability, social class, religion, gender, gender and sexual identity, and their intersections, ICS cofounder Elise Frattura said.
“It’s not about one group of students over another group of students. Equity is not a zero sum game, it actually advances learning of all,” Frattura said.
It’s important for all people in the district to own the effort for high-quality, equitable teaching and learning for all students in order to have the greatest impact on students. With that in mind, Frattura said, ICS did not recommend hiring a district equity coordinator.
The equity study took a quantitative and qualitative approach, compiling data and hosting focus groups to speak with teachers, administrators, students and community members.
Gaps by the numbers
The data from the school district did find gaps within achievement and discipline.
Students who received free and reduced lunch had gaps in math and reading compared to students who are upper or middle class families.
In math, 61.6% of students who receive free and reduced lunch are at basic or below basic, compared to 34.6% for those who are middle or upper class.
In reading, 63.8% of students on free and reduced lunch are basic or below basic, compared to 37.1% of students who are upper or middle class.
Students of color also had achievement gaps in reading. Districtwide, 76.3% of Black students are at the basic or below basic level, as well as 54.4% of multi-racial students and 51.7% of Hispanic students, compared to 41% of white students.
Students eligible for English Language Learning also had gaps in reading and math. In reading, 79% of students eligible for ELL were at basic or below basic levels, compared to 41.7% of students not eligible for those services. In math, 60.5% of students eligible for ELL were at basic or below basic, compared to 38.6% of those not eligible.
Advanced placement classes are seeing a disproportionately low percentage of students with disabilities, students of color, students receiving free and reduced lunch and students eligible for ELL services.
Less than 1% of students with disabilities, 6.6% of students of color, 7% of students receiving free or reduced lunch, and 0% of students eligible for ELL represent students in AP courses.
Students with disabilities and students of color make up a disproportionate number of suspensions.
Students with disabilities make up less than 14% of the district, but are 100% of in-school suspensions, 32% of out-of-school suspensions and 40% of expulsions.
Students of color make up 11% of the district population, but out-of-school suspension received by students of color is about 19%.
ICS cofounder Colleen Capper said they’re looking for proportional representation in all aspects. In this case, that means students with disabilities should not make up more than 14% of suspensions and expulsions, and students of color should not make up more than 11%.
Following the audit, the ICS recommends the following steps for the district:
Know the history of educational marginalization
Shift from deficit to asset-based thinking and language
Engage in identity development
Apply equity research
Develop equity non-negotiables
Conduct equity audit
Realign staff and students
Construct co-plan to co-serve to co-learn teams
Identity relevant training and learning
Discipline and behavior
Students with significant disabilities
Align human resource systems
Cross check policy and procedures
Understanding the history of educational marginalization, when students were often separated by groups and when the child -- rather than the system -- was often seen as the problem, is an important step in lifting up all kids today and drawing out current structures, Frattura said.
Shifting to asset-based language means using person-first language, and understanding the stereotypes and assumptions around identifies in order to stop deficit-based language.
Identity development is focused on creating professional development that is organized and consistent and gives staff the opportunity to choose what they want or need to learn more about.
Applying the equity research means looking to see if the district is doing everything it possibly can and researching what is best-practice.
The equity audit just completed gives the district a baseline that is comprehensive and detailed. It shows where the district is right now, and can be used to compare how far it has improved in the future.
Developing equity non-negotiables, also called principles of excellence, will give the district the how behind its mission and vision. The principles are six or seven statements that operationalize high quality teaching and learning, Frattura said.
Realigning staff and students will give better chances for collaboration, something staff express they wanted to do more of. Teacher expertise has the greatest impact on reaching all students, and realignment can help them co-create and collaborate, Frattura said. It also means looking at center-based programs where students of certain groups, such as those with disabilities, are clustered together.
The co-plan to co-serve to co-earn teams builds off this idea, giving ways for general education, special education and ELL teachers ways to collaborate and share expertise.
“We know that together we’re stronger,” Frattura said.
Identity relevant teaching and learning ensures curriculum is relevant to the state’s nondiscrimination law and focuses on strategies that have the greatest impact on achievement.
Discipline and behavior work will include professional development specific to how to develop proactive student behavior plans that are equitable and identity-relevant.
Work focusing on students with significant disabilities includes professional development in cross-categorical caseloads. This means some teachers will be cross-categorical, going across general and special education, and some will be categorical. That way students with disabilities will have better access to core learning, Frattura said.
Aligning human resource systems ensures equity is the responsibility of all leadership within the district. It is necessary to take a systematic approach, Frattura said.
Leveraging funding ensures the budget is aligned to the district’s principles of excellence. Frattura also recommends the district complete an equity audit of its extra and co-curricular activities to increase options for students who may have limited access to activities.
Cross-checking policies and procedures around those principles of excellence is also important. The School Board members, as the ones who review policies, can receive additional training on high-quality teaching and learning, Frattura said.
The board will discuss the next steps and recommendations from the district’s administration at a later meeting.
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