D209 Equity Report Shows Progress, But Disparities Persist


Friday, October 16, 2020 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

During the 2019-20 school year, the District 209 school board’s Student Achievement and School Innovation committee facilitated an equity study designed to be “an equity snapshot” of the district based on student and staff surveys, district data and data available through the Illinois State Board of Education’s website.

The study is perhaps the most comprehensive portrait to date of the state of equity within District 209 in a range of areas, including distribution of funding and resources, student achievement, school culture and climate, and disciplinary procedures and rates of discipline.

The study, which the district developed in partnership with Public Consulting Group Inc., a management consulting firm, was released in March.

The study showed some progress within the district. For instance, the percentage of students at Proviso East High School taking early college courses has increased 5.5 percent since 2016. And data shows the district spending about $1,000 more per pupil at Proviso East and Proviso West, where low-income and high-need students are concentrated, than at Proviso Math and Science Academy.

In addition, a survey of students and staffers at all three schools showed that 83 percent of staffers and 71 percent of students “believe that students have at least one adult who cares about them.”

Ninety-six staffers from all three schools participated in the survey. Most of the respondents — 77 percent — were teachers, and 55 percent of respondents worked at East. Overall, the response rate among district teachers for the survey was 30 percent. In addition, 732 students at all three schools responded, with the most (33 percent) coming from East, particularly students who live in Maywood and Melrose Park.

Public Consulting Group asked questions about “diversity, mentoring and caring, expectations, family engagement, student engagement, and finally equity in their school,” according to the report.

Most respondents were positive about staff’s approach to diversity, but the degree of positivity shared by staffers diverged from that expressed by students.

For instance, 70 percent of staffers thought that staff are “intentional about honoring cultural differences” while 73 percent “agree that staff treat diversity as an asset” and 81 percent agree that “staff promote social acceptance among all students.”

Among students who responded, however, just 45 percent thought that “staff in our school treat student diversity as an asset and not a deficit.”

Most staffers and students who responded — 83 percent and 71 percent, respectively — thought that “students have at least one adult who cares about them.”

A chart detailing students’ and staff members’ sentiments on diversity in District 209, taken from the Student Achievement and School Innovation committee’s equity study that was released in the summer. | Screenshot 

Around three-quarters of both staff and students surveyed said that they agree that teachers and staff hold students to high expectations, regardless of their background, but roughly half of staffers and students who responded felt that students had “equitable access to courses at their schools.”

Only 42 percent of staff respondents agreed that students get the necessary academic support they require once they’re placed in classes, “regardless of their unique needs” and only 35 percent of staff respondents agreed that district programs and polices “to improve attendance focus more on student engagement and less on punitive outcomes.”

The study also showed that in 2019, Black students at Proviso East and Proviso West were disproportionately under enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. At each school, Blacks are roughly 40 percent of the student population, but only around 2 out of 10 Blacks are in AP courses at each school.

English learners at East and West are also disproportionately under enrolled in AP classes compared to their overall proportion of the student population. In 2019, English Learners were 15 percent of the student population at East and West, but roughly 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, of the AP student population at each school.

Data also showed a disparity in discipline between schools. In 2019, the number of in-school suspensions at West (923) was three times larger than at East (322), and the number of out-of-school suspensions at West (414) was six times larger than the number at East (70). At PMSA, there were no in-school suspensions and “few instances of out-of-school suspensions” that year.

At East and West, Black students represented the largest proportion of suspended students in 2019. At East, Blacks were 41 percent of student enrollment, but 75 percent of those students served in-school suspensions and 86 percent of those students served out-of-school suspensions. At West, Blacks were 43 percent, but 65 percent of those students served in-school suspensions and 70 percent of those students served out-of-school suspensions.

Earlier this year, the D209 school board’s SASI committee identified four areas “as strong starting points for the district’s initial equity work,” according to a memo drafted by district officials in July. Those areas include promoting an inclusive climate, improving restorative disciplinary practices, increasing access to high quality and culturally relevant curriculum, including the study of Black history, and increasing “student voice, leadership and engagement in decision making.”

The committee is scheduled to give its first-year update to the board in April. You can read the full report here.

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October 16, 2020 at 06:49PM

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