Plan outlines strategies to create educational equity throughout district
On January 8, the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Board of Education tonight unanimously approved the district’s first racial equity plan, aimed at creating parity and accessibility to educational programs, resources and opportunities for all students throughout the district.
The approval comes eight months after the board approved its first racial equity policy, which called for the creation of a comprehensive plan to address longstanding inequities faced by students of color.
The plan outlines strategies in each of five major areas – diversity in curriculum, instruction and assessment; school culture and climate; staffing and classroom diversity; programmatic access; and central office commitment – and identifies top JCPS administrators to be held accountable for outcomes in each of those areas. In addition, the plan assigns specific, measurable goals to each to determine whether the initiatives are working.
“Our district cannot move forward unless everyone, regardless of race or nationality, advances,” said JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio. “This plan sets out deliberate, intentional strategies to create educational equity throughout JCPS and reduce the stubborn gaps in achievement, opportunities and disciplinary actions among certain student groups. Perhaps most importantly, it clearly outlines the benchmarks by which we’ll measure our success, and it holds us accountable for hitting those targets.”
Among the goals for the district to accomplish by 2020, the plans calls for:
- Reducing the suspension rates of students of color by 10 percent;
- Decreasing the achievement gap in proficiency rates between African American and white students by 3 percent;
- Increasing the number of minority teachers by 2 percent;
- Increasing students of color enrolled in higher level courses by 3 percent, and those participating in career pathways and graduating transition ready by 5 percent; and
- Providing funding of at least $2 million on initiatives focused on students of color.
To hit those benchmarks, the plan outlines numerous strategies, including ensuring that each school has systems in place to support students in becoming transition ready, so they are well prepared to advance to the next grade level; providing extensive training opportunities for staff in a wide variety of areas, such as cultural competence, restorative practices and trauma-informed care, to help reduce disproportionality in disciplinary practices; and offering support programs and services tailored to better serve students of color and other marginalized groups.
The plan was developed by a 17-member Racial Equity Advisory Council made up of administrators, teachers, parents, students and community members throughout the county. Under the racial equity policy, which was approved by the board in May 2018, the plan will be reviewed, amended and renewed at least once every three years.
Schools will also be responsible for developing their own, site-specific equity plans to target individual issues, and the district will monitor data to determine if targeted goals are being met, with biannual reports to the board.
“This is more than just an ambitious goal,” said board Chairwoman Diane Porter. “Tonight we approved an explicit, clear-cut plan that will guide JCPS toward educational equality for all our students, and gives us clear metrics to keep us on track.”
The plan also sets JCPS apart among school districts, according to Chief Equity Officer John Marshall, who said that “JCPS is one of a few districts that is addressing racial equity in such a systemic and progressive way.”