Friday, November 16, 2012

Educational and Racial Equity

When the Board adopted policy 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity, there was a bit of a stir because, at one point, the word "Racial" had been removed from the policy title. I guess some folks were concerned that if there was no reference to race in the title of the policy, there would be no focus on race in the implementation of the policy. The content of the policy was not in question, just the title.



The policy language does not put special emphasis on race. It makes reference to the opportunity gap, which is an economic disparity, and it lists a number of different types of equity the policy should protect:
"The concept of educational equity goes beyond formal equality—where all students are treated the same—to fostering a barrier-free environment where all students, regardless of their race, class or other personal characteristics such as creed, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, economic status, gender, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, pregnancy status, marital status, physical appearance, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, have the opportunity to benefit equally."
I was a bit surprised by the exclusive focus on race in the initial report to the Board on the implementation of this policy. In particular, race was the only measure of diversity used when describing the District's workforce. The policy says:
"Workforce Equity—The district shall actively work to have the teacher and administrator workforce be balanced and reflect the diversity of the student body. The district shall recruit, employ, support and retain a workforce that includes racial, gender, and linguistic diversity, as well as culturally competent administrative, instructional and support personnel;"
Of the three measures of workforce diversity in the policy, racial, gender, and linguistic, only race appears in the report to the Board. While it might be tricky for the staff to enumerate the linguistic diversity of the staff, I think they could quickly and easily determine the gender diversity of the staff. And I think they should have done so. Not only because the policy requires it, but because I think it would have been illuminating.

When statistics show that Black students are disciplined four times as often as White students it is regarded as evidence of institutional racism and evidence of a lack of cultural competency in a predominantly White workforce. Yet, when male-identified students are disciplined TEN times as often as female-identified students, there is no equivalent recognition of this as evidence of institutionalized sexism or a lack of cultural competency in a predominantly female workforce. How is that? Are people quick to acknowledge a Black culture which is different from White culture but not as quick to acknowledge a male culture which is different from female culture? Teachers are encouraged to become culturally competent so that they do not unintentionally give or take offense and so they recognize behavior that may be outside their social norms but within the social norms of the student's culture. Surely male and female culture have differences along these lines. Surely that standard of cultural competence is needed - as evidenced by the number of boys disciplined by female teachers and administrators. Take a moment to consider how the social norms enforced in our schools more aligned with female culture than male culture, much as many argue they are more aligned with European-American culture than with African-American culture.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was totally against charter schools, but would a boys only or girls only charter be allowed? I don't think it's a huge secret that boys and girls learn differently.

wwmom

Charlie Mas said...

A gender-specific charter school would not be allowed because charter schools are not allowed to set eligibility criteria.

However, a gender divided school would be allowed. So the school could accept students regardless of gender and then divide them by gender in their classes.

Ben Wright achieved some success with this at Thurgood Marshall about eight years ago. It was controversial, but not illegal.

Anonymous said...

What a non-story from the district. Homogeneous school populations with financial resources at home perform at the top. From there, it is a mixed bag.

What part of 'poverty matters' do education reformers not understand?

SavvyVoter

Charlie Mas said...

It's a funny thing, but other than the workforce analysis by race, there is no other data in this "report".

I suppose it's really an update on how the District staff intends to implement the policy, but even in that context it was pretty light.

They are supposed to develop a "racial equity analysis tool" and they have identified the seven groups who are going to provide input to the creation of that tool. That's all they have so far: a list of annointed stakeholders.

They have also identified the group of people who will form the Recruitment Team and has given the task of "crafting a plan and strategy to increase both the quality and diversity of teachers in Seattle Public Schools, specifically for our highest needs schools". Oddly, a lot of the people on the team are the same people who have had this task for years.

As with any number of other plans to plan, this one has a long list of inaction items:

"•Set goals (Cabinet meetings)
•Data focus
•NABSE conference Nov. 14-17
•Additional conferences
•Seattle Teacher Residency Design Team
•Community outreach through Equity and Race Advisory Committee
•Spokane and Tacoma Dome career fairs
•Contingency contracts
•Additional college visits (local and national)
•Martinez Foundation
•Community Outreach (retention)
•Work with Portland Public Schools
•Partner with Human Resources to create a support group for veteran teachers of color
"

I cannot be the only one to notice that there is no action in their action plan.

Here is their Professional Development plan:

"• Develop five Professional Development (PD) sessions
• Develop and implement strategies and protocols for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within existing structures
• Provide PD for school administrators
•Provide Professional Development (PD) and a common framework for School staff and School Board members
•Train Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to use the lens of race and equity in examining student performance data and student work
•Provide race and equity PD for new hires
"

Is there anything new here? Is there any reason to believe that any of these things will suddenly become effective?

And what does it mean to "to use the lens of race and equity in examining student performance data and student work?"

Anonymous said...

@SavvyVoter: Your summary is dead on. Poverty is a four letter word to ed reform. From some reason it's more acceptable to refer to someone by the color of their skin than to their income bracket. A lot of the data points to poverty and income as a major factor influencing success, but very few, if any of the ed reform policies even consider it. I wish I had a better explanation, but that's they way things are now.

-Another Stat

gone with the wind said...

Charlie Mas do us a favor stop you make a fool of yourself when u talk about School board policy!!!

John McGraw said...

Gone

What is the problem with his analysis here?

I agree that Charlie is often off base. Sometimes way off base.

To use Melissa's reference to the Mendoza line a few weeks ago - I would say Charlie is well above that line. He's probably hitting about .278.

I don't know enough (anything?) about this policy but would be interested in your take.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, gone with the wind, for your input. I will consider it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie probably knows Board policy better than nearly anyone else. I'd like to see Gone with the Wind go up against him.

Charlie Mas said...

For all of the Board's talk about how dreadful the policies are, you could read the entire set of policies in an afternoon. There aren't that many of them and they aren't that long.

If you do read them you will discover some amazing stuff.

First, most of the policies are crap. They are just meaningless jargon or aspirational statements which are unclear and entirely unenforceable.

Second, they are ALL unenforceable because no one enforces them.

Third, some of them are horribly bogged down in procedure. And not just the old ones. Take a look at the policy on Waivers for Basic Instructional Materials. That's not a policy; that's a procedure. A policy would only say that the Board sees value in the possibility of waivers and that the superintendent shall establish a procedure for them.

Fifth, you can find some real gems in there. There are some policies that will truly surprise you, like the Alternative Education policy and the School Family Partnerships Policy. They really make you wonder what the district would be like if those policies were followed.