Evanston school boards address inequity in school system
February 14, 2017
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The Evanston/Skokie School School District 65 board is in the process of creating a new equity policy, Superintendent Paul Goren said at a joint meeting with the Evanston Township High School/District 202 School Board Monday night.
Goren and other members of the District 65 board met with the ETHS board to address educational inequities in their districts and highlight the policies and staff training currently in place to combat them.
Goren said his district took inspiration from District 202 in creating a racial and educational equity statement. The ETHS board created their equity statement in 2011, which emphasizes eliminating the “racial predictability” of achievement as well as institutional policies and beliefs that perpetuate racial disparities in achievement.
District 65 is looking at developing an assessment tool to look at all decision making across the district through a “lens of equity,” Goren said. District 65 also has plans that by 2019, all staff members will have gone through “Beyond Diversity” training, which emphasizes the ideals of anti-oppression and compassion, he said.
“We’re actively involved, we’re learning a lot as we go along,” he said. “We’re engaging and really building what we see as a movement.”
ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said the high school has learned a lot by looking at other districts and the challenges they have faced concerning equity. He said District 202 would look to potentially put together a written study of similar lessons learned about equity.
Witherspoon said it was not enough to just look at “data points” or quantifiable measures of equity, but instead work on creating an equitable culture in a broader sense. The goal is to ultimately create an environment where honest conversations can take place, he said, and important questions must be a part of that conversation.
“Is there a sense of belonging?” Witherspoon said. “Is (there) this idea that effort matters? (Do) students start to believe that intelligence isn’t fixed, it’s malleable?”
Also at the meeting was a group of ETHS students from Students Organized Against Racism, a student-led club whose stated goal is to create a space to talk about race and racism thoughtfully. Corey Winchester (SESP ‘10), who teaches history and social studies at ETHS and is the faculty sponsor of SOAR, urged District 65 schools to “hop on board” and collaborate with students to promote equity from a younger age.
Winchester said he thinks SOAR exemplifies a saying from co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement Alicia Garza that “change happens in a leaderful way.” There have been SOAR members that have spearheading rallies and that have won awards for their contributions, he said.
“Those are some of the stated achievements,” Winchester said. “But a lot of the work that SOAR does is not stated, it’s not out there.”
Goren said he is pleased to see D65 sending 10 students to attend SOAR’s conference next week, and that he hoped to increase the number sent in future years.
“The voices need to come out at a younger age … Every voice counts, and every voice needs to be and must be heard,” Goren said.