Equity Audit Initial Findings - Dec 2017

The district commissioned a study to understand issues of racial equity and inclusion in our schools and classrooms. Our equity consultant, Ms. Christine Robinson, shared the Needham Equity Audit Initial Findings with the School Committee on December 19, 2017. 

Ms. Robinson interviewed or conducted focus groups with over 250 parents, community members, staff, and students and studied various documents, policies, and student data as part of her audit of equity and inclusion in the Needham Public Schools. She grounded her study within a conceptual framework of intersectionality, a theory that suggests individuals possess multiple identities, including race, gender, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental and physical disability, as well as other forms of identity. Intersectionality means it is insufficient to look at one's race when considering equity and inclusion because we possess other identities that may intersect with our race to impact our experiences in the world.

Key findings from the initial Audit presentation include:
  • Root causes of disparities in education are centuries in the making; they are embedded in our nation's history. Still today, disparities affect the lives of students, faculty, administration, parents, and staff of the Needham Public Schools.
  • Needham Public Schools is becoming more diverse each year with over  50 languages spoken at home by the district's families, with a wide variety of cultures, faith traditions, types of families, sexual identities, races, ethnicities, learning styles, disabilities, and countries of origin. Not everyone feels welcome or understood in the Needham Public Schools.
  • Needham Public Schools parents, students, and staff report experiencing or observing multiple instances of discrimination at the micro-level (joking, teasing, bullying, isolation) or at the macro-level from the media, public/political institutions, public safety, or other adults.
  • Some students of color express feeling marginalized or harassed; their parents feel unheard and disconnected; and their teachers, for example, express concern and anxiety about doing or saying the right thing when the issue of race surfaces.
  • When students feel marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or language, they experience a level of anxiety and distress that interferes with their learning and achievement.
  • The report suggests that we can build on our many strong assets (e.g., Launching Scholars) and existing programs (e.g., Social and Emotional Learning) to address real issues and challenges.

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