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SCHOOL YEAR 2022-2023


The REAL Coalition (Race, Equity, Access, Leadership) currently has 50+ members representing administrators, staff, students, families, and community members who are tasked with spreading the word about the district's equity work. In this third edition of Let's Get REAL we are reporting on the assets that already support equity and the areas where growth is needed. We recognize our shortcomings and the impact of racism and bias on our students. That is why the district is pushing forward in 6 goal areas and seeking out student voices where there has been some harm done.


We ask that you join us in our efforts to acknowledge inequities and overcome obstacles. Please use this newsletter to reflect on where we are and how we are addressing equity in Policies & Practices, Hiring & Employment, Curriculum & Instruction, Professional Learning, Culture & Climate, and Communication & Engagement.




When educators listen to students explain that adults need to “...Be better at addressing race-related wrongdoings of students who hurt other students,” we take this feedback to heart.  The district is committed to fulfilling our promise to prepare all students for their future. Our guide is the Portrait of A Needham Graduate strategic plan that outlines actions to advance equitable, inclusive, and antiracist practices in our schools. We recognize that each child possesses personal gifts and attributes and brings these to the classroom, which strengthens learning for all. Equity, in the Needham Public Schools, is more than access and participation; it is the process by which we promote justice, engender respect, and inspire hope.







There is clearly a need to ensure that the district's policies and practices are supporting all students. That is why three policies came before the Needham School Committee for revision this school year as a result of reviewing them through the lens of equity.


The first is a revised Memorandum of Understanding which details the role of the Needham Police and School Resource Officers (SRO) in our schools. While some school districts locally and around the country have paused or ended relationships with local police departments, our partnership established with the Needham Police is intended to ensure that all students feel welcome, included, and safe within school and that a caring and trusting community, guided by responsible adults, exists for each child. We are deliberate in stating what police officers can and cannot do in the school setting, and we are equally clear that school administrators and personnel must not take on law enforcement responsibilities within the school building. The SRO also is committed to receiving ongoing anti-bias and culturally responsive training appropriate for the school setting.


The second policy revision falls under Policy IJL: Selection and Adoption of Library Resources. The Needham Public Schools is committed to providing a balanced collection of high quality, accurate, current, reliable resources that encompass a diversity of identities, perspectives, and learning abilities in order to support the curriculum and foster a love of learning.


The third is a new procedure to ensure that each student has full access to school programs and no student is denied participation because of inability to pay. Policy JQ: Student Fees, Fines, and Charges, first adopted in 2020, is now fully operational and expands the amount of financial assistance available to the students participating in district programs, events, and activities.


In the area of hiring and employment, the district believes that all students deserve equitable access to diverse and qualified educators and school leaders. We have a significant challenge ahead as we aim for a percentage of staff by race that reflects the demographic mix of our students. Today, almost 90 percent of our staff are white while only 72.6 percent of our students are white. The increase in our staff of color is growing. In the 2021-2022 school year, the district had 78.0 FTE (full-time equivalent) staff of color and in the current school year we are at 93.1 FTE -- which is on track to be an increase from 8% to 11% of staff identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).


Staff retention is equally important. We continue to partner with the Town in our retention efforts and co-host the affinity group "Stronger Together" for BIPOC employees inclusive of our Latinx, Asian, and biracial staff. This support group gathers to talk about shared professional experiences, driving change in the area of racial equity, and promoting an inclusive environment where all employees are valued and empowered to succeed.




We are committed to providing rigorous and culturally responsive curriculum and instruction for every student, from grades PreK to 12. To address inequities in academic performance, we look at student data and compare it with the district's, school's, and classroom's demographics to see which students are under or overrepresented. We use a variety of data points to assess student learning and growth, and proactively address achievement and opportunity gaps. For example, the district implemented an Early Literacy Screener for all kindergarteners which is reducing the percentage of students at risk of falling behind. During the summer of 2022 and planned again for 2023, we are inviting 1st through 5th graders to participate in the 4- week intensive "Summer Bridges" based on their math and literacy data and teacher recommendations. Last summer we served 124 students and one-third were from historically marginalized groups.


We also monitor the percent of 11th & 12th graders in Advanced Courses and identify disproportionality that needs to be addressed. What we mean is that we are seeing an increase in percentages over time for most students; however, some subgroups need additional supports.


Programs are in place for all students to address some of these disparities, including "Castle Scholars," an NHS program open for all students and targeting African American and Latinx/ Hispanic students who have shown an interest in challenging themselves in rigorous coursework.


Another promising new program called "Mentors Like Me" partners student mentors from the Castle Program and the NHS Black Student Union with Pollard students so they can discuss shared experiences, particularly in relation to race. The mentorship is designed to identify and use strategies for disrupting or reducing unconscious bias and also provide a transformative leadership opportunity for our high school mentors.




Professional Learning includes providing teachers with the tools and knowledge to help them create the conditions for learning for all students in each classroom. This year, with funding from the Needham Education Foundation, the district engaged all instructional staff in reading We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor. Each staff member received a copy of the book, professional development through building-level leadership, and two keynote addresses by the author himself. Additionally, Mr. Minor worked with district and department teams in smaller settings to increase teacher's use of data to improve learning that is culturally relevant and provides equitable classroom practices that lift all students.


We continue to expand the staff's knowledge and skills in the use of UDL (Universal Design for Learning), a framework to provide all learners with opportunities for agency, voice, and choice. Additional training on overcoming implicit and explicit bias allows staff to engage in difficult conversations and other matters of diversity. Frequently, staff complete this kind of training through IDEAS (Initiatives for Developing Equity & Achievement for Students).


We envision a cohesive and comprehensive professional learning program evolving over the next two years so that it becomes clear that equitable instructional practices that increase student performance and build equitable school communities is the work of everyone in the Needham Public Schools.



We continue to assess culture and climate and address the need for all students to feel a sense of belonging in school. School-based restorative practices are being piloted to create a culture of connectivity where all members of the school community feel valued. Supports for students' social and emotional learning and mental health are continuing. We monitor student reports of "feeling connected to their school" through the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. And in developmentally appropriate ways, staff are supporting students in all grades on the Portrait of A Needham Graduate competencies for being Socially and Culturally Responsive Contributors; i.e., students are learning to understand and respect diversity and to act with empathy and courage to ensure equity, access, and an antiracist culture. A prime example is the CCOR course (Courageous Conversations on Race) at the high school.


The increase in school community multicultural events, school-based art projects, Unified Sports, and programming like Pollard's Students Taking Action Day -- all of which emphasize student belonging, inclusion and diversity -- directly address the need to strengthen our school cultures and ensure the climate empowers learners.




Our goal regarding communication and engagement is to acknowledge and speak the truth about the district's efforts on equity, inclusion, diversity, and antiracism. To do so means building relationships across differences and finding collaborative solutions for everyday problems. We are using the district's annual survey to engage students, staff, and families about our efforts and to assess our impact.


We engage staff, students, families, and community members with sensitivity to the needs of those who have been historically marginalized. This involves school-based PTCs, METCO Parent Council, Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC), and the English Language Learner Advisory Council (ELPAC), among others.


As we listen to the voices of our students, we can all recognize the urgency of the district's equity work. There is a critical role for those who have remained silent when harm is being done. There is a need for ongoing support and continuous improvements. Please join us.

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