Last spring, a group of dedicated volunteers from throughout the Arlington community came together in a strategic planning process that resulted in new vision and mission statements and established four Strategic Priorities. The importance of improving as “...an equitable educational community where all learners feel a sense of belonging,...:, and creating “...inclusive and innovative learning opportunities for all students…” where “...diverse identities and ways of learning…” are honored comes through loud and clear. The first Strategic Priority states that “the Arlington Public Schools will ensure equity, excellence, and access to rigorous learning experiences for all students.”
The Equity Audit undertaken in partnership with Longview Education was key to developing a greater understanding of what the district needs in order to fulfill its vision, mission, and strategic priorities. As stated in the Introduction to the final report that was accepted in August, this work was undertaken: “...to understand the drivers and obstructions behind the gaps in students’ achievements and opportunities, as well as to fully understand the challenges, identify best practices, and align resources to meet the needs of our BIPOC students.”
The audit process was participative and inclusive, involving 56 total stakeholders including teachers, administrators, community members, and students. There were 129 empathy interviews and focus groups to capture information and points of view that included members of the METCO team, curriculum leaders, students, teachers, administrators, and families. Policy documents and data on professional development and leadership, student achievement, staffing, curriculum, interventions, and family and community engagement were analyzed.
Six recommendations for action are called out on pages 5-8 in the final report:
- Create or refine and use a bias and discrimination reporting process
- Begin or refine human resources data tracking process
- Require ongoing professional development in diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion (DEBI)
- Carry-out a review of intervention services
- Create clarity about roles, expectations, and vision for the district to effectively integrate DEBI efforts
- Begin to transition from a culture of compliance and accountability towards one of student-centeredness and inclusion
Activities are already underway to address these recommendations. Examples include the Community Forums hosted by Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Homan and District Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion unit that will bring stakeholders together to discuss and provide feedback on the Equity Audit report as well as the new vision and mission statements. The recommendations are informing the Strategic Planning Group as it designs initiatives and action steps for the district Strategic Priorities. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Roderick MacNeal, Jr. will introduce a new approach to professional development and he will work with Ms. Credle Thomas on how to meet a new 18-hour requirement for DBEI training. These activities and more will continue to push the district forward as it seeks to complete the transformations necessary to foster equity.