Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97 officials recently released a draft equity policy that the school board is scheduled to discuss this month. In addition to the draft policy, officials also released a Jan. 29 memo detailing the recommended resources that they think are critical to making sure the ambitious goals of the policy are actually achieved.
Although the document doesn't contain any cost estimates related to those resources — which could include 19 full-time staff members, a wide variety of professional development services, data monitoring tools and outside consultants — it's probably safe to assume that the implementation of the policy won't come cheap.
The draft equity policy, which was released last month, lays out the district's expansive vision of nurturing the potential "in each student" and ensuring that "each student has a high-quality education experience, and outcomes are not predicted by race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, national origin, foster status, involvement with the juvenile system, IEP [Individualized Education Program] status [which indicates special education], disability, learning difference, immigration status, or language."
The data, the draft policy reads, "Consistently reveals that race is the most persistent predictor of student performance in District 97. Black and brown students are much more likely to be disciplined than they are to be selected for participation in the district's gifted and talented program. The data also demonstrates that "learning differences, disabilities, IEP status, socioeconomic status" are also predictors of student performance.
The district pulls no punches in its self-evaluation.
"District 97 has made efforts to address the inequities in our District and thus far these efforts have been largely unsuccessful," the policy reads.
In order to correct its historical failing, the district vows to take action in nine areas, including stakeholder and community engagement, workforce equity, eliminating discipline disparities and professional development, among others. And each of those focus areas, district officials explained, will require extra staffing, professional development services and other resources.
For instance, the district states that it will eliminate discipline disparities through a variety of measures, such as training teachers and staff to deploy restorative justice practices, which emphasize conflict resolution over punishment.
"The goal is to keep our students in the classroom, ensure that they have equal access to instruction and ensure behavior management does not negatively impact how a student sees him or herself and how other students and people in the school community sees that student," officials said in the memo.
To achieve that goal, officials recommend bringing on a middle school culture and climate coach, six middle school safety and security monitors, and two elementary culture and climate coaches. The memo indicates that the coaches will make sure that restorative justice practices are being implemented uniformly across the district. Officials don't indicate whether these positions will be created by reshuffling the responsibilities of current staffers, hiring new ones or both.
In addition to the nine full-time staffers, eliminating discipline disparities would also entail the district conducting annual training and ongoing professional support for teachers and staff members in areas such as restorative practices, suicide prevention and trauma-informed care.
The district would also provide extra resources to help eliminate disparities, such as space in schools for community-based mental health services and mentoring programs for families new to the district's middle schools. These resources could require the district to pay teachers and staff additional stipends to carry out their new functions.
In total, district officials recommended the development of 19 full-time-equivalent positions, more than a dozen professional learning opportunities for staff and teachers, and more than a dozen additional resources, such as the creation of a data warehouse, bringing on an external auditor to evaluate funding and staffing related to the equity policy, and the establishment of a D97 affinity group.
The policy would require Supt. Carol Kelley to "publicly report on progress toward District goals at least twice a year," and to present an updated equity action plan to the board each year.
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