Educational equity means excellence for all

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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District 97 and District 200 adopted racial equity policies this past year — policies that could be as transformative as Oak Park's Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968. Unlike 1968, however, only a few residents spoke against our schools' racial equity policies. There is a growing consensus that we must tackle educational equity with focus and urgency. Community engagement and courageous school boards and administrators have brought us to this important opportunity to achieve equity for all students and families. 

It's time to take the next step.

In their policies, both districts acknowledged historical racism that influences our schools. And, for the first time, both noted that advancing racial equity requires transparency and meaningful involvement of families and students of color. Both also acknowledged the importance of using a racial equity tool.

An effective Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) tool lays out a clear process and a set of questions to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of significant policies, initiatives, professional development, programs, instructional practices, and budget issues to address the racial impacts. An REIA tool can thus reduce, eliminate, and prevent racial discrimination and inequities when, for example, reviewing proposed curriculum or existing disciplinary practices.

We urge administrations of both D97 and D200 to move forward to adopt and utilize a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) tool. This tool must be in place for school year 2019-2020 to ensure that equity ideals are put into practice.


REIA tool features

Effective racial equity impact assessment tools must include critical features and protocols that have been successfully implemented in schools districts around the nation. These include:

applying the tool to significant decision-making, such as assessing future programs, practices, budgets, policies, hiring, and curriculum;

including meaningful racially and culturally diverse stakeholder engagement throughout the process;

foregrounding race, while considering other salient factors such as socio-economic status, disability, immigration status, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, etc.;

generating alternative options and assessing racial impacts on different communities and stakeholders;

deciding which option maximizes equity without harm to students of color;

including a written rationale for why a chosen action is undertaken; and

 providing for effective implementation, documentation, evaluation, public communication and reporting, and appropriate revision.

Our schools must be places where all students and families are assured equity in opportunities to learn and to fully participate within and outside of classrooms. All should experience a welcoming, safe, respectful, and diverse school culture that practices restorative justice. Students should be engaged in rigorous, inclusive, and relevant curricula taught by teachers and support staff who reflect the demographics of the student body. All students must have the opportunity to realize appropriate academic and social-emotional growth.

School administrators and staff are now making decisions that will affect the environment to which our students return next month. Faculty and staff will soon participate in professional development to kick off the new school year. To ensure that our schools' practices match our ideals, we urge that both administrations adopt and begin to utilize REIA protocols in our school districts by the start of the 2019-20 school year. This is a critical step in creating welcoming and effective school communities for all. 

Committee for Equity and Excellence in
Education (CEEE)

Oak Park Call to Action (OPCTA)

Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA)

Executive Leadership Team,
D97 Oak Park PTO Diversity Council

Race Conscious Dialogues (RCD) 

Burcy Hines, community member

Terry Keleher, community member; D200 parent 

Lynn Allen, former director,
D97 Multicultural Resource Center

Wyanetta Johnson, community member

Lois Thiessen Love, community member

Addie Anderson, community member 

Grace Gunn, OPRF 2019 grad; former president of OPRF Black Student Union

Jameel Abdur-Rafia, community member;
D200 parent

Kamau "Maui" Jones, OPRF 1999 grad;
artistic director ECHO Theater Collective

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Reader Comments

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Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 23rd, 2019 12:56 PM

"Effective racial equity impact assessment tools must include critical features and protocols that have been successfully implemented in schools districts around the nation. " Could the author please cite examples of success.

Gail Galivan  

Posted: July 23rd, 2019 12:40 AM

I would like to see ongoing community events scheduled with real-life examples of how these points have been or might be implemented. (see below) Those without exposure to the urgency here might better be informed. There may be books to read which would be helpful. A few years back, a group read "On the Same Track, How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle against Resegregation" by Carol Corbett Burris. I think live Q&A and community input would lead to a deeper understanding by all and support tangible, parallel applications to enhance the climate of other community organizations and institutions, if they so choose. The July 29th Oak Park Public Library program, "D97 to Me" where Dr. Marcus Croom will lead a discussion about D97's equity policy might be one such effort. By living in a diverse community, there is an unspoken commitment toward paying attention to how decisions that are being made will affect students of color. We've got to speak up if and when there is potential OR real harm to students of color.

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