Addressing equity is a long-term team effort l Mukilteo Schools

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Nov 07, 2018

The Mukilteo School District has become a richly diverse place over the past several years. Our school district is vastly different than it was when I arrived in 2000. We truly are educating students from around the globe, with students who speak a wide range of languages and who represent many different ethnicities. Our classrooms have also become more diverse economically.

As a result of this increased diversity, we’ve seen how many students face barriers to their education. Our mission says we are “committed to success for every student,” yet the results of state assessments over many years have revealed gaps in academic performance between those who have grown up in an environment of poverty and those who did not, or between those who are in some ethnic categories as compared with other ethnicities.

Seeing our increased diversity and those gaps in performance led us a number of years ago to focus our attention on issues of equity. So, we asked ourselves some questions. What do we believe and value? How do we evaluate and produce policies and programs that result in equitable outcomes for all students? We say we believe in success for every student, but what does that really mean?

Our leadership team began working with consultants to better understand the issue and our school board began work to adopt an equity policy. A district equity planning team was organized to gather information and formulate the values that would be included in such a policy. This work also included eight different focus groups made up of students, staff members, and parents to discuss the issue of equity and gather ideas of potential strategies that could be put in place to address equity.

One thing that became clear through this work was the idea that equity doesn’t mean that everybody will be treated the same. Instead, it means that the school district must strive to give each individual student the support that he or she needs to achieve equitable academic success. In many cases, equity might mean removing barriers that stand in the way of a student’s success.

The school board adopted a policy in the summer of 2017 that set a course for us to “eliminate racism, inequities, and institutional bias, which will help increase achievement and graduation rates for all students, while narrowing the academic and opportunity gaps between the highest and lowest performing students.”

The fundamental thing to keep in mind about our focus on equity is that the issue isn’t solved simply with the adoption of a new policy or with the attention of leadership. It’s a long-term team effort that will take many years to fully address.

Our schools and departments are now looking at the things they do through an equity lens. For instance, they now refer to the barriers that stand in the way of student success as door closers and are actively trying to open those doors and escort students through. Our focus also means that we will allocate more resources in some areas than in others, removing barriers so that all students can be successful.

Next month, I’ll go into a bit more detail about some of the efforts we are undertaking that will lead to an environment that ensures a high level of success for all students.

 

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