Summary of 8/8/17 Board Meeting

On Tuesday, 8/8/17, the CSD Board met from 6:30-10:00 pm for their regular August Board meeting. Documents referenced in the summary below can be found in the applicable item on the agenda.

The Spotlight this month was on the new CSD website, at www.csdecatur.net. The new website has much better navigation, a clean, professional look, and is significantly easier for webmasters to keep updated than the previous website was. It is also mobile friendly! Staff are monitoring usage data from the site and will continue to make improvements based on how the site is used by stakeholders.

I shared some thoughts about the Hidden Cove trail behind Westchester. I presented a portion of the presentation from our staff Opening Day event, explaining our strategic priorities this year: amplifying equity, growing strategically, and assessing impact. I also shared how we monitor class sizes at the start of the year, the impact of changes to teacher staffing after homerooms are underway, and the areas we are discussing for potential staff additions (Clairemont kindergarten and Glennwood first grade).

Ms. Seals recognized the passing of former CSD Superintendent Don Griffith and shared some of the accomplishments of his tenure. The room shared a moment of silence in his remembrance.

The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing our 2016-17 Milestones assessment results, with a specific focus on areas we can celebrate and areas needing significant improvement. Overall, #OurKids are performing very well, as usual. A large majority of our students are performing at the proficient and distinguished levels across all grades and subjects, with many trends showing annual improvement. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly given our focus in this area, we continue to see evidence of significant achievement gaps. For example, while 71% of all CSD students taking Algebra scored at the proficient or distinguished level last year, only 37% of the Black, non-Hispanic students in Algebra scored at that level. This is a clear example of an achievement gap we are working to eliminate.

I brought up the tendency for folks to want to conflate impacts based on race with impacts based on socioeconomic status, largely because the latter is easier to talk about, and the efforts we will need to undertake to stay focused despite the challenging conversations that will require. I shared an example of a brief analysis I conducted prior to the meeting in which Black, non-Hispanic students who were not “economically disadvantaged” (the GaDOE term for students on free or reduced-price lunch) had nearly identical performance to White, economically disadvantaged students (for the grade and subject I was looking at); performance which was lower than what we expect to see from our students. Clearly socioeconomic status has an impact on achievement and will be part of our root cause analyses, but these and future data we share will show that a student’s race is impacting achievement separately and distinctly from the student’s socioeconomic status.

We discussed the importance of reminding our staff and students that the results we are seeing in these analyses are not about staff not doing their job or students not pulling their weight. I shared my belief that achievement gaps, disproportional discipline, and disproportional participation are built one interaction at a time. It’s the small interactions like how a concern with a student is handled in the moment, the feedback provided on an individual assignment, someone being there (or not) when the student needs someone to lean on, and myriad other individual interactions between staff and student that lead to the results we ultimately see. I do not believe we have any staff members who are intentionally treating one sub-group of students differently than another, nor do I believe we have one sub-group of students who are inherently “better” or “worse” than any other. Rather, we have cultural frameworks and implicit biases impacting these day-to-day interactions in ways we usually don’t recognize. Our work moving forward will be to identify those areas and build conscious awareness of such impacts, allowing us to change those negative impacts we currently are not even aware of.

There were no Action or Discussion Items on this month’s agenda. The Board convened an executive session to discuss personnel and property matters.

Equal Educational Opportunities — Transgender Students

Just before the start of the 2016-17 school year, I shared some direction with our district leaders regarding transgender students. My email to them, below, followed the release of guidelines from the President via the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Last week, the new President rescinded those guidelines. This rapid change in direction from the federal government can cause confusion for our staff, students, and families, so I feel it is important to share how City Schools of Decatur addresses the needs of students related to gender identity.

The Board policy referenced below was in place prior to the guidance issued last year and remains in place today. In fact, that Board policy has included protections for transgender students for at least 10 years. In response to the initial federal guidance, Governor Deal stated that, “Georgia’s constitution and state laws . . . require these decisions be made at the local level.” He went on to say, “. . . our 181 school systems must each determine an appropriate response . . . .” As mentioned in the most recent “dear colleague” letter, “the [U.S.] Departments [of Education and Justice] believe that, in this context, there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

CSD strives to be a school district that embraces our differences and recognizes the value diversity brings to our school community. While history shows we have not always treated students equitably, like most (if not all) school systems, we are confronting that past, learning from it, and moving forward. Our conversations about disproportionality this year are one example of our willingness to tackle these issues head on, for the betterment of all. The rights of transgender students, addressed in the email below, are another example.

From: David Dude
Date: Jul 26, 2016 11:03 AM
Subject: Equal Educational Opportunities (Policy JAA) Guidance
To: Superintendent’s Staff

Good morning,

As we head into the new school year I want to ensure we are all on the same page regarding equal educational opportunities for our students; especially as it relates to gender identity. This has been a frequently discussed topic in education circles ever since the “Dear Colleague” letter issued by the USDOE and USDOJ (see attached). As I’m sure you know, our Board policy JAA states that we do not discriminate on the basis of … gender identity (among other things). To be clear, here are some examples of situations related to gender identity and how I expect them to be handled in compliance with this policy. For purpose of these examples, assume this student was assigned the sex of male at birth and now identifies as female.

  • This student should be treated the same as any other female student.
  • She should not be identified as anything other than female.
  • She should be addressed with female pronouns.
  • She should be allowed to use the female restroom.
  • She should be allowed to use the female locker room.
  • She should be allowed to try out for “female” sports.
  • She should be allowed to room with other females on field trips.

In evaluating a particular circumstance, I encourage you to consider questions and statements regarding transgender students from the perspective of other groups for which our country has struggled with civil rights (and still does). For instance, if asking yourself, Should I allow this transgender student to use this restroom?, consider replacing “transgender” with “black,” “disabled,” or “low income” and the answer becomes clear (in case it wasn’t before). Should I allow this black/disabled/low income student to use this restroom? Yes! Of course. The answer is obvious.

We are forming a task force to review and suggest improvements to our equal educational opportunities policy, review and suggest improvements to associated rules, processes, and procedures, and make recommendations for any other improvements we need to make in relation to that topic. We will also want to have further discussions at the Board table. Obviously that will take some time to work through.

In the meantime, continue supporting ALL of our students as I know you do. For example, if a student experiences anxiety related to bathroom or locker room facilities–whether the student is transgender, cisgender, or something else–offer the student a more suitable option. These students are all OUR KIDS and I know you will continue supporting them as such.

Clearly this is much more complex than a single email can cover, and it is critical to work closely with our students and families on challenges and opportunities before, during, and after a student transitions. We will continue having conversations and professional learning regarding this area. However, as the school year is about to begin and given that this work will take some time, I wanted to ensure I was clear as to how I interpret this policy.

Principals, please determine the best way to ensure all of your faculty and staff are also up to speed on this, and please ensure you do so with fidelity to the interpretations I have shared here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
David

photo Dr. David Dude
Superintendent, City Schools of Decatur
404-371-3601 | ddude [at] csdecatur.net | http://www.csdecatur.net | 125 Electric Ave, Decatur, GA 30030
  

The task force mentioned in the email took some time to get going, but is now underway. I look forward to receiving their recommendations. In the meantime, we will continue to serve all of #OurKids as best we can, while continually striving to improve in everything we do.

Students or families with questions, comments, or concerns related to any of the above should feel free to contact their school counselor or a school administrator for assistance.

Working Group to Eliminate Disproportionality

Since the start of the school year, we’ve been talking about concerns I have with disproportionality (see 10/11/16 Board meeting or Facebook for the initial presentation to the Board). It’s time for action on this important topic, so I’m looking for folks willing to assist the district with our work on eliminating disproportionality in student achievement, discipline, participation, etc. We need expertise in various areas, including developing cultural competence, best practices in curriculum and instruction, demographics, sociology, statistics, survey methodology, data presentation, etc.

This working group will review available data, identify and procure additional data sources, develop analysis frameworks, identify areas of greatest concern and best practices in addressing those areas, and develop appropriate metrics for monitoring progress. Much of the work of the group can be done individually, virtually, or in small groups, but some work will need to be completed as an entire group in face-to-face meetings. Time commitments will vary depending on areas of expertise and interest.

If you are interested in assisting the district with this important work, or know of someone who might be, please complete the form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CSD-DispWorkGrp. We hope to get this working group formed during January/February 2017 and will work with selected members to establish a calendar of activities at that time.


Note that I hope folks more creative than me can come up with a better name than Elimination of Disproportionality Working Group for this group, so this should be considered a “working title” for the group. Suggestions received so far:

  • Working Group to Eliminate Disproportionality (I hadn’t noticed the dual-meaning of the original name, so have gone ahead and changed to this name for the time being)
  • Working Group on Proportional Representation
  • The working group to maximize inclusion for disproportioned students
  • C RED Committee for Action.. Using 💗 to end the 🔄 ReducingEducationalDisproportionality

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Chapter 3: Why Race?

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Chapter 3: Why Race?

I’m reading a great book about how to talk about race. It’s called Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, Second Edition, by Glenn E. Singleton.

I previously shared notes about earlier parts of the book, so check those out if you’re interested:

Here are my notes from Chapter 3:

  • “Both [liberals and conservatives] fail to see that the presence and predicaments of Black people are neither additions to nor defections from American life, but rather constitutive elements of that life.” -Cornel West
  • “…people of color face an enormous challenge as they attempt to find a foothold in a nation that has never fully respected them or granted them equality.”
  • “Until teachers discover a love, empathy, and authentic desire to reach their students of color, these children will not develop to their full social, emotional, and academic potential.”
  • “…true racial equality in our habits of heart and mind remains elusive.”
  • “To work toward equality requires tremendous effort on the part of all racial groups–the racially advantaged and the racially disadvantaged.”
  • “The aim of this book is to help educators improve their achievement of all students while narrowing the gaps between the lowest and highest performing groups and eliminating the pattern by which racial groups predictably and disproportionality occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.”
  • Remember “…with liberty and justice for all.”
  • “White people must embrace their responsibility to challenge the awarding and acceptance of privilege.”
  • “…race as socially constructed rather than biologically determined…”
  • “…sustainable reform will occur only when White people individually and collectively embrace and encourage change.”
  • “…people are more comfortable talking about poverty, or gender, but they avoid talking about race.” -Julie Landsman
  • “…these studies also have the potential to provide evidence of the inherent racial biases in the SAT…”
  • “White students achieve scores that are quite similar across a broad income spectrum…[but] the scores of all groups of color show substantial change from lowest to highest income groups.”
  • “Often, Asian students face ‘positive’ racial discrimination and stereotyping…”
  • “…members of the dominant racial culture tend to search for and acknowledge primarily economic differences when explaining social stratification and academic achievement disparities.”
  • “…the students’ socio or racial/cultural background appears to have a more powerful impact on participation and performance than their economic status.”
  • “…we have found the racial achievement gap to be the most difficult gap to address.”
  • “As expectations, opportunities, resources, and access become equitable across all racial groups, the gaps close, because all students are supported in the differentiated way necessary to achieve success.”
  • “systemic racism…the unexamined and unchallenged system of racial biases and residual White advantage…”
  • “…vision of accelerating the rate of achievement of Latino and Black students, while sustaining the continued growth of their White and Asian counterparts.”
  • “…opportunity gaps [is] a statistic that compares rates of progress toward proficiency among racial subgroups.”
  • “By addressing race as an essential and foundational issue, [the school] dealt effectively with all known factors impacting student performance.”
  • “Many educators struggle to take personal and professional responsibility when it comes to meeting the needs of students of color and indigenous students who are not succeeding.”
  • “Effectively talking about race and addressing racism whenever and wherever it appears is an integral part of our responsibility to transform schools into inclusive, rigorous environments for ALL.”
  • “race [is] the socially constructed meaning attached to a variety of physical attributes…”
  • “racism…can be defined as beliefs and an enactment of beliefs that one set of characteristics is superior to another set…”
  • “a racist would be any person who subscribes to these beliefs and perpetuates them intentionally or unconsciously.”
  • “…racism is the conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional enactment of racial power, grounded in racial prejudice, by an individual or group against another individual or group perceived to have lower racial status.”
  • “…racism does not require intent.”
  • “Racism is different from prejudice. A person of color can hurt a White person because of prejudice. The difference is that in this country, people of color face systematic and ongoing personal and institutionalized biases every day.”
  • “Other groups do not have the racial power, presence, and position necessary to maintain the prejudicial acts over time and throughout society without abatement.”
  • “Racism becomes institutionalized when organizations…remain unconscious of issues related to race.”
  • “To serve students of color equitably, it is essential to challenge institutionalized racism and vigilantly reduce individual racial prejudices.”
  • “…institutionalized racism equates to prejudice connected with the power to protect the interests of the discriminating racial group.”
  • “Rarely is intentional discrimination the central problem in the teacher-student relationship; rather, the discrimination includes unquestioned assumptions on the part of the institution within which these interactions take place.”
  • “The stating point in deinstitutionalizing racism is to believe first and foremost that racism exists.”
  • “…when White students enter an advanced placement classroom and see few if any students of color, they are unconsciously indoctrinated into White intellectual supremacy.”
  • “To eradicate these harmful practices, school communities must focus their efforts on intentionally and explicitly addressing systemic racial disparities, wherever they may exist.”
  • “Achieving true equity for all students must be a moral imperative, and it serves as a central and essential component of any attempt to eliminate racial achievement disparities.”
  • “All students can benefit from a focus on equity, because an equitable school system is one that works to address the needs of each individual child.”
  • “Educational equity is
    • “raising the achievement of all students, while
    • “narrowing the gaps between the highest and lowest performing students, and
    • “eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.”
  • “Equity is an operational belief that enables educators to provide whatever level of support is needed to whichever students require it.”
  • “Equity…recognizes that the playing field is unequal and attempts to address the inequality.”
  • “Equity is not a guarantee that all students will succeed. Rather, it assures that all students will have the opportunity and support necessary to succeed.”
  • “In an equitable system, the barriers that inhibit student progress are removed.”
  • “…equity means that the students of greatest need receive the greatest level of support to guarantee academic success.”
  • “In coming to understand racism and institutionalized racism, it is not enough simply to become non-racist. Educators of all races should become anti-racists, which means to actively fight racism and its effects wherever they may exist.”
  • “Anti-racism can be defined as conscious and deliberate efforts to challenge the impact and perpetuation of institutional White racial power, presence, and privilege.”
  • “To be anti-racist is to be active. Simply claiming to be non-racist and to ‘not see race in others’ passively allows racism to continue.”
  • “Anti-racist schools move beyond the celebration of diversity and create communities in which it is possible for students to talk about how they experience unfairness and discrimination and to heal.”
  • “As White educators are prompted to examine race and practice anti-racism, they need to be aware that White privilege counteracts their engagement by offering the opportunity to walk away from this conversation on race at times when it gets tough or personally uncomfortable. People of color and indigenous people face racial injustice daily and simply cannot avoid dealing with racism.”
  • “There is no gray zone in anti-racist work.”
  • “…providing quality education for all children is not a question of educators’ experience or academic degrees; rather, it is a question of their personal willingness to fulfill their professional responsibilities.”
  • “Race matters in society and in our schools.”
  • “By understanding race and its impact on schooling, as well as by having a vision of equity and the courage to be anti-racists, educators will fortify their will.”

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Part 1 Introduction (Passion) and Chapter 2 (What’s So Courageous About This Conversation?)

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Part 1 Introduction (Passion) and Chapter 2 (What’s So Courageous About This Conversation?)

I’m reading a great book about how to talk about race. It’s called Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, Second Edition, by Glenn E. Singleton.

I previously shared notes about earlier parts of the book, so check those out if you’re interested:

Here are the notes I’ve jotted down from the introduction to Part 1 and Chapter 2:

  • Part 1 Introduction
    • “…African American children do not come into this world at a deficit.” … “If we do not recognize the brilliance before us, we cannot help but carry on the societal views that these children are somehow damaged goods and that they cannot be expected to succeed.” -Lisa Delpit
    • “…teaching is not a technical job.”
    • “…teachers and administrators who are most proficient at engaging all students of every race in rigorous studies also have a tremendous amount of passion for this particular work they do.”
    • “Educators need to locate this passion in order to transform schools.”
    • “Culturally proficient, racially conscious, courageous education of all races can succeed with all students, but only after they locate and nurture their passion for equity.”
    • “There is little honor in holding back, limiting participation, accepting mediocrity, and finding comfort in the status quo.”
    • “…with passion, we will have the strength not only to stand up for what is right for our children, but to do what is right for them as well.”
  • Chapter 2
    • “…some educators…admitted…they might not be quite as great as they had thought they were when it came to educating all students.”
    • “…a truly first-rate school district is one where all students succeed, not just those of a certain race or background.”
    • “…all members of the school community need to be able to talk about race in a safer and honest way.”
    • A Courageous Conversation:
      • engages those who won’t talk.”
      • sustains the conversation when it gets uncomfortable or diverted.”
      • deepens the conversation to the point where authentic understanding and meaningful actions occur.”
    • Challenge is to “move beyond a basic awareness of the racial patterns” involving “inquiring about why the data show a gap.”
    • Four Agreements educators must agree to:
      • “stay engaged”
      • “speak your truth”
      • “experience discomfort”
      • “expect and accept non-closure”
    • “…traditional rules and guidelines for dialogue are insufficient in interracial discourse about race.”
    • “…the agreements define the process, while the conditions outline the content…”
    • The “specifically ordered and necessarily sequential” Six Conditions guide educators:
      • Engage
        1. “Establish a racial context that is personal, local, and immediate.”
        2. “Isolate race while acknowledging the broader scope of diversity…”
      • Sustain
        1. “Develop understanding of race as a social/political construction of knowledge…”
        2. “Monitor the parameters of the conversation by being explicit and intentional about the number of participants, prompts …, and time allotted…”
      • Deepen
        1. “Establish agreement around a … definition of race…”
        2. “Examine the presence and role of Whiteness and its impact on the conversation and the problem being addressed.”
    • Emotionally, we respond to information through feelings…”
    • “Our intellectual response is often verbal and based in our best thinking.”
    • Morally we respond from a deep-seated belief…”
    • Relationally, we connect and respond…through our acting…”
    • “…the problem of educators not knowing what to do about racial achievement gaps or how to talk about race is not as devastating as the problem of educators failing to seek ways to close the gaps.”

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Chapter 1: Breaking the Silence

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Chapter 1: Breaking the Silence

I’m reading a great book about how to talk about race. It’s called Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, Second Edition, by Glenn E. Singleton.

I previously shared notes about the Forward and Introduction, so check those out if you’re interested: Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Forward and Introduction

Here are the notes I’ve jotted down from Chapter 1.

  • “Of all the civil rights…the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” -W.E.B. DuBois
  • “…race–and thus racism, in both individual and institutionalized forms, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged–plays a primary role in students’ struggle to achieve at high levels.”
  • We need to move beyond “…the reality of the racial gap toward developing a strategy for eliminating it.”
  • For a decade or more, we’ve embraced the Understanding by Design principles of what we want students to know, how we know when they know it, and what we’ll do if they don’t. Building on that, the author frames these questions:
    • “What is it that educators should know and be able to do to narrow the racial achievement gap?”
    • “How will educators know when they are experiencing success in their efforts to narrow the racial achievement gap?”
    • “What do educators do as they discover what they don’t yet know and are not yet able to do to eliminate the racial achievement gap?”
  • “…racial achievement gaps exist even among students within the same socioeconomic levels.”
  • “…educators need to stop placing blame on the places and people beyond their control.”
  • “We need to take the education of poor children as seriously as we take the education of the rich…”
  • “The disparity is easy to see; what remains invisible is a focused and concerted effort to adequately and successfully address the racial achievement gap.”
  • “One’s passion must be strong enough to overwhelm institutional inertia, resistance to change, and resilience in maintaining the status quo.”
  • “…many educators have an insufficient repertoire of instructional practices as well as lack the cultural proficiency to effectively teach students of color and indigenous students.”
  • “Persistence calls for each of us to exercise a rare and seemingly oxymoronic combination of patience and urgency.”
  • “This book provides a foundation for those educational leaders at the system and school level who are willing and ready to begin or accelerate their journey toward educational equity and excellence for all children.”
  • “Do not allow another person’s challenge to your particular racial word choice to become reason for you to grow timid or even silent. Instead, see such challenges as the normal consequence of healthy racial dialogue and even as an invitation into deeper engagement.”

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Forward and Introduction

Book Study: Courageous Conversations About Race…Forward and Introduction

I’m reading a great book about how to talk about race. It’s called Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, Second Edition, by Glenn E. Singleton. I always jot down key points when I read a book like this, so I thought I’d share them here rather than just keeping them to myself. I tend to note things that resonate with me, clarify previous thoughts, contradict my current thinking, or just seem worthy of noting for some reason or another.  Without further adieu, here are the notes I’ve jotted down from the Forward and Introduction.

  • Forward, by Gloria Ladson-Billings, UW Madison
    • Some say we are a “colorblind” society and others that we are “postracial.” “…both perspectives are incorrect. We are deeply divided by race…”
    • “…we have to find ways to live our lives and participate in society with one aspect of our identity that seems to enter the room before we do.”
    • “…often we are told, ‘We wouldn’t have these problems if we would just stop talking about race!’ Nothing could be further from the truth.”
    • We need to challenge our assumptions and inherent biases that are “grounded in anecdotal experiences, not evidentiary knowledge.”
    • “The data are clear that low- and working-class families start with aspirations for their children that are similar to those of middle-class families.” After coming “face to face with lowered expectations from school personnel . . . they adjust those aspirations down.”
    • Courageous conversations “help us develop ‘informed empathy’ rather than sympathy toward our students.”
  • Introduction
    • “…we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.” -Honorable Sonya Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice
    • “…our society is not advancing toward an end to racial injustice.”
    • “The court ruled that race could be considered in the admissions process when other factors were being evaluated…”
    • “…race matters, and racism is alive and well in 2014 just as it was in 2006.”
    • Need to “…create a culture and provide structures that encourage ALL educators to discuss race openly, honestly, and as safely as possible…”
    • This book is about a “…strategy for having conversations about race.”
    • “I urge my readers to maintain an unwavering focus on race, rather than income level or other variables of difference that may be more comfortable topics of discussion.”
    • “Closing the teaching and learning gap requires that teachers think about their craft differently.”