Equity Action Plan: How did we get here?
What led to this action plan being necessary?
In 2015, Dr. David Dude was hired as Superintendent of the Decatur City School System. He initiated an in-depth analysis with detailed metrics of CSD's academic and discipline data which revealed student inequities when broken down by race. While this data was very painful to see, his work allowed us to quantitatively measure student achievement and benchmark progress towards achieving equitable education for all students. In response to his findings, CSD created the Office of Equity in Fall 2017 and commissioned Thomas P. Miller & Associates and Next Step Associates to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment from December 2017 through May 2018. The Miller assessment, which also included information from students, community members, and staff focus groups regarding equity in the District, revealed inequitable outcomes for Black students over three years in relation to behavioral incidents, gifted programs, and academic achievement. Thus, the Board and our Superintendent committed to placing an increased focus on this issue and providing dedicated resources to fuel CSD's progress toward paying our education debt to students of color.
What has been done in the past about equity and what was the outcome of those efforts?
Prior to 2015, the District engaged in various activities to address equity. Nevertheless, many stakeholders who participated in the Miller assessment noted that such activities were not prioritized frequently enough, or, with enough fidelity, to foster an equitable and inclusive environment. As a result, all participant stakeholders provided suggestions addressing ways in which the District could more frequently engage in equity-focused school and District events, activities, policy, and presentations.
With the development of our Equity Action Plan and the advent of the Equity Department, led by Dr. Lillie Huddleston, in Fall 2017 CSD staff began participating in workshops focused on systemic equity and transformation. Specifically, groups of certified staff, administrators, community members, and Board members, began learning about the proactive utilization of Courageous Conversation About Race's (CCAR) tools and protocol, and the adaptive process needed to effect systemic District change.
Among other seminars, the district has hosted 10 sessions of Beyond Diversity - Courageous Conversation's foundational seminar. The Decatur Education Foundation, a valuable CSD community partner, supported these seminars as well as holding their own which included the larger Decatur community. Hence, from 2017-2020, roughly 850 teachers, support staff members, parents, community partners, all CSD Board members and teachers new to the district, have participated in Beyond Diversity training.
In Spring 2018, a group of administrators, teachers, and community members attended our first National Summit for Courageous Conversations. Since that time, an administrative team has been in regular attendance and will present our District's work during the conference in the near future.
In Fall 2018, each CSD school initiated Equity Teams. These teams consist of 8-10 self-identified, racial equity leaders who have completed the Beyond Diversity seminar and feel a strong commitment to being school leaders and active partners in the elimination of systemic racism across our District. Equity Teams participate in professional development activities designed to develop and guide the implementation of our Equity Action Plan, and, in turn, implement professional development for their school's colleagues. These groups have investigated and conducted PD regarding many topics such as systemic racism, intersectionality, and White supremacy culture. In addition to School-based Equity Teams in 2018, CSD formed a District Equity Leadership Team (DELT), made up of our superintendent, cabinet members, and department directors, and a Leaders Engaged in Equity Anti-Racism Development (LEADS) team made up of District coordinators and principals representing all CSD schools.
From Fall 2018 until the present, the aforementioned groups have continued to put in work - participating in and conducting ongoing professional development activities that strive to assist CSD administrators, faculty, and staff as we deepen our understanding of institutionalized racism, acknowledge its impact on student learning, and examine how we play a more effective role in its elimination.
To ensure that Equity will always be a foremost consideration when creating and implementing policy District-wide, in 2019, CSD trained administrators in the use of the Racial Equity Tool and, to address equitable racial and cultural representation across the District, all hiring managers learned how to use an Equitable Hiring Tool in spring 2021.
What is the outcome of our District's equity work? Through having courageous and honest conversations about race, doing individual equity work District-wide, implementing Restorative Practices and PBIS in 2019, revising our student Code of Conduct, and making other substantive policy changes through the use of tools like the RET and EHT, we have seen positive signs of the influence of our work in a reduction of suspension and expulsion outcomes for Black students. We are proud of the work we have done; yet, CSD is still very much a work in progress. We are far from fully paying our education debt to our Black students; so, without hesitation, we continue our pursuit of equity and pledge to revise, escalate, and rededicate our efforts until we achieve that goal.
How does this fit into the big picture of other action plans, strategic plans, school improvement plans, etc.?
Evidence supporting the benefits of increased attention to the goal of a system-wide equitable environment is clear and compelling; thereby, CSD has committed to this goal. In 2018, the Department of Equity crafted the first Equity Action Plan (EAP) which was used to inform the 2019-20 Advancing Racial Equity pillar of our District Improvement Plan (DIP). For more details, visit our "What is the Equity Plan?" page. Moving forward, the EAP will continue to be a vital part of our DIP and we will continue to regularly revisit and revise the plan.
How do we know these steps will work?
The foundation of CSD’s Equity Action Plan emerges from the Southern Education Foundation's highly-regarded Racial Equity Leadership Network’s District Levers for Advancing Racial Equity. These levers assert that districts must have a clear vision; data systems that drive progress toward racial equity; resources that are equitably distributed; deeper learning instructional practices; meaningful partnerships with families and the community; and safe, healthy, and inclusive school environments. We believe that the continuous implementation of such high-leverage policies and procedures, that have demonstrated effectiveness, will increase equitable outcomes for all CSD students.