A Brief History of our equity work
How did we get here?
What led to CSD's focus on racial equity?
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 toward 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 2017, 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 spring 2018, 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 usage of Courageous Conversation About Race's (CCAR's) tools and protocol, and the adaptive process needed to effect systemic District change.
Among other seminars, the district has hosted roughly 20 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, participated in Beyond Diversity training.
In spring 2018, a group of administrators, teachers, and community members attended CSD's first National Summit for Courageous Conversations. Since that time, an administrative team has been in regular attendance, and we will present our District's work during the conference in the near future.
Additionally, 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 culturally responsive education. 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 participate in and conduct 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 Equitable Planning 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 EPT and EHT, we have seen positive signs of the influence of our work in a reduction of suspension and expulsion outcomes. 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.