Written by Alex Parikh-Briggs
The District recently instituted a new, three-step equity training program for all district staff. The program is run by the USC Race and Equity Center and costs $275,000. Specifically, the foundation is a research and organizational improvement center that helps K-12 schools achieve various equity goals they have. The partnership includes two parts: a strategic equity project and racial equity academies.
There are two subsections within the equity project: a climate study and a racial equity plan of action.
The goal of the District climate study is to gather information surrounding the various racial inequities in the eight different district schools. Erica Silva, the Associate Director of K-12 Learning at the USC Race and Equity Center, said that the ultimate goal of the climate study is to “understand the district racial climate.” To do this, as Silva said, the organization “uses quantitative and qualitative data, examines district finances, and also looks at surveys” to examine the magnitude of racism and racial inequities in the district. In addition to this, they also “plan to listen to students of color, their families, and their caregivers” to ensure that there is a full understanding of what the actual issues are. This phase will start in January of 2022 and continue to the end of the school year. The hope is that this can be translated into the plan of action next fall.
The plan of action, also called the strategic equity project, will take place in the fall semester of 2022. After synthesizing the data collected from the climate study, the USC Race and Equity Center and District administration will collaborate to create a solution to whatever issue is most prevalent within all eight of the district schools. In the past, according to Silva, some of the issues that the center has worked on include “building a school culture that promotes racial equity, increasing awareness of racial bias, and designing anti-racist pedagogy for class curriculums.” Ultimately, no matter what project the district chooses, all district staff will have to work diligently to achieve it.
The partnership with USC also includes what are called “racial equity academies.” These academies will bring teachers and administrators together in one space to discuss racial equity. These will occur at the same time as the climate study and equity project, but will be separate from the chosen solution.
Instead, these academies will serve as a way to prompt discussions about race and racism between teachers and administrators. As stated by Silva, through the academies the center works with “administrators, faculty, and staff to have really honest conversations about racial inequalities within the schools, and also helps to strengthen their racial literacy and racial problem-solving skills.” In addition, Silva said that “students of color, their families, and their communities can help to teach administrators how to strategically think about how to take action around the various equity issues in the classroom.”
Right now, a form of these academies has already been piloted at M-A, and many teachers have already participated in some of the sessions. For example, math and science teacher Dillion Hu stated that he “thinks that the academies provide some very good topics and discussions to increase more equity in our schools and break down many traditional power structures.” These new funds will expand the program to the entire District.