Our Commitment to Equity
The School District of Springfield Township has been working diligently over the past several years to promote equitable practices throughout our school district community and in all of our schools. Fundamentally, we believe that it is critical for our district to help ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that will prepare them for success in the classroom, and in life. It is our responsibility to create a culture of inclusivity, where all students feel safe, welcomed, and truly have a sense of belonging. The Board of School Directors of our district fully supports this effort. At the end of March in 2019, our entire team of administrators and the full Board met to share the equity work that has been occurring in our district, and to discuss the supports currently in place to assist our students. At the end of that session, the full board met to discuss commonly shared beliefs about equity and their commitment to this work. Through a joint effort with the University of Pennsylvania Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity, the board is in the process of developing their own equity mission statement, one that will align with our current district mission to “educate and develop all students as learners and citizens who are high-achieving, resilient and responsible in a changing global community”. As the board concluded in its retreat, all must mean all students, and we all commit to continuing to strive for this critically important goal.
At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the Board formally adopted, at a public Board of School Directors meeting, the following Equity Statement:
Recognizing the diversity of our community, The School District of Springfield Township is committed to and accountable for advancing equity and excellence for all of our students. We, in the School District of Springfield Township, endeavor to provide equitable opportunities for high level, meaningful, and engaging learning experiences for each and every student, regardless of racial/ethnic background, economic condition or other dimension of identity or difference.
We recognize that in order to achieve Educational Equity we must apply principles of fairness and justice in the allocation of resources and work toward the elimination of institutional barriers to access and opportunity. We aim to ensure that funding, policies, practices, and initiatives will enable every student to receive what they need to maximize their success. In order to foster growth toward equity, we must engage in continuous reflection and ongoing measurement of our efforts.
Equitable Practices Committee
The Equitable Practices Committee is a group of administrators, staff, parents, community residents, and students that meets monthly throughout the school year. Meetings are open at any time to anyone who wishes to attend. The work of the Committee is designed to seek improvements in equitable practices and to examine existing data in the following areas, which have become our committee sub-groups: student academic performance, curriculum and instruction, professional development learning opportunities, hiring and recruitment practices, and student life and engagement. The work of each sub-group is to identify specific and measurable improvement goals in each of these identified areas, so that we can measure the progress of the discussions and work that is taking place each month. Throughout the year, we have also included guest speakers, who have shared valuable information about opportunity, access, supports for students, and inclusion. As an example, we were proud to host a talk this year by Dr. Heather Bennett, the Director of Equity Services for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, who spoke of PSBA’s mission to work with state school districts in addressing issues of equity. By sharing information, knowledge, and learning about equity, we hope to be able to work towards the creation of a healthy and safe environment where all students can thrive, and where every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression can be provided the opportunity to learn with support, at their highest potential, and free from discrimination, fear, or harassment.
District Participation in the Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity
Our district is a proud member of the DVCEE, an organization sponsored by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. The DVCEE includes 38 school districts in the Greater Philadelphia region that come together each month for professional development in the following areas:
· Evidence-based professional learning from nationally-recognized scholars and practitioners.
· Innovative strategies for addressing district-school organizational and instructional issues, and student underachievement.
· Leadership learning opportunities for middle and high school students of color.
· Enhanced recruitment of administrators and teachers of color.
· Support in the development and implementation of equity-informed district strategic plans.
· Sharing of leadership and learning experiences.
· Regular, active collaboration with other consortium districts to examine policies and share promising practices.
The DVCEE also hosts promising practices forums, along with leadership institutes, all designed to increase knowledge, skills, and learning with respect to the increasingly diverse populations that are being served in Greater Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York schools.
Each month, our district sends teams of staff members to the various training sessions offered by the DVCEE at the University of Pennsylvania. Twice per year, the DVCEE also hosts student leadership forums, where students from both the middle school and high school levels have the opportunity to come together to discuss issues they see as emerging in their schools.
Staff Professional Development and Equitable Practices Work
Our district has made a strong commitment over the past several years to providing our staff with research-based professional learning experiences designed to further their knowledge of the students they serve. Our districtwide focus on equity has led to the development of training in areas such as inclusive practices, students’ sense of belonging, cultural proficiency, implicit bias, white privilege, stereotypes, and other areas related to diversity. The purpose of these learning opportunities is to foster an environment where staff members can engage, with a greater sense of vulnerability and openness, in challenging conversations with their colleagues about issues related to areas of potential bias, inequity, prejudices, and assumptions. Staff have participated in professional development sessions with leading regional experts in the field, including professors from the University of Pennsylvania, Arcadia University, and Cabrini University, working on these topics. Currently, our staff is continuing its training on Belonging and Sociocultural Identities in Schools (BASIS), helping them to recognize and appreciate the critical importance of creating a sense of school belonging and supporting the many varying sociocultural identifies of both their students and their colleagues.
Curriculum and Instruction
Curricular resources, including the selection and adoption of new instructional materials and textbooks, are reviewed to ensure that they not only meet academic standards, but that they are representative of a diverse group of students and diverse perspectives. Our Language Arts curriculum reading selections, from kindergarten through grade 12, are chosen to ensure that illustrations, themes, titles, and subjects are representative of a diverse group of characters and authors. Work is currently ongoing in the revision of the K-12 social studies curriculum that includes an examination of the Social Justice Standards created through Teaching Tolerance, an organization whose mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy, and which emphasizes social justice and anti-bias. The Social Justice Standards show how anti-bias education works through the four domains of identity, diversity, justice and action. As curriculum continues to be revised and developed, the Social Justice Standards are a critical thread running through the identification of state standards and content to be mastered. Similarly, the recently revised Health curriculum was extensively reviewed to ensure inclusion of current topics of interest, including gender identity.
In addition to work in curriculum, instructional work is centered on the use of data to help inform instructional practices. Data is routinely disaggregated to ensure gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic parity, and where that is not the case, to uncover the reasons why. Recent work has focused on areas such as the examination of data to decrease course failure rates at the high school, to increase student academic performance through unrestricted access to Honors and Advanced Placement coursework, to reduce disciplinary and behavioral incidents, including suspensions, at the middle school, and to improve performance in math and language arts at the elementary schools.
Multicultural Parents Association
The Multicultural Parents Association (MPA) is a group of parents, administrators, and staff members who meet to discuss the social and emotional well-being and sense of belonging for all families and students. The group is designed to be an open forum where individuals can ask questions about district or school practices, share concerns, and learn from guest speakers. Topics include areas such as communication, supports for students and families, responses to student to student or student to staff member interactions, and how the district or individual schools address identity, diversity, or racial issues that might arise. Meetings are held five times per year in the evening and are held in the Library of the Erdenheim Elementary School.
Six Goals of Educational Equity
Goal 1: Comparably High Academic Achievement and Other Student Outcomes – As data on academic achievement and other student outcomes are disaggregated and analyzed, one sees high comparable performance for all identifiable groups of learners, and achievement, attainment, and performance gaps are virtually non-existent.
Goal 2: Equitable Access and Inclusion – There exists unobstructed entrance into, involvement of and full participation of all learners in all programs and activities within our schools.
Goal 3: Equitable Treatment – Patterns of interaction between individuals and within our school communities are characterized by acceptance, valuing, respect, support, safety and security, such that all students feel challenged to become invested in pursuing learning and excellence without fear of threat, humiliation, danger or disregard.
Goal 4: Equitable Opportunity to Learn – The creation of learning opportunities so that every child, regardless of background, characteristics, or identified needs, is presented with the challenge to reach high standards and is given the requisite pedagogical, social, emotional and psychological supports to achieve the high standards of excellence that are established.
Goal 5: Equitable Resources – Funding, staffing, and other resources are manifested in the existence of equitably assigned qualified staff, appropriate facilities, other environmental learning spaces, instructional hardware and software, and instructional materials and equipment, and all instructional supports are distributed in an equitable and fair manner such that the notion that all diverse learners must achieve high academic standards and other school outcomes.
Goal 6: Equitable Shared Accountability – The assurance that all education stakeholders accept responsibility and hold themselves and each other responsible for every learner having full access to quality education, qualified teachers, challenging curriculum, full opportunity to learn, and appropriate, sufficient support for learning so that they can achieve at excellent levels in academic and other student outcomes.