Head of Diversity for Unit 5: Plan’s goal is equal access to academic success
A Unit 5 administrator hired this year to focus on education disparities briefed the school board this week on the progress of the district’s equity action plan.
Kristal Shelvin, Unit 5’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DCI), told the board at its Wednesday meeting that since the plan was approved in August, more than a dozen progress had been made.
She attributed the impetus to the many stakeholders in Unit 5 invested in the success of the plan.
The Unit 5 District Equity Leadership Team includes staff and administrators from all walks of life. It meant a bottom-up philosophy, she said. The people who are really in tune with what they hear and see in schools are the ones who report.
“So it’s not just ‘Oh, the district office is offering training, take it and go.’ We’re really looking to make sure the training is useful – and tailored for students, tailored to the needs of staff, and tailored to the demands of our community, ”said Shelvin.
Action plan for equity, at full speed
In the few months since the school board officially approved the plan, leaders in Unit 5 worked to improve fairness in the hiring process, developing more DCI professional development training for educators and to add more family coordinators in schools.
The District Equity Action Plan is a framework created to address the systemic inequalities that the American education system faces today, particularly with regard to the McLean County School District. It is based on data collected through a district-wide equity audit, Shelvin said.
The plan is divided into five key areas:
- Systemic or strategic planning.
- Teach and learn.
- Student voice.
- Professional development.
- Family and community, as an agency.
Shelvin said when Unit 5 talks about equity, what leaders really do is make sure the district’s mission – and visionary goals – are within reach of all students, not just those who have traditionally been successful in American education.
“Expanding our definition of personal excellence really includes everyone – students who have differences in their backgrounds, whether it’s learning styles, learning differences, racial / ethnic differences, linguistic differences: we really define diversity in a broad sense. “
Achieving DCI goals also means paying attention to teacher behaviors that can make classroom learning more responsive to different student cultures, as well as recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce that reflects community.
Fairness Auditing Bases Decisions on Data
Shelvin said a 175-page fairness audit of the district, released in August, was factored into the district’s equity action plan – though the plan was staged even before the end of the audit. It is a comprehensive report that covered data that, among other things, detected disparities between several subgroups.
A real area of concern, said Shelvin, is finding a way to address disproportionate suspensions and expulsions that meet racial lines.
Black students in Unit 5 schools disproportionately represent the majority of these exclusionary disciplinary offenses, she said.
“We know it’s not just about having more behaviors. There are some systemic things we can change to support ”addressing the disparity, she said, asking. “How do we work upstream to understand what these behaviors communicate? Before he reaches those levels of negative-impact discipline.
Another subgroup Unit 5 needs to look at are students eligible for special education services, she said.
“How do we make sure that the population is representative – and not where there is a particular group that has more access to special education services, and a group that is really lacking or has less access,” said Shelvin said.
Families in Unit 5 speak more than 30 languages
Diversity encompasses more than race, Shelvin said, noting that more than 30 languages are spoken among families in Unit 5.
One area of the district equity action plan specifically aims to improve communication and encourage participation of the variety of cultures that make up Unit 5 families and the wider community, he said. she declared.
“It’s really about making sure the communication is two-way. So not only are we better at getting messages across in the family’s preferred language, but we also make sure that all of our resources are accessible, so that language is not a barrier. “
Raising the concerns of these families is also a goal, she said, explaining that this is part of the plan’s focus on the family / community as an agency.
The Unit 5 Equity Action Plan is an ongoing program that spans multiple years, Shelvin said. As the district continues to collect data, management must respond and react, addressing that data.
She told the school board on Wednesday that next tasks for the district equity leadership team include writing a diversity statement, training educators in culturally appropriate practices, and creation of a group of adolescents linked to the equity action plan.
The team is also working to recruit a more diverse Citizen Advisory Council that reflects the diversity of the more than 12,000 students in Unit 5.