Equity in Education

For the last few months, we have continued the fight to seek justice for the needless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and now Rayshard Brooks. We’ve heard the cries of communities calling for police reform. Cities like Louisville, New York city, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Sacramento show us the power of community advocacy with recent policy changes in policing. 

 

Racism is a systemic issue. One that is supported by policies put in place that disproportionately affect our Black and Brown communities. Criminal justice is just one of the many systems that exist to make the lives of Black and Brown people be treated as less than. 

 

Systems like education impose policies that make access to quality and equitable education  harder for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.

 

We’ve seen the implementation of curriculum that ignores the painful, yet accurate depiction of the history of our country, and neglects to celebrate the racial and marginalized identities that make up our public schools.

 

We can not expect the fight for equitable treatment to be fought by our communities of color alone. As a white woman of great privilege, it is imperative I use my privilege to fight for equitable policy change and action.

 

The need for systemic change within public education is vast, complex and requires policy change, proactive approaches, and community stakeholders. Restructuring a system that has essentially remained unchanged since its establishment is no easy feat. It takes work, advocacy, and accountability. 

 

Below you will find some propositions for policy change and action items to proactively promote the equitable treatment and education of all our Kalamazoo Public Schools’ students. This list is in no way complete, and I invite my community to continue the dialogue of how we can together fight for a better and more equitable future for all our students.

Board of Education

  • Develop district-wide plan and policies using data and input from Dignity in Schools Model School Code on Education and Dignity, including, but not limited to: 

    • Student and parent/guardian rights

    • Discipline

    • Culturally relevant curriculum

    • Alternative schooling

    • Freedom from Discrimination for LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and Students with Disabilities

    • Data and Accountability

    • Ending Criminalization in Schools

    • Develop safe learning environment policy that models proactive approaches to an equitable and safe classroom for all schools in the district.

  • Develop a district statement of its commitment to becoming an anti-bias, anti-racist institution 

 

Rationale:

Research shows students of color are disproportionately on the receiving end of punitive disciplinary practices such as suspension and expulsion. We know systems of racism and privilege exist in education. Special education has been severely underfunded for years. To ensure all our students are given an equitable chance to obtain a high quality education, we must institute policies within our district that directly reflect the cultural competency, empathy, and high standards we expect of our students.

Behavior Interventions & Discipline

  • Rid KPS of School Resource Officers (SRO) and establish a police presence policy for expectations and conditions upon which police will be permitted into KPS schools.

  • Establish a unified district plan for a multi-tiered system of supports for behavior to address student behavior, requiring documentation of each step before any decisions are made regarding removal of a student from the school. 

  • Reallocate funds to create an Intervention Support Team, trained in de escalation techniques and the use of non-violent interventions

 

Rationale:

The history of SROs in schools began with the implementation of zero tolerance policies. Much research into the effectiveness of SROs in schools shows that oftentimes SROs are being asked to perform duties outside of their scope in practice and training. The presence of SROs in schools is linked to higher rates of arrests for minor crimes, that oftentimes do not lead to arrests in other schools where more proactive, restorative, and de escalation practices are present.

Currently, KPS may deny enrollment of students who have been suspended or expelled from another Michigan public school or other state public school, until the period of time for which they were suspended or expelled has expired. That means if a student is expelled from another district, they may be denied enrollment to KPS, denied enrollment at their current school, and must look to a third district for education, or other charter programs. 

 

Implementing a tiered system of support for students with behavioral challenges tells every child that there is no such thing as a throw-away person. Behavior is communication. Youth are communicating a need that is not being met when challenging behavior arises. It is the responsibility of the district to support this belief by putting in the necessary work to address the much needed racial healing and proactive strategies to keep every child engaged and enrolled in the district.

Curriculum

  • Assess current school curriculum to align with current research and best practices regarding antiracist education and abolitionist teaching practices

  • Adjust curriculum to ensure the history and modern systems of racism are taught

  • Evaluate school social emotional learning (SEL) programs, supplement or replace with SEL directly related to racial healing, self love and celebration. 

  • Adopt social justice curriculum across all schools

  • Explore the role and goal of KPS Alternative schools with opportunities for Early/Middle College and certification programs

  • Increase promotion, advocacy, and remove barriers for all students to have access to Career and Technical Education (CTE), Education for Employment (EFE), and Education for the Arts (EFA)

  • Accept and equitably support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) in alternative school programs


Rationale:

As we learn more about how to provide equitable education and dismantling the systemic barriers that prevent marginalized students from succeeding, we must adjust the curriculum we implement so that it is culturally relevant to all our students. Additionally, we must value the abilities of all our students, those with exceptionalities and those that do not fit into the standardized mold of public education that has fundamentally remained unchanged. Students who struggle to progress within the general education public school setting should be offered the option to explore alternative school programs, not as punishment, but as an opportunity to discover their passions and a field of study they would not have had the opportunity to pursue previously.

Interpersonal District Relations 

  • Establish leadership team within the each school, comprised of all levels of school staff

  • Liaison from each team meet with other liaisons to discuss school academic and behavioral successes and opportunities

  • Complete an education equity audit to assess data of marginalized students including, but not limited to: students with disabilities, BIPOC students, LGBTQ+ students, and students from a lower socio-economic class, related to school achievement and discipline. 


Rationale:

Kalamazoo Public Schools have 17 elementary, 4 middle, and 4 high schools. With a district as large as ours, it is important we collaborate with one another so programs can support and help one another thrive. Through this collaborative effort, our students can receive the same standard of equitable care, consideration, and quality education.

Professional Development: 

  • Create in-service training for all school staff working with youth in trauma-informed best practices, de escalation techniques, cultural competencies & implicit bias, and restorative practices.

  • Offer opportunity for feedback from education staff regarding professional development interests and unexplored trainings

  • These should not extend the contracted work days for employees, but be used to enhance and supplement current professional development provided prior to students returning to school


Rationale:

Input from educators is essential when considering what proactive strategies and skills are needed to equitably teach all students in the district. Teachers and support staff have daily contact with students, giving administrators great insight to what opportunities exist within their schools and district as a whole. This also means the same professional development may not be needed every year. As staff advocate for changes, the district should encourage professional growth and provide learning opportunities for school staff to enhance their teaching practices and the student experience in the classroom.

Community Engagement

  • Create a unified district application process for community members who want to be involved in volunteer work at schools. 

  • Parent & community advisory team to meet with district leaders


Rationale:

Parents, guardians, and engaged community members are valuable resources in helping every child within the district succeed. Individual guidelines on a per school basis leaves room for implicit bias and denial of entry to some schools, while not others. A unified process for volunteering within any Kalamazoo public school should be created to equitably allow access and collaboration with the community.

COVID-19

  • School budget cuts should not be made to any programs that would disproportionately affect students of color.

  • School budget cuts should not be made to any programs that would disproportionately affect students with disabilities.

  • School budget cuts should not be made to programs related to the arts


Rationale:

The potential budget cuts to the KPS budget due to COVID-19 could be detrimental to the district and would directly affect the quality of education our students receive. It is important that during these trying times, we continue to value the abilities of all our students, ensuring that the most marginalized of them all are not left behind with the loss of funding. The arts provide opportunities for students to engage with their learning in a way that other forms of education do not. We must show we value the arts that encourage students to be creative thinkers by not allowing funding to be cut from these programs.

©2020 Paid for by Friends of Megan Maddock