Where do the schools stand on progress with equity issues?
By ERIN ROLL
Two years ago, the Montclair public school district assembled an advisory panel to discuss how the schools were doing on equity and diversity issues.
Now the schools are doing a status check to see how they’ve done on implementing new goals and recommendations.
Kendra Johnson is the district’s new assistant superintendent for equity. At an April 12 recent board of education meeting, she presented the board with an update.
Johnson explained that she was framing the presentation in the context of the issues that educators encounter in their work.
“That includes all the isms that confront us in public education,” she said.
“Educational equity is really about looking at personal, as well as societal circumstances, and ensuring that they are not obstacles in the educational potential of all of our students,” Johnson said.
In June 2015, the district released a report containing 22 recommendations for improving equity and diversity in the district, including in curriculum, teacher training and administrative policies. As of this year, Johnson said, about six of those recommendations have been put into place.
Her presentation covered subjects such as culturally responsive instruction, the concept of privilege, and the achievement gap. She noted that in Montclair, there has been a long-running concern that students from traditionally marginalized groups, such as students of color, LGBT students or students with disabilities were not being enrolled into honors or AP classes, given academically challenging work or otherwise having their talents recognized.
“Here in Montclair, we have a racialized achievement gap. A lot of people think it’s socioeconomic,” she said.
One of the ongoing projects is the district’s Undoing Racism training program for teachers. As of mid-April, the district had conducted five sessions during the 2016-2017 academic year. Three more sessions are scheduled for May and June. Seven of the schools had received supplemental training for their teachers as well.
Other accomplishments have included working on a Title I procedural manual, setting up an ESL course for parents at some of the elementary schools and adding a culturally responsive component to the curriculum planning process, Johnson said.