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Working to Achieve District-Wide Racial Equity Through a Data-Driven, Research-Based, Inclusive Decision-Making Process

Fri, April 5, 2:25 to 3:55pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 800 Level, Hall F


This paper will provide a description of the unique process Equity Implemented, a research-practice partnership has developed which is data-driven, research-based, and inclusive of multiple stakeholders to achieve greater equity in the Iowa City Community School District. The paper will also provide key findings from three programmatic initiatives implemented beginning in 2016-17 to reduce racial inequities in student achievement and racial disproportionalities in exclusionary discipline: implicit bias training for teachers, the introduction of restorative justice practices, and AVID.
Over the past three years, the Equity Implemented Partnership (EIP) has developed and used an iterative, yearly process that draws on systemic racism and critical race theory to understand the political and normative power dynamics embedded in district structures, policies, and practices (Oakes 2017; Darling-Hammond 2010; Noguera 2008; Ladson-Billings and Tate 1995), and incorporates school improvement and district capacity-building scholarship which highlights the importance of organizational decision-making processes (Bryk et al. 2010; Honig 2003) to assist the District in achieving greater equity in student experiences and outcomes. The process involves providing a needs assessment based on school climate data collected from students, teachers, and parents; collaboratively identifying key focus areas; providing research syntheses of existing knowledge and identifying strategies with evidence of effectiveness; incorporating the perspectives of diverse stakeholders through the formation and facilitation of a task force charged with providing feedback about potential recommendations and strategies for the District; and, finally, advising on the implementation plan and conducting evaluations of programmatic initiatives.
Following the recommendations of a multi-stakeholder task force in 2016-17, the ICCSD adopted an implicit bias training program for all teachers and staff, began supporting restorative justice practices, and started piloting AVID in selected schools. Data used to evaluate these initiatives includes annual surveys of all 5th-12th grade students and teachers; pre-post assessments of teachers; student test scores and disciplinary incident reports. Preliminary results from the implicit bias evaluation show that teachers increased their awareness of implicit bias, have small increases in their knowledge of strategies to mitigate the effects of implicit bias, make limited changes to practice, and may have increased the achievement of black students. Analyses examining the association between the use of restorative practices and student perceptions of disciplinary equity and disciplinary outcomes find limited impacts on disciplinary actions taken by schools, but appear to increase the student perceptions of disciplinary equity. Preliminary results also suggest that there are patterned racial differences in growth mindset, that school-based efforts to increase growth mindset are successful, and that having a stronger growth mindset is associated with higher achievement. [BSK3]
Using the EIP model has led to successful adoption and implementation of several racial equity initiatives with promising results. The process employed embodies the principle of providing voice to those most affected by the lack of equity in schools, and explicitly targets the organizational decision-making process. The model used to change the District’s policies and practice, as well as the positive results from the specific racial equity initiatives, both promise for informing educational policy and practice efforts addressing racial equity. [BSK4]


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