Learn how two school districts have made equity and future success top priorities for diverse student populations

Large school districts in different parts of the United States have now developed systematic ways to increase diverse students’ access to advanced courses, and the districts are also providing other important aspects of equity, including an education that prepares the students for 21st century careers.

During a recent edWebinar, hosted by AASA, The Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, Dr. Christine Johns, Superintendent of the Utica Community Schools in Michigan, and Dr. Ann Levett, Superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham Public Schools in Georgia, explained how their districts were achieving better outcomes for their student populations and offered recommendations for other district leaders.

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Dr. Levett noted that the processes being used by the Utica and Savannah-Chatham districts are parallel in many respects, though a number of the specific policies reflect the unique circumstances and types of students in each district.

Advanced learning in Michigan

The Utica Community Schools, located near Detroit, have close to 30,000 students, with a Caucasian student majority. About one-third of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches and just over 10 percent are English learners, including students from Albania, Iraq, and other countries.

Large school districts in different parts of the United States have now developed systematic ways to increase diverse students’ access to advanced courses, and the districts are also providing other important aspects of equity, including an education that prepares the students for 21st century careers.

During a recent edWebinar, hosted by AASA, The Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, Dr. Christine Johns, Superintendent of the Utica Community Schools in Michigan, and Dr. Ann Levett, Superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham Public Schools in Georgia, explained how their districts were achieving better outcomes for their student populations and offered recommendations for other district leaders.

Dr. Levett noted that the processes being used by the Utica and Savannah-Chatham districts are parallel in many respects, though a number of the specific policies reflect the unique circumstances and types of students in each district.

Advanced learning in Michigan

The Utica Community Schools, located near Detroit, have close to 30,000 students, with a Caucasian student majority. About one-third of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches and just over 10 percent are English learners, including students from Albania, Iraq, and other countries.

To achieve equity, access, and excellence, the district has been enabling more students to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses successfully, with the preparation starting with K-3 literacy and readiness. Students attend full-day kindergarten and receive personalized support that includes learning in small groups and the use of customized apps. Coding is taught across the K-12 curriculum, and there are programs that encourage reading at home and summer learning.

To evaluate access to AP courses, the district did an “equity audit” and found wide disparities in the number of courses being provided at different high schools. The number and type of AP courses has since been increased and equalized, with the district providing professional development that helps educators identify students who should be taking the courses and then prepare the students to succeed in the courses.

Another key step has been the use of student “insight cards,” based on survey results, which identify the aspirations of individual students and the barriers they may face. This data helps the district place students in cohorts that develop the confidence, study skills, and writing abilities needed for them to succeed in the courses that are right for the students. This type of preparation can be especially important for under-represented student populations.

Dr. Johns believes that school districts need strong policies which hold district leaders and classroom teachers accountable for all their students’ achievements, and through audits and professional development educators will become more of aware of barriers and help to eliminate them. At the same time, educators need to identify students who can benefit from advanced courses and then provide outreach that will build awareness of the opportunities available, including information about the types of jobs advanced courses can lead to after high school or college.

Overcoming barriers in Georgia

The Savannah-Chatham School District started the new school year with over 40,000 students, more than half of whom are Black. The district’s graduation rate has been continuing to increase in recent years, and a key goal is to prepare every student to enroll in post-secondary education, enlist in the military, or become employed.

The policies used to achieve the district’s goals include an emphasis on preschool, achieving improved K-12 literacy outcomes, and providing expanded wrap-around services, as well as transforming schools and improving facilities to make them 21st-century ready. There is also a focus on numeracy in the early grades, which has led to greater math attainment.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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