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NPS launching ‘comprehensive initiative to address educational equity’

Temple University Associate Professor Edward Fergus, Ph. D. (Contributed)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Public Schools is launching “a comprehensive initiative designed to examine and address educational equity in Norwalk,” according to a press release. Starting immediately, the district is partnering with Temple University Associate Professor Edward Fergus, Ph. D., on an eight-month project that will include implicit bias and diversity training.

NPS says the project will involve four phases of work: 

  • An examination of disproportionate representation that looks at where children of color are under-represented or over-represented in programs and situations
  • A community survey and focus groups
  • Presentations to the Norwalk community on findings
  • Recommendations; and equity literacy development of district leadership

 

“Recent events across the country have put issues of systemic racism and discrimination in the spotlight,” Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella said in the press release. “The wonderful diversity of our students and this community is one of the reasons that drew me to my new role here in Norwalk, but every community still has its own unique issues and challenges. It is critical that we develop a deep qualitative and quantitative understanding of the Norwalk educational experience to inform effective change in our district.”

“We need to start by hearing from all our constituents – students, parents, staff and the community – about their experiences related to education,” Dr.Estrella added. “These are difficult conversations, so we are fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Fergus to guide our ‘listening and learning’ tour.”

Fergus is an applied researcher, associate professor of Urban Education and Policy and co-director of the Center for Assessment and Evaluation.

“His work explores the effects of educational policy and practice as it intersects the lives of populations living in vulnerable conditions,” Temple states. “More specifically, his policy work extrapolates the relationship between discipline codes of conduct, gifted program practice, and academic referral processes and the educational outcomes of low-income and racial/ethnic minority student populations. This work also outlines policy and practice changes in order for schools to develop as protective environments for vulnerable populations.”

He also consulting on these policy and practice changes with state departments of education and the U.S. Department of Justice, Temple said.

NPS states:

“Phase 1 of the initiative will include a comprehensive examination of the community’s perception of educational equity needs and their experiences in Norwalk. Through September, more than 24 focus groups will gather impressions from parents, students, school and district staff, and community members. Some focus groups will be specific to topics such as early childhood, discipline practices and staff diversity, while others will be centered around general education issues.  Surveys of school staff, students, and parents and the community will also be conducted.

“Over the course of the project, members of the Norwalk Board of Education will participate in three sessions to explore themes around “Building a District Equity Lens.” The Board will review school district disparity patterns, social justice root causes, and discuss equity and culturally relevant practices in education. The first session will take place at the Board’s annual planning retreat at the end of July.”

 

“The Board of Education is committed to focusing on equity, using data to identify the areas where we need to improve in serving our Black students and all students of color,” Board of Education Chairwoman Sarah LeMieux is quoted as saying. “This initiative is a critical step towards identifying underlying issues as well as opportunities for making sure that all students have the same opportunities to succeed. It will also lay the foundation for work that will be underway in 2020-21 on the District’s next Strategic Operating Plan.”

The resultant recommendations will also include plans for a year-long program of professional development for employees that will focus on strategies for reducing implicit bias-based beliefs, NPS states, continuing:

“The Collective Impact Opportunity Fund at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation has committed to funding the Norwalk Educational Equity Initiative. This invitation-only Fund makes grants to public agencies and non-profit organizations striving to close educational, workforce and other opportunity gaps among children, youth and families in Connecticut.

“The district’s efforts to pursue more equitable student outcomes will also be supported by Norwalk ACTS, a not-for-profit, cross-sector cradle to career partnership made up of over 100 community and civic leaders, educators, organizations and individuals, and the Connecticut RISE Network, a non-profit organization that partners with public school districts and educators throughout the state to help students succeed in and beyond high school.”

 

“I am grateful to the Board of Education, as well as the Collective Impact Opportunity Fund, Norwalk ACTS and the Connecticut RISE Network, for their support of this initiative,” Estrella is quoted as saying. “Our work on the education side will also compliment the actions announced as part of the City of Norwalk’s Equity and Justice for All Commission. Together, we can accelerate student achievement, ensure equity and excellence for all, and engage the entire community in the success of our students.”

5 comments

John ONeill July 22, 2020 at 11:18 am

Can someone please tell me what a “District Equity Lens” is? When Sarah L. talks about “Blacks and People of Color”, should we assume white is no longer a color? It is my hope this difficult conversation that we are all going to have is two sided. Time will tell.
On a more positive note, today’s American hero is one example of how Polish Americans have made us proud. Stephanie Kwolek was one of the smartest Americans ever. Our people fighting in the military owe her big time as she invented kevlar.(as in bulletproof vests) Not only did Steph excel in the lab, but it is rumored she danced a mean polka!!

Mike O'Reilly July 22, 2020 at 6:03 pm

Let’s include a look at Best Practices. Why are NYC Charter schools so successful at helping a predominately minority student body achieve great success while the public schools are leaving students unprepared to succeed in college.

In addition to explaining what a District Equity lense is please shed light on what are implicit biased based beliefs are and how you plan to reduce them.

Joe July 22, 2020 at 6:25 pm

If Ms. Estrella is saying that there is systemic racism in the USA, she is wrong.

Two term President Obama was black. He was elected by a majority of white votes for two terms.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was black.

The US Secretary of State was black.

Our last two US Attorneys General were black.

Supreme Court justices are black.

The US Senator of South Carolina is black.

The US Senator of Illinois was black.

The mayor of Chicago is black.

The mayor of Baltimore is black.

The mayor of Washington DC is black.

The mayor of Atlanta is black.

Many of our police chiefs are black.

Many of our policemen are black.

Many of our professional athletic stars are black.

Americans have been singing, dancing , buying and LOVING black music for over 50 years.

It’s in their hearts and souls.

James Brown was black.

Americans have been idolizing black entertainment stars for over 50 years.

Americans have been loving black fashions and styles for over 50 years.

There is no systemic racism in the USA. That is a dirty lie.

The USA is the most loving country in world. That’s why everybody wants to be here.

And that’s why we have to build a wall. So we don’t go broke.

Non Partisan July 22, 2020 at 9:57 pm

Ask any teacher

We don’t have an education problem

We have a problem with parenting

And- We have a problem with too many children growing up with only one parent.

John Levin July 23, 2020 at 8:56 am

It’s a head scratcher for me. I understand both the need and desire to “address educational equity in Norwalk”. But, wouldn’t the separate but unequal school districts of Norwalk’s immediately neighboring towns wish to join this initiative, for all of the same reasons?

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