Last month our district held a joint Lorain Academic Distress Commission and Board of Education meeting to examine the results of the 2015-2016 Local Report Card. The initial intent of our meeting was to share the “what” of the data - specifically, what measures we needed to meet before our district is affected by HB70. You can learn more about that issue at this link. What resulted was instead a deep discussion of the “why” behind our data - and in particular, the disparities between our student subgroups that illustrate achievement gaps between students by race, economic status, ability level, and language.
The end goal nationwide is for all all groups of students to achieve at high levels. But when they are not, it's our responsibility to figure out - why not?
In the Lorain City Schools, we’re delving into this issue of social justice through an equity audit. By working with an outside data consultant, we hope to learn if all of our students have equal access to programs and are being treated equally in our schools.
For instance, if our student demographics are 1/3 Caucasian, 1/3 African American, and 1/3 Hispanic, then we should see that same representation in all of our programs. Whether we're looking at participation in special education or AP courses or discipline, then we should see the above natural distribution of our students. And if not? Then we need to examine why that might be and fix it.
Often, there are “invisible barriers” that affect equity. It's not the intent of any one person, but again, it is our collective responsibility to make it right.
An example of this is with our food program. We learned from our students that many would rather go hungry than participate in a free lunch program - they didn’t want to be labelled in that way - to be seen as “other.” So as a district, we removed that barrier by working to ensure all students, regardless of ability to pay, receive free meals in our schools. In just one year since instituting this program, we’ve seen an increase of 250 students participating in the meal program at school. That’s a lot of kids.
So what happens next? We are working closely with not only our data consultant, but also community partners El Centro and Urban League to inform our inquiry into these issues. We anticipate the full process will take 4-6 weeks. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress. Sincerely, Dr. Jeff Graham Superintendent