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School climate action research: Case study in addressing racial inequities Jason JohnstonMariolga Reyes Cruz Andrea GonzalezJeana Decker Sascha MeinrathErica.

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Presentation on theme: "School climate action research: Case study in addressing racial inequities Jason JohnstonMariolga Reyes Cruz Andrea GonzalezJeana Decker Sascha MeinrathErica."— Presentation transcript:

1 School climate action research: Case study in addressing racial inequities Jason JohnstonMariolga Reyes Cruz Andrea GonzalezJeana Decker Sascha MeinrathErica Mattison Andrew RasmussenMegan Radek Amanda Reid Natasha Watkins

2 Overview Historical background Peterkin Equity Audit Why study perceived school climate? Summary of climate study process Summary of climate study results Conclusions / Recommendations District Responses New Ethnographic Research

3 General History August 1996 Office of Civil Rights initiated a proactive compliance review. January 1997 Complaint filed with OCR against the district. It alleged discriminatory and illegal practices surrounding student assignment, within-school segregation of students, student discipline, and staff hiring. OCR incorporated these allegations into their compliance review. OCR results lead to Peterkin audit. September 1997 District reached agreement with complainants on student assignment issues through the development of a "controlled choice" plan.

4 General History (continued) July 1998 District reached agreement with complainants on issues related to equity. Peterkin audit presented to the Board of Education. September 1998 District signed Resolution Agreement with the Office of Civil Rights. This agreement, among many other things, called for a study of the school climate. July 2000 Suit filed in Federal court.

5 Peterkin Equity Audit During 1997, the Board of Education of Unit #4 resolved to examine the district to better understand and evaluate the performance of the schools. It was determined that this examination should focus on the ability of all students in the district to share equitably in the opportunities offered.

6 OCR & Peterkin Audits Focus on Six Major Areas Enrollment, Mobility, & Attendance Gifted, Talented, & Advanced Placement Programs Special Education Discipline & Suspensions Student Achievement Staffing & Hiring

7 Enrollment, Mobility, & Attendance Finding There is a drop-off in African American enrollment from 38% in elementary to 23% in high school There is a drop-off in African Americans’ attendance across school levels, from a mean of 171 days/year among elementary students, 168 middle, and 159 high school. Bottom 10% of all students missed 18 or more school days, with 10% of African American students missing 36 days or more.

8 Peterkin Equity Findings - Gifted School Year: Giftedness—Elementary School

9 Peterkin Equity Findings - A.P School Year: Advanced Placement—High School

10 Peterkin Equity Findings : District-wide cases of Special education and behavior/emotional disordered classification

11 Peterkin Equity Findings - Discipline School Year: Discipline—District-wide

12 Peterkin Equity Findings - Dropout School Year: Dropout and Graduation Rates In , 94% of African American students graduated high school.

13 Peterkin Equity Findings - Staffing School Year: Equity in Staff Representation Similarly, African Americans only made up 18% of the administrative staff in this school year.

14 Why Study Perceived School Climate? Negative student perceptions of the school climate are associated with: Poor scholastic achievement Higher rates of behavioral difficulties Higher rates of absenteeism / drop-out Lower levels of school satisfaction Lower levels of student self-esteem

15 Framing the issues I feel everything that has happened to the Unit 4 schools in the past 2-3 years has been a gross overreaction to a few people’s perception that there is rampant racism in public school I am saddened by the amount of time, energy and money diverted from the educational process by this controversy. It is distressing that a few attention seeking individuals can detract from the true mission of our schools

16 Samples Survey data were collected from : Students: 90% of all 3rd through 12th grade students in attendance on days survey administered (6-12th grade N=3711) Staff: 75% of all school building staff (N=814) Parents: 35% of all parents (N=2012)

17 Fear of talking about race, unfairness and racism Talking about racism just tends to enlarge the problems evolving around it. This survey was unhealthy and the one you are giving the students is worse! We … [should not] make children and teachers answer questions that put the idea of unfairness in their heads -- this is sad and whoever thinks this is for the good of Unit 4 needs to think again.

18 Fear of talking about race, unfairness and racism (cont). We need to educate by working together for the good of each student rather than trying to find fault… I think [blacks] are looking for someone to blame… I felt this [survey] was extremely anti-White. NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT RACISM. This survey and the very existence of this survey is insulting to our professional staff.

19 Fear of talking about race, unfairness and racism (cont). If racism is such an important issue in our schools, why do you want to know my race? Is it really necessary?

20 Survey Design Input regarding survey questions was obtained from: District- and school-level administrators Representatives of the teachers’ union PTA council School board members Champaign students Community leaders

21 Themes from Community Meetings The importance of fairness in discipline and academic programs Beliefs about why some students perform poorly in school (economic, family) The need to address racial inequities in the district The importance of community and parent participation in schools The importance of cultural awareness

22 Dimensions of Climate Generally Viewed Positively Influence Trust & Respect School-Parent Contact Importance of Parent Involvement Encouragement of Parent Involvement Barriers to Parent Involvement

23 Dimensions of Climate Viewed Differently Across Race Fairness Cultural Understanding Qualities of Desegregated Schools Need for Change

24 General Fairness Definition: Perception that all students are treated fairly. All students are treated well in my school, even if their grades are good or bad. African American students are treated fairly at my school. My teachers treat students of all races fairly.

25 Academic Fairness Definition: Perception that access to academic programs is fair. African Americans make up 38% of Champaign’s elementary school population and 3% of elementary school gifted and talented enrollment. This shows that African American students are treated unfairly. Parallel item for special education.

26 Fairness in Discipline Definition: Perception that discipline is administered fairly. African Americans make up one third of Champaign’s student population and almost two thirds of suspensions. This shows that African American students are treated unfairly. Certain students are unfairly singled out for disciplinary action.

27 Student Perceptions of Fairness by Race African American high school students see the schools as less fair than White students Difference holds across three fairness domains Also holds for middle school students

28 Parent Perceptions of Fairness by Race African American parents see the schools as less fair than White parents Difference holds across three fairness domains

29 Staff Perceptions of Fairness by Race African American staff see the schools as less fair than White staff Difference holds across three fairness domains

30 What does it mean to treat children fairly? For many, fairness requires equal treatment. If a rule is broken, you pay the consequence. End of story. (parent) The kids acting up are the ones getting suspended. (parent) Students are disciplined because of their ACTIONS - NOT color. (teacher)

31 What does it mean to treat children fairly? (cont.) For many, fairness requires equal treatment. Encourage black students to strive harder and believe they are gifted but don’t just give it to them. (parent) If the kids aren’t trying or don’t want to do better at school they can’t (or shouldn’t) be put in gifted programs just to make the numbers and people happy. (parent)

32 What does it mean to treat children fairly? (cont.) For many, equal treatment means ignoring race, or being “colorblind.” The staff and administration at... [this] school treat all children alike. A child is a child--not a Black child or White child, not an Asian child, etc! All children must be treated fairly and equally. (staff)

33 What does it mean to treat children fairly? (cont.) For many, equal treatment means ignoring race, or being “colorblind.” My child does not see people of color in a different way. He was raised that everyone is equal. (parent)

34 Cultural Understanding Definition: Perceptions that teaching styles are culturally relevant at their school. Teachers at this school take students’ cultural backgrounds into account when teaching. Teachers at this school understand what life in students’ neighborhoods is like.

35 Student Perceptions of Cultural Understanding by Race Neither African American nor White high school students perceive that Champaign teachers show cultural understanding

36 Parent Perceptions of Cultural Understanding by Race Higher proportions of White than African American parents perceive that Champaign teachers show cultural understanding

37 Staff Perceptions of Cultural Understanding by Race Most White staff perceive that Champaign teachers show cultural understanding Few African American staff agree

38 Perceptions of Desegregated Schools Definition: Perceptions of the importance of: Teaching cultural sensitivity Proportional representation of African American’s among faculty & administrators Inclusion of African American perspectives in all educational material and curricula

39 Parent Perceptions of Desegregated Schools Nearly half of African American parents perceive proportional representation and curriculum change as very important Few White parents agree; 1/2 see it as not important

40 Staff Perceptions of Desegregated Schools Most African American staff perceive proportional representation and curriculum change as very important Few White staff agree; 25% see it as not important

41 Need for Change Definition: Perceptions of the need to change the school system to better address racial inequities. The school district should reduce the difference in gifted and talented enrollment that exists between Black and White students. This school should spend more time teaching about non-White cultures.

42 Student Perceptions of Need for Change by Race Substantially larger percentages of African American than White students perceive a need for change

43 Parent Perceptions of Need for Change by Race Nearly half of all African American parents perceive a need for change Few White parents agree

44 Staff Perceptions of Need for Change by Race Most African American staff perceive a need for change Few White staff agree

45 Conclusions In many respects there are two climates in Champaign Schools Existing racial disparities negatively impact student performance & perceptions Most White parents and staff do not see a need for the district to change to better address racial disparities Need to overcome resistance to change There are encouraging signs upon which to build

46 Recommendations Increase the cultural competence of teaching staff. Create forums to discuss the climate study results and make recommendations. Hire more African American regular classroom teachers. Develop incentives to reward teachers who teach children of diverse backgrounds well. Develop incentives for teachers to learn from colleagues who demonstrate success teaching students of diverse backgrounds.

47 Recommendations (continued) Reduce and eventually eliminate all ability based tracking. Establish goals and strategies to reduce the overall number of disciplinary and special education referrals. Implement in-school programs to educate students about issues of race, culture and ethnicity.

48 New Ethnographic Project The overarching goal of the project is, together with members of CARE-3, to engage in an ethnographic collaborative action research project which aims to improve the social climate of district schools, and thereby help to eliminate race based inequities.

49 New Ethnographic Project Aims To analyze, make explicit, test, and refine CARE-3's emerging (and still largely implicit) theory of action (how to effect change); To expose the barriers and sources of resistance to community participation and control over educational decision making, in particular to examine ways in which power operates, is created and is maintained (among those both inside and outside of the schools);

50 New Ethnographic Project Aims To describe the processes by which community voice and expertise come to penetrate resistance and barriers that inhere in the institutionalized practices and structures of the school district; and, To describe how community participation in district decision making contributes to district stakeholders’ understanding of educational inequities across race.

51 Peterkin Equity Findings High School : & School Year Not much change since Only 8% of African American high school students are in the Advanced Placement program.

52 Peterkin Equity Findings Elementary School: & School Year A higher percentage of elementary school students in are considered gifted, compared to , but is this enough?

53 Peterkin Equity Findings Middle School: & School Year

54 Peterkin Equity Findings District-wide cases of Special education and behavior/emotional disordered classification: &

55 Peterkin Equity Findings School Year: Discipline—District-wide It’s even worse now than it was 5 years ago!

56 Peterkin Equity Findings Dropout and Graduation Rates: & School Year Worse yet, in , the African American graduation rate was only 85%.

57 Peterkin Equity Findings Equity in Staff Representation: & Almost no gains. Embarrassing.


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