An equity audit of the St. Charles School District has begun.
In December, board members unanimously voted to hire Chicago-based nonprofit group Consortium for Educational Change at a cost of $44,850. Staff had recommended hiring the company to do the equity audit.
The purpose of the equity audit is to conduct a comprehensive review of the district’s current practices and educational outcomes “to ensure every student has access to and participates in meaningful learning opportunities that result in positive outcomes, regardless of individual characteristics or group membership,” district officials said.
St. Charles School Superintendent Jason Pearson updated members of the School Board’s Citizen Advisory Committee Executive Team about the audit during their meeting on Thursday.
“The focus groups and the observations and the data analysis, all of that’s done at the school level,” Pearson told them. “One of the things we’re looking for is if there are differences in our buildings, in our different learning communities, in our grade levels and the experiences students are having across buildings. So they do individual school-based focus groups, faculty focus groups, observations and data analysis. So it’s done at that level and then it’s aggregated up.”
Pearson said they are hoping the current COVID-19 surge will ease up “so that we can do as much of that work in person as possible.”
“They’ve become very effective at doing it on Zoom,” he said. “Actually, of the things that many of these groups have mentioned is that they actually have sometimes more participation in a Zoom environment then they would have in an in-person session just because it’s more convenient.”
Plans are to finish the equity audit by early April, he said.
“Despite our best efforts, disparities exist in our achievement data across some of our student groups,” Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Christine Igoe and Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Tracy Taylor said in a memo to school board members. “We need a better understanding of the factors that contribute to these gaps and to develop a comprehensive plan to address them.”
Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, each school district will be responsible for publicly posting their progress towards equity on their school report card utilizing an Illinois State Board of Education developed continuum.
In June, board members unanimously voted to pause its Deep Equity training until after an equity audit is completed. In March, board members voted 4-3 to use Deep Equity — a professional development program from the California-based Corwin Company – to provide professional learning to staff on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Following three hours of comments from both proponents and opponents of the Deep Equity program, St. Charles School Board members on June 14 voted 7-0 to pause the agreement, with no penalty being incurred. They also decided that using different materials, the district will continue the training after completing an equity audit.