D97 updates board on racial equity analysis tool

Administrators say they've utilized equity tool to make 'gifted program' more inclusive

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

During a regular meeting on May 12, District 97 officials administrators gave a presentation to board members outlining at least one area where it has been utilizing a Racial Equity Analysis. The analysis is one of the most critical aspects in the racial equity policy that was approved last year. The policy has an ultimate goal of eliminating race-based outcomes in D97. 

During the virtual meeting, D97 Supt. Carol Kelley said board policy calls for district officials to "review existing policies, programs, professional development, and procedures for the promotion of racial equity and elimination of equity and its contributors." 

Eboney Lofton, D97's chief academic and accountability officer, said the district has been using a racial equity analysis tool to develop a 5-year outlook for its Gifted, Talented and Differentiation program. 

According to district data, although African American and Latinx students make up 29 percent of the students in grades that qualify for gifted instruction, they only comprise around 11 percent of GTD students. 

Lofton said that some "critical hallmarks" of the 5-year plan include making sure that critical thinking units are taught to all students by enrichment specialists (formerly called GTD teachers). In the past, gifted students would be pulled out of their normal classrooms to receive the instruction separately. In addition, GTD students will also receive "math enrichment" in the general education classroom.

Lofton said administrators and enrichment specialists are working to make sure that all kindergarten through second grade students are working toward the same curricular goals. 

 "We want to bolster our supports to students in kindergarten through second grade," she said. "We know this is a really critical age for students as they're developing both an academic vocabulary and also academic background knowledge, so we want to lean into those classrooms and support them in that way." 

Lofton said that although advanced students will continue to receive accelerated instruction, administrators will work at ensuring that the opportunity to access GTD instruction is open to all students who have the ability to perform at that level. 

She said some factors that could be contributing to equality of opportunity, such as eligibility criteria, will be "ripe for examination." 

"As we move to opening this opportunity for all students, the eligibility criteria start to kind of fade away and you focus on those separate supports [in the] acceleration process, which have their own set of criteria [based more on] individualized assessment and not as rooted in some of the previous hallmarks we used for eligibility," Lofton said.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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