Lately, I have been communicating a lot about the pandemic, which has caused great uncertainty and loss in our country. This week we are mourning something new – the wrongful and horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent fury of a nation against the blatant racism and violence that has been far too common for too long.
Formed just a few months ago, the Council has already accomplished a great deal. Students on the Council support each other’s perspectives and say it is a safe space for them to have important discussions.
“Throughout my years in education, adults try to solve these problems [of equity] and in my research, and having taken the time to interview students, student voice is powerful and needed and should be included in the conversation,” said Amy Nelson, BVSD Coordinator of Equity & Partnerships of the Southwest Network.
The goal of Boulder Valley School District’s Equity Council was to encourage difficult conversations in our community around the treatment of students of color and their families in BVSD and ways that the district can more equitably serve them. To do so BVSD sought to ensure representative voices from students, parents, and staff
The Equity Council formed in July 2020 and was charged with listening, learning and leading on critical issues of equity in our school district. Of the diverse group of 40 people who served on the Council, eight were BVSD employees.
Students come to school to learn, see their friends, and be part of the community. However, there are factors that make the school environment itself a very different experience for each of them. That’s why it was crucial to have BVSD student voices at the table to discuss equity.
In the Boulder Valley School District, we have defined Equity as:
removing institutional barriers to success
providing intentional support for each student, staff member and family or community member so that each has opportunity to achieve at the highest levels
embracing and respecting the dignity and diversity of each individual within our community
questioning assumptions and examining our own biases
challenging systems of power and oppression
creating counter-narratives to the common habits and assumptions that inhibit inclusion
confronting discrimination against our own or another person’s identity
commiting to building our own and others’ capacity for culturally responsive teaching, learning, and leading
"The terms equality and equity are often used interchangeably; however, they differ in important ways. Equality is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone access to the same opportunities. Meanwhile, equity refers to proportional representation (by race, class, gender, etc.) in those same opportunities. To achieve equity, policies and procedures may result in an unequal distribution of resources."
The Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) District Accountability Committee (DAC) had its monthly meeting on September 1, 2020. This meeting, as well as all of the meetings since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic in March, have met virtually on Zoom.
On August 18, 2020, the District Accountability Committee (DAC), had a special virtual meeting to discuss the district’s effort to address equity among students. This was in response to the discrepancy in accessing resources between different segments of the student population.
These videos are part of a training that BVSD employees will be required to participate in this fall, but they offer helpful tips for anyone in our community that would like to join us in becoming more equitable.
Parents' access to technology has a direct correlation to the oppotunity gap. By empowering parents with technology and digital literacy instruction, they gain an understanding of and access to the education system.
Latino Parent Advisory Council (CAPL in Spanish) has been created to facilitate deeper dialogue between Boulder County's community of Latinx parents and the school district.
In partnership with BVSD's Department of Communications, the team of Equity and Partnerships has created a short video about cultural responsiveness, equity, and systemic disparities.
We cannot close the achievement gap without these core systems, and we have to build these systems through a lens of culturally and linguistically responsive practice.
BVSD revised its discipline policies in Spring 2020 after feedback from students, parents, and staff.
In partnership with EOS, our five comprehensive high schools (Fairview, Boulder High, Broomfield, Monarch, and Centaurus) will take on the multi-year work of increasing access for underrepresented students in AP and IB classes.
District team is working on a plan to support targeted instruction that takes place beyond the school day.
Family and Educators Together (FET) is a team of family members from underrepresented communities and educators that collaborate to support the success and well-being of students and improve family members' connection with the school.
The emergency food program sprung into action on March 19 and continues to thrive today, providing fresh and nutritious meals to Boulder Valley residents.
The home visit ensures that the first point of contact between teacher and family is a positive one.
In order for families to be fully involved in their child's education, they need to be able to speak to the student's teachers and administrators, as well as understand the communication that comes from BVSD educators, their school and the district. BVSD is working to improve its interpretation and translation services to meet these needs.
Together with a dedicated team of passionate principals, community liaisons, and support staff, BVSD's IT department succeeded in connecting close to 1,000 families to the internet and distributed more than 6,000 Chromebook devices to students throughout the district.
Working with John Hopkins School of Education, we will utilize their Knowledge Map to analyze BVSD's ELA curriculum "to determine the knowledge it offers students about the world and human condition" -- in an effort to provide district leaders with "compelling, actionable data used to adopt or amend classroom materials."
Ensure BVSD has materials that create a more complex, positive, and authentic picture of the diverse lives of students and the diverse world of us all. They should be free of race-based discrimination and promote equity for all
The Parents of Color Council was formed in recognition of a need for BVSD to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for "marginalized" populations within our school district.
Educators should use Measures of Student Learning to gain valuable insight about their students and inform instruction. In the current situation, evaluation is more critical than ever to ensure all of our students have access to high-quality instruction.
The Youth Equity Council is comprised of diverse young leaders who will help to provide district leadership and the Equity Council important feedback, as we collaboratively work to make the Boulder Valley School District more equitable – ever striving to provide excellence for every student and addressing the decades of achievement and opportunity gaps.
Here’s how we can help chart a path forward to meet this seminal and potentially watershed moment and harness everyone’s capacity to catalyze genuine change.
1. Start with looking in the mirror. Embrace these words from the poet Rumi: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
2. Don’t just fight racism at special events. Make it an everyday effort to notice, unpack, confront, and disrupt it every day, everywhere. Speak up when you hear racist language, whether it is subtle or overt.
3. Become more aware of your own biases and how they shape your perceptions and interactions with others.
4. Take responsibility for your own learning. Don’t turn people of color into your unpaid tutors.
5. Listen to the marginalized. Hear what they are telling you. Respect their perspective even if you don’t yet understand them.
6. Show the courage to have difficult, uncomfortable, painful conversations.
7. Take risks as you speak your truths. Overcome your fear of making mistakes. Make them, apologize, learn—and then teach others.
8. Form diverse coalitions to dismantle unjust systems.
9. Elevate traditionally marginalized voices in decision-making within the organizations that you are a part of.
10. Provide financial support to organizations doing vital work to eliminate racial disparities.
11. Take stock of your own privileges. Notice any that disadvantage others, directly or indirectly. Ask yourself: Am I willing to give up any of my privileges to create a more just society?
12. Bottom line, get out of the comfort of your existing bubbles and open your heart to cultivating meaningful relationships across racial differences. As my favorite sign at the recent march put it, “Love black people as much as you love black culture.”