RPIC ICS Implementation Digital Module 6: Conduct Equity Audit
© 2015 to 2023. Elise M. Frattura and Colleen A. Capper. School Modules for ICS Equity. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce, modify, or distribute this work without written consent from the authors. Please email [email protected] to obtain such permission.
1. Current Practices Based on Common Assumptions and Future Considerations
Toward the end of the first year of the ICS Equity Implementation Process, the District Leadership Team (DLT) and School Leadership Teams (SLT) collect and analyze school and district-level equity data. The Equity Audit determines a baseline of equity data at this point in time as the district and schools move forward with the ICS Equity Implementation Process and provides one concrete way to measure progress along the way.
The Integrated Comprehensive Systems Equity Audit process includes three key concepts: 1.) proportional representation anchors the Equity Audit, 2.) the DLT and SLT collect the data for the Equity Audit using the ICS Equity Audit Form, 3.) the DLT and SLT analyze the Equity Data to determine key data to improve over the course of the ICS Equity Implementation Process, and 4.) the DLT and SLT conduct the ICS Equity Audit annually.
Proportional Representation Anchors the Equity Audit
Proportional representation means that the demographics of students identified for special education, for students labeled as English Language Learners, and for students labeled advanced learners or gifted, in the school are proportionally reflected in every classroom, course, activity, setting, and experience. For example, if 12% of students in the school are labeled with a disability, then 12% of students in any classroom, course, activity, setting, or experience are students labeled with a disability.
At the same time, proportional representation does not apply to achievement measures such as achievement scores on standardized tests or participating in ACT exams and Advanced Placement courses. For example, per proportional representation, at least 12% of students taking the ACT should be students labeled with disabilities, yet with achievement measures such as the ACT, proportional representation is the minimal goal. That is, the ultimate goal should be that 100% of students labeled with disabilities, who do not have an intellectual disability, participate in the ACT exams and Advanced Placement courses, and score in the top range on standardized state achievement tests.
Because proportional representation anchors the ICS Equity Audit, the Equity Audit Form requires that data collection include fractions along with percentages, in order to be able to measure proportional representation. For example, of 100 students labeled with disabilities, if 70 of these students receive also free/reduced-price lunch, then the fraction for this data is 70/100 and the percent is 70%. This data can then be compared to the percent of students in the school who are receiving free/reduced lunch, which in this example is 210 students out of 600 (210/600 = 35%). Thus, in this example, at this school, we know that students receiving free/reduced price lunch are twice as likely to be identified for special education, and thus are over-represented in special education by 35%. The proportional representation of students receiving free/reduced price lunch in special education should be 35% or less.
The ICS Equity Audit Form
The ICS Equity Audit Form collects data related to race (disaggregated by race), free/reduced-price lunch, language, ability, biological sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Within each area of difference, except sexual orientation/gender identity, data is collected in four major areas: a.) the percent of students of that identity in the school and how that compares to other schools in the district; b.) percent of students identified for special education, gifted (including Honors, Advanced Placement, and related programs), and receiving Response to Intervention (and other programs that address “at-risk” including remedial courses) who are of that identity; c.) truancy, suspensions/expulsions, and d.) literacy and math achievement data disaggregated by that identity, including participation in and scores on the ACT. We include space at the end of each area of difference for the team to add additional questions they wish to address pertinent to their situation, such as participation in extra-curricular activities and participation in parent/family organizations, among others.
The ICS Equity Audit Form requires that race data be disaggregated for each race including African American, Asian, Latinx, Native American, and multi-racial. Disaggregating racial data can uncover additional racial inequities that can be masked when only examining data by race in general. For example, the data may show that students of color are not over-represented in Response to Intervention. However, when disaggregating the race data further, African American students may be over-represented in this program. Further, in districts that enroll Hmong students from Southeast Asia, the data for Asian students should be further disaggregated between students who are from Southeast Asia and students who are not if possible.
Sexual orientation and gender identity requires a different set of data, given that students are not asked to self-identify in this way. Thus, the ICS Equity Audit Form includes questions to measure equitable practices for these students in three areas: a.) law and policy, b.) school culture, and c.) curriculum. Questions include if the school anti-harassment policy specifically addresses sexual orientation and gender identity; the extent to which teasing, bullying, and harassment data are collected specifically to sexual orientation and gender identity, and whether or not the school supports a Gay Straight Alliance.
Collecting and Analyzing the Data
Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, for most districts and schools, equity audit data is not easily available and the Equity Audit we describe here is the first time many schools have collected such data. Many educators report that though their school/district collects some data, this data is often not analyzed nor used to inform instruction or change educator practice toward equitable ends. Thus, the first time that the equity audit data is collected, educators learn that finding some of the data is difficult because either the district or state does not require the collection of such data (e.g., the percent of students labeled with disabilities who receive free/reduced price lunch) or the data is collected in the school or district but not housed in one single place. Districts should take advantage of the ICS Equity Audit process to establish a centralized, efficient database system for equity data that allows all educators in the district to have instant access to equity data that is annually updated.
We suggest that the School Leadership Team coordinate the data collection with perhaps each team member being responsible for each identity section, for example, one team member collects data on social class, while another team member collects data on race. Another way to divide up the data collection is for each team member to collect disaggregated data on the four dimensions of the Equity Audit that we previously described.
Set and Prioritize Goals Based on the Data
With all the data gathered, the School Leadership Team must then prioritize goals based on the data. We suggest identifying three to five measurable goals that can be achieved over a one to three year period. The goals should begin with achievement in reading and math. The primary goal, of course, should aim for 100 percent of all students who do not have intellectual disabilities to be scoring as advanced in reading and math. Many schools find that the percent of students scoring as advanced in reading and math falls far below 100%. Then, they also find that reading and math achievement for students receiving free/reduced-price lunch, students with disabilities, students who are linguistically diverse, and students of color, falls far below the achievement for students from middle to upper-income families, white students, students for whom English is their home language, and students without disability labels. Thus, in this case, then reading and math achievement goals should be written for all students, and then sub-goals written for each of the typically marginalized student groups. It is critical to write sub-goals for each typically marginalized group of students because our educational history shows that when we aim reform to “all students” without specifying specific goals or practices for typically marginalized students, the students who benefit most from educational reform are white, middle to upper-class, students without disabilities, and students for whom English is their home language.
We suggest a format for writing goals that includes: a.) focus goal (e.g., reading or math), b.) present level of performance, c.) future level of performance, d.) over what period of time, and e.) the measure that will be used to measure whether the goal was attained. Thus, we suggest the following template: Increase (what?) from (present level of performance) to (future level of performance) over (what period of time) as measured by (what). As an example for this template, we suggest “Increase reading achievement from 45% of all students scoring as proficient/advanced to 100% of students scoring as proficient/advanced over three years, as measured by the state reading assessment.”
We suggest goals and working toward achieving them to take about three years. This provides enough time for educators to make the changes that need to be made to increase achievement, but does not allow too much time that the momentum and energy is lost while working toward the goal. We also suggest then that targeted goals be established for each year of the three years leading up to 100%. Thus, in this example, educators must increase reading achievement by 55% over three years or about 19% per year. Thus, at the end of year one, 64% of students should be scoring as proficient/advanced in reading, and by the end of year two, about 83% of students should be scoring as proficient/advanced. Similar three-year goals should then be set for students with disabilities, students receiving free/reduced priced lunch, and students of color (disaggregated by race).
Once clear reading and math achievement goals have been established, then additional goals can be addressed and prioritized based on the Equity Audit data, such as decreasing the percent of students identified for special education, or more specifically decreasing the percentage of students who also are receiving free/reduced priced lunch or are students of color (specifically by race), in special education; decreasing the percent of students identified for the Response to Intervention to zero percent, or increasing attendance. Again, we suggest limiting the goals to no more than 5-7 goals and ensuring all goals are measurable.
Educators need to also be clear about: (a.) the difference between establishing goals and identifying strategies to reach them, and (b.) the link between goals and student achievement. For the former, “increase teacher collaboration time” cannot be a goal as it is difficult to measure. Rather, increasing teacher collaboration time focused on reading could be a strategy that will help raise student reading achievement, as collaboration time is a strategy, not a goal. Further, all goals should link back to student achievement goals. For example, increasing student attendance (disaggregated by race, social class, ability, and language if appropriate) will support reading and math achievement goals. Thus, rather than making a list of disparate goals, educators should make it clear how all goals link back to student achievement.
2. Future Considerations
This consciousness-raising aspect of data collection is critical. We cannot make changes regarding inequities if we are not clear as to the extent of the inequities.
3. ‘Operationalizing’ Our Work
Educators must become adept at evaluating the outcomes of their current practices in quantifiable ways. While student, family, and educator anecdotes can enrich the quantitative data, leaders must establish measurable effectiveness criteria for their practices on a routine and ongoing basis. Finally, educators must endeavor to carefully and systematically weave evaluation into the core of all their efforts and then learn to share these results with others in clear, easily understood ways.
4. Creating Our Plan for What Our Data is Telling Us for Cornerstone 1: Focus on Equity; School Digital Module 6/Step 6: Conduct Equity Audit
In the next ICS Application, you’ll discuss and then identify the current practices that must be interrupted, and discuss considerations for facilitating this Digital Module with your staff.
5. Facilitation Notes for School Leadership Team Facilitation with Staff:
1. At the beginning of the facilitation, when reviewing the community agreements, be sure to emphasize “no blame, shame, or judgment.” Explain that “today we will be reviewing the equity audit data of our school, searching for positives and areas we need to grow. We will reflect on our current structure that has resulted in or produced this data. We will not blame anyone for our data. We will not blame families, students, or ourselves for the data. Remember from Digital Module 1, as bell hooks says, ‘We have all become complicit in a system that we would not have created in the first place.’ We will be reflecting on what aspects of our system or current structures have produced these data.”
2. You can add a brief review of the first 5 Digital Modules/Steps: Digital Module 6 is the last Step of Cornerstone 1: Focus on Equity. The purpose of Cornerstone 1 is to understand the “Why” behind the “What”. All of the steps in Cornerstone 1 help us to reflect on ourselves and our current structures and help us understand how we got to this point, and provide motivation to change the system for the benefit of all students.
In Step 1, we learned about the history of public education, and how our current structures reflect that history. We identified the challenges of our current structure and the proactive and reactive aspects of our structures.
In Step 2, we learned about assets-based language and thinking, and how our current structures often reflect deficit-based thinking about families and students. Using assets-based/inclusive language about families and students will help us change our structures to be proactive.
In Step 3, we learned about identity development. We learned that our structures and practices often reflect where we are in our own identity development, and that we can only teach and lead to where we are in our own identity development and not beyond that. So, we want to continue to work on our own identity development for the rest of our lives.
In Step 4, we learned about the equity research with the research cards and discussed whether our current practices reflect the equity research or not. We also learned from the Norm Kunc video that our current structures and practices represent an architectural error and that we want to fix our structures, systems, and practices, instead of trying to fix kids and families.
In Step 5, we reviewed the Equity Non-Negotiables that will guide all our decision-making and practices going forward.
That brings us to Step 6, the last Step of Cornerstone 1, where we will examine our equity audit data that our current practices, structures, and systems have produced. We will not blame ourselves, kids, or families for these data. We will use these data as a baseline to measure our progress annually, going forward.
3. Please use the powerpoint attached to this Digital Module to explain the equity audit. As we described above, and in the powerpoint, the equity audit has two main forms of data. One piece is proportional representation data. The other piece is achievement data. Use the powerpoint to explain both forms of data. These two forms of data will help us to measure our progress going forward.
4. Which data the staff reviews, depends on the needs of the staff and school.
One way is to review one identity at a time, perhaps starting with race/ethnicity, or free/reduced price lunch, whichever makes the most sense in your setting. Using free/reduced price lunch as an example, divide the staff into smaller discussion groups (5-6 people) as you have with previous facilitations, and one member of the School Leadership Team sits with that group and helps to facilitate the discussion.
Then, have each group look at a different piece of the data from the free/reduced price lunch data. For example, one group could look at reading achievement, another group math achievement, another group attendance, another group discipline, another group representation in special education and/or Response to Intervention (Tier 2 and Tier 3), and another group representation in gifted/advanced courses.
Show each group where they can find their specific data (or powerpoint slides of this data if the school/district has produced slides for this activity). Then, have each group discuss these questions related to the data they are reviewing:
a. What stands out to you about this data?
b. Do you see any positives or strengths?
c. What areas of growth do you see in the data for this particular identity area? What areas of growth do you see in the data for all students?
d. What is it about our current structures and the challenges of our current structures that have resulted in these data?
Allow about 20 minutes for this small group discussion. Each group should have a recorder, time-keeper, and someone willing to share out the answers. Have the group write their responses on poster paper.
Come back to the large group, and have each small group share out the data they examined, and the answers to these questions. This will take about 5-7 minutes for each group. Depending on the number of small groups, this could take 45 minutes or more.
5. Large group reflection (this may take 20 minutes or so). We recommend asking the following questions:
a. What themes did you hear about the data across all the sections?
b. What is it about our current structure (from Digital Module 1) and the challenges of that current structure, based on all our learnings thus far from Digital Modules 1-5, that contribute to this data?
6. Discussing one identity section in way described above (1-5), may take about 90 minutes or so.
Another way to discuss the data is to focus on one aspect across the identities. For example, divide the staff into small groups, and focus on math achievement data, with one group looking at math achievement and free/reduced priced lunch, another group looking at math achievement and race/ethnicity, another group math achievement and gender, another group math achievement and disability. Use the same discussion questions described above.
Another idea comes from a principal that asked their staff to pick a data area that they are passionate about (e.g., race or special education representation), and then smaller groups were formed based on the data that staff felt passionate about. Again, using the discussion questions listed above to guide the small group discussions.