School district shells out thousands on ‘equity’ evaluation

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By Reagan Reese
Daily Caller News Foundation

A Pennsylvania school district spent thousands of dollars in 2021 on an “equity audit,” conducted by an Ivy League graduate school program, that measured how the school system created an inclusive environment for students on the basis of race, sexual orientation and gender identity, according to documents obtained through a public records request by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence & Equity, (DVCEE) a program run through the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, offers “excellence through equity quality program reviews” to school districts throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware to evaluate their commitment to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. Council Rock School District, outside of Philadelphia, spent $20,000 in 2021 on the program’s equity evaluation, which suggested that the school district create new professional development trainings on topics such as “culturally responsive practices/pedagogy” and “restorative disciplinary practices,” according to invoices obtained by the DCNF.

“Educational equity is based on the principles of fairness and justice in allocation of resources, elimination of institutional barriers to access and opportunity, and creation of the real possibility of equality in positive academic and life outcomes for each student and between diverse groups of students,” DVCEE stated in its evaluation of Council Rock School District.

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After conducting interviews with 228 Council Rock School District community members and reviewing the district’s “anti-racism and equity” work, DVCEE suggested that Council Rock School District expand its “equity team” to regularly “collect and monitor disaggregated data on [student] racial, gender and economics,” the evaluation stated. The evaluation noted that the district is increasing its recognition of the LGBTQ community, though a student noted that “people are scared about the GSA [Gay Straight Alliance club] and nobody talks about LGTBQ rights.”

Students of color within the district told the DVCEE that they did not feel a strong sense of belonging in the school because of the lack of “culturally responsive teaching,” the evaluation showed.

“Honestly, that so ‘gay’ is the favorite phrase of many young, white males in this building,” a student told the DVCEE.

To build a “compelling rationale” for why the district is emphasizing equity, DVCEE noted that it is important to recognize “long histories of systemic or institutional bias, discrimination, racism, classism, sexism [and] ableism,” the evaluation stated. Potential “resistance” to the district’s goal of equity, DVCEE noted, is “grounded in knowledge, power and privilege.”

The equity team should review the district’s curriculum “through an equity/cultural/diversity lens,” the evaluation suggested. The evaluation recommended that the district’s equity team gather and review student data on the basis of “race/ethnicity, gender or other markers of students’ identities,” the evaluation stated.

Suggested resources for educators and the equity team included, “White Fragility” and “How To Be An Antiracist,” the evaluation showed.

In addition to the DVCEE program, Pennsylvania school districts are paying thousands in membership dues to the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, which offers administrators trainings on identifying “microaggressions” and growing “racial literacy.” The Center for School Study Councils partners with nearly 90 school districts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey to provide several professional development trainings to administrators, which includes sessions on “racial literacy” and “equity agency.”

Council Rock School District and DVCEE did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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