An Explanation of Equity in the Essex Westford School District
May 20, 2021
EWSD Vision: Growing hearts and minds for a better today and tomorrow; every day, every way, every one
In the book Building Equity Policies and Practices to Empower All Learners, the authors ask the reader:
Imagine a school in which…
- The student body truly represents the diversity of human experience and each member is being prepared to interact, survive, and thrive as 21st-century learners and world citizens.
- The culture, educational program, and support services are informed by and sensitive to the student body’s social and emotional needs such that each student is fully present and engaged in learning.
- The kind of opportunity roadblocks that cause the “haves” to receive more of what education has to offer and the ”have-nots” to receive less have been identified and eliminated, and all doors are open to opportunities to engage each student in challenging learning experiences.
- Instructional excellence is the norm, and each member of the instructional team is not just committed to professional mastery but also supported in a way that allows for its development and demonstration.
- The student body is motivated and supported to discover their passions and advance toward positive personal, familial, social, civil, and vocational goals and opportunities. (Smith, 2017, p. 2-3)
The vision of the Essex Westford School District is deeply rooted in how the authors have us imagine a school. In the EWSD, we want each and every student to grow and thrive. Some students are not growing and thriving as we would want them to. When we look at our data, we see that there are barriers for some students in reaching their goals; we can predict which students have more barriers based on certain characteristics. For example, we can see that many students who are eligible for special education, live with financial challenges, are Black, or do not speak English, and more, are not reaching their goals yet.
Because we see this in our data, as educators we must act to reduce barriers so the vision of the EWSD can be open to everyone.
Equity is not a specific curriculum. Equity is not a specific purchase in the budget. Equity is not only one person's job. Equity can not be described in a checklist.
Equity touches all of our educational offerings, operations, and facilities. Equity is the foundation of our vision. Equity is an outcome.
In the EWSD, educational equity means that every child receives whatever they need to develop their full academic and social potential and to thrive every day. If our system is equitable, we would see all children reaching their goals and succeeding.
Equity is the foundation of our Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP). The Vermont Agency of Education requires Vermont public schools to have a continuous improvement plan, which is built on the belief that all education systems can improve. As a district, we seek to understand which of our practices are contributing to all children succeeding and which practices are creating barriers.
Barriers to equity include a lack of a sense of belonging, stereotyping based on characteristics, limiting access to high-level classes, harm from racism, harm from gender discrimination, antisemitism, disability discrimination, a lack of access to adults who are like you to view as role models, a lack of access to finances to have an equal opportunity as your peers, and many others.
Our CIP and our Equity Plan, the overarching district-wide areas of focus for equity work, support the EWSD in targeting the areas research says makes a difference in addressing the barriers to improve equitable experiences and outcomes for our students.
It is for these reasons, equity is the foundation of our educational policy, procedures, and practices in the EWSD.
The EWSD Leadership Team
Smith, D. (2017). Building equity: Policies and practices to empower all learners. ASCD.