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Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity
Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity

Engaging in data inquiry through an equity lens can help us better understand problems of practice – and identify solutions – that make schools more equitable. This webinar demonstrates the benefits of putting equity at the center of data use in schools and shares the publication that the Center for Education Equity (CEE) created to support districts and schools to engage in data inquiry. Presenters  include members of a data inquiry team in Massachusetts who are using CEE’s Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions in their school district.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Processes and tools to identify equity while generating effective solutions; and
  • How to access and use CEE’s The Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions​​​​​

Presenters

  • Susan Mundry
    Senior Program Director at WestEd; author of The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for All Students
  • Susan Villani
    Senior Program Associate at WestEd; lead author of CEE’s Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions;
  • Dawn Bentley
    Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • Dana Labb
    Principal of the Blanchard Memorial Elementary School, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • ​​​​​​​David Green 
    High School Social Studies Teacher, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • Heather Haines
    ​​​​​​​K-6 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA.

 

Video of Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity from MAEC.

Speaker 1:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today’s conference will begin in a moment. Please continue standing by and thank you, everyone for your patience.

Speaker 1:

(Silence).

Nyla Bell:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity webinar. Our webinar presenters for today will be Susan Mundry, she’s a Senior Program Director at WestEd. Susan Villani, she’s a Senior Program Associate at WestEd and for the Center for Education Equity at MAEC. Dawn Bentley, she is Assistant Superintendent for Student Services for the Acton-Boxborough regional school district in Massachusetts. Dana Labb, she’s a Principal at the Blanchard Memorial elementary school, also at the Acton-Boxborough regional school district. David Green, he’s a Social Studies Department Chairperson at the Acton-Boxborough regional high school and Acton-Boxborough regional school district. And last but not least is Heather Haines, she’s a K-6 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator for the Acton-Boxborough regional school district.

Nyla Bell:

Your facilitator today will be me. I’m Nyla Bell. I’m the Senior Education Equity Specialist at the Center for Education Equity at MAEC and Pamela MacDougall, she serves as our IT facilitator. You won’t see her face, but you may see her name pop up in your chat or Q&A box, which we will discuss momentarily. She’s a Research Assistant with Learning Innovations at WestEd.

Nyla Bell:

Today’s webinar is being hosted by the Center for Education Equity (CEE). CEE is a project of MAEC Inc. in partnership with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research. CEE is one of four regional equity assistance centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the Civil Rights act of 1964.

Nyla Bell:

CEE serves Region I, covering states from Maryland all the way up to Maine and Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands. CEE’s goals are to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education systems to address problems caused by segregation and inequity, and to increase equitable educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin. CEE serves to provide technical assistance and training to states, district, schools and community-based organizations within Region I at the request of school boards and other responsible governmental agencies.

Nyla Bell:

This webinar is part of a monthly series that CEE publishes called “Exploring Equity Issues,” and each issue includes a brief. Sometimes webinars, practitioner blog, and sometimes the community of practice.

Nyla Bell:

For today’s webinar we ask that the audience, you all listening and joining us today, to use the Q&A box if you have any questions. Feel free to type in your questions at any point during the webinar, we will pause at various points to answer them. You can also use the chat box to share your comments and/or to engage other participants during the webinar. At the end of the webinar, we were asking you to complete a brief survey. The survey will pop up in a window after the webinar concludes. On the occasion when a website is referenced during the presentation, a link to the website may be posted in the chat box for you to copy and explore after the webinar concludes. And then lastly, for those that need it, closed captioning services can be accessed using the box on the right-hand side of your screen.

Nyla Bell:

At this time, it’s my pleasure to turn the presentation over to Susan Mundry.

Susan Mundry:

Thank you, Nyla and good afternoon to all of our participants. Welcome. We’re delighted today to share with you some processes and tools that we’ve developed that are particularly helpful in identifying equity issues and problems related to equity. When sometimes you might not even know they’re related to equity, but then to examine them and generate some effective solutions. We’ll be talking about how we’ve done that with data teams. And I am especially delighted that we will hear from the Acton-Boxborough regional school district in Massachusetts that has engaged in this work and learn from their experience. I will also provide you with some information on the tool kit that the Center for Educational Equity has developed that you can use to explore equity issues and solutions in your own sites.

Susan Mundry:

So we’re hoping that it’s beneficial to you and that you can gain from our experience and from our tools. I will give a brief overview of the rationale and the making the case for why we advocate for putting equity at the center of data use, and then turn it over to my colleague, Susan Villani, who will introduce the tool kit that we developed, and then engage in dialogue with Acton-Boxborough team to share their experiences with all of you. The work that we are doing is really aimed at several outcomes that are all in the service of better meeting student needs and better serving all students. By engaging educators and using data inquiry, where they dig deep into questions about current practice and policies and how they may influence outcomes, but in putting an equity lens on that inquiry, we are able to strengthen the capacity of our faculty and other stakeholders, family members, community members for identifying problems and beginning to solve problems, think about how we address them.

Susan Mundry:

This type of inquiry deepens understanding of what is an equitable school and classroom. And in some ways, the reason why I like to talk about it as an equity lens is we learn to see things that maybe were hidden to us. We didn’t notice before because we weren’t really looking for equity. Third, the data teams use lots of sources of data, not just school data, but input from families, student voices, so that they get a more complete picture of some of the inequities that may exist in the school. And then there’s some sort of dispositions that really come out in the process of using data with an equity lens. One is that people learn to presume positive intentions, and I’ll touch on that in a little bit, open their eyes to hidden inequities and build ownership for really solving this problem.

Susan Mundry:

We think that addressing, looking at your data systematically with an equity lens really helps to bring up some of these strengths that we need to better serve all students. With respect to the first point of strengthening our capacity for problem solving, the approach that we have developed and are using through the Center for Educational Equity is to engage data teams and using a data inquiry process that starts with identifying potential issues of problems that may be going on in your school or district. People ask themselves, what do we think may be problematic for us? Do we perhaps have some chronic absenteeism? What’s happening with our discipline? Why are certain children not achieving at the levels that we expect? And start to think about those problems and identify questions about the problems that we’re interested in exploring.

Susan Mundry:

Now, do we have chronic absenteeism? Why is it that children don’t want to come to school? Or are there systemic issues such as those children live in a part of the city where transportation is unreliable or there are serious family issues going on. But [inaudible 00:09:21] really start to think about those problems and raise questions from them. But we don’t stop there. We then identify multiple sources of data to explore what could be contributing to this problem. And what in particular, a lot of data teams might stop there and throw up their hands and say, “Well, gee, we have a problem that’s out of our control.” A transportation problem, or a family crisis problem or something else that we really can’t change. But instead we asked data teams to explore what conditions that the school or district actually has some control or influence over can we change to improve student experiences and outcome.

Susan Mundry:

And when you start to shift the conversation to things we have control over, it can really take us into much more productive places. Data teams then set specific goals that they believe can address the problem and create a plan and engage in a cycle of improvement as the plan is implemented, continuing to use data along the way. This type of data inquiry and developing a team that goes through that process also includes helping the team members to deepen their own understanding of what is an equitable school and classroom. Start to think about more broadly, what are the practices one would see in an equitable school? And, as I said, it’s almost like peeling back the layers of the onion. You start to get deeper and deeper into thinking about what would a school look like if it was truly equitable?

Susan Mundry:

A tool that we provide to help with that process is a set of criteria for assessing equity. This tool, which is available from the Center for Educational Equity, lays out seven specific areas related to the school and multiple criteria for the data team to look at and think about as it assesses its own inquiry, excuse me, it’s equity process. The tool looks at, as I mentioned, seven areas looking at school policy, how our school policies potentially influence the equity in our school, do we have specific policies around equity. Looks at school organization and administration. Do we have the data that we need to track on and understand how children are doing across multiple outcome areas and indicators, and to be able to intervene early and identify. Maybe all children don’t have access to advanced coursework. Maybe all children are not being treated fairly when it comes to student suspensions. But having this data enables us to dig into some of those questions in a team in a supportive environment where we can explore those questions and really learn how effective we are in providing equitable access and opportunity for all students.

Susan Mundry:

In school climate, looking at the welcoming of all children into the school and those other areas is also critical. And then four other areas that are included in this tool, which is available to you, and I think we’ll put the link to this tool in the chat so that you can download it and use it yourself. And looking at our staff. So a major part of the federal requirement is that schools and districts are providing equitable access to quality teachers. So looking at who is the faculty, how are they distributed across your district?

Susan Mundry:

These are all questions that when we use data to assess equity, start to come into focus and may reveal, as I said, some of those what can be hidden equity issues. These other three areas also provide, there are, I’ve only given you examples here, but in the tool that, which is now in the chat there, you can download the link, provides multiple criteria for each of these areas and is a tool to help data teams think much more broadly as they’re looking at data. How do we assess equity? So the data teams, in addition to learning what is an equitable school, they also learn to use multiple sources of data. And now 15 years ago, I guess it is that I began working in the area of supporting data teams. And at that time we focused very much on student performance data, end of year data in Massachusetts.

Susan Mundry:

We started looking at the achievement scores and then later the M-cast. And it was, well, everyone could look at and graph who’s learning and how they’re learning. What we were finding is that we were not really getting early enough data to make a difference and to intervene early. And so getting multiple points along the school year, where you can look at performance is critical, but then looking at some non-academic data. So attendance data, input from families and students themselves, to inform the school around, what are, back to our inquiry process, given the data that we’re looking at, what do we think are potentially some problems that we need to explore that would improve equity in our school?

Susan Mundry:

Multiple other data sources include also looking really carefully at who’s being disciplined, how are they being disciplined? And my colleague, Susan Villani had been working in some districts in New York this past year and help those districts discover that some children, due to the discipline data, were out of school such a significant amount of time each year, that they had no chance to learn. And so thinking about what are the alternatives to suspension and keeping students in school and making sure your discipline is equitable.

Susan Mundry:

So those are just some of the overall outcomes that the data teams have had in terms of their own learning, in terms of enhancing the practice so that they are digging deeply into equity issues and problems. And we want to make the case for all school districts to use data teams that are using an equity lens because we believe that it improves student outcomes. There has been some research that indicates that using data inquiry teams and using teams of instructional staff who inquire into their practice is associated with improved student learning outcomes. The issue is that it’s not a one-time let’s get together and look at our data when it’s ready in the fall from last year, but rather more of an ongoing, over time activity that allows our staff to know their data, explore the problems in the data, and then actually take action to change things.

Susan Mundry:

And then another piece of evidence is in the using data model, which some of my colleagues developed. There was a randomized, experimental study of that. And when teachers use that process of data inquiry in data teams after one year it improves their own practices, and then after a longer period of two years that student’s outcomes are shown to improve. So we believe that data teams and data teams using an equity lens is a best practice and in working with schools and districts, that needs to be a critical part of the overall approach to quality education.

Susan Mundry:

Just a final note about data inquiry teams themselves, when staff come together to learn the inquiry process, they begin to assume norms and dispositions are presuming positive intentions about the children and their families. Back in the beginning of using data, as I mentioned before, very often data teams said, “well, these are problems we can’t do anything about.” They’re not that the children haven’t had opportunities or that we have so many barriers to addressing the issues. When you put on this lens, instead, teams adopt really a problem solving approach, presume positive intentions and thoughts about their children and families, and look for solutions that are within the control of the school and the district.

Susan Mundry:

By engaging in the inquiry process and asking the questions about equity, such as the ones I showed you in the criteria for assessing equity, they begin to see these, what I call the hidden inequities, the things that maybe you can explain a way by other reasons, but actually if we were a more equitable school we would address, and it builds a leadership and ownership in the district and school for looking for and addressing inequities when we see them. So we think those are all critical, important skills. And based on that, really decided that it would be helpful to develop the tool kit that Susan Villani is going to talk with you about today and to begin working with school districts in the region that the equity assistance center serves which is from Maine to Puerto Rico and The Virgin islands to support more data inquiry teams to come together.

Susan Mundry:

So, let me stop there and pass it over to Nyla to see if there are any questions before we hear from Susan Villani.

Susan Mundry:

(Silence).

Susan Mundry:

And Nyla may be on mute so let me just jump in –

Nyla Bell:

I’m here. I’m sorry. Thank you, Susan Mundry. Please take a moment to type any questions you have in the Q&A chat box, or the Q&A box, not the chat box on the right panel of your screen. We’ll just pause for a couple of seconds and see if anyone has any questions.

Nyla Bell:

(Silence).

Nyla Bell:

Okay. So we have one question from [Sangha Kim 00:21:41], and she asks, “can you explain how it is created?”

Susan Mundry:

The data team? Is that what the “it” is referring to?

Nyla Bell:

I’m going to assume that that’s what she means.

Susan Mundry:

So I’ll say just a minute maybe about that, but then offer that our colleagues from the Acton-Boxborough school district who are with us today, will talk a little bit about how they formed their team and began their work. But typically, the school or district will identify a group of, a multi-stakeholder group, including teachers, leaders, like school leaders, curriculum directors, teacher leaders, and often parents or community members to come together and be their school data team. Can be only one in the school. You can have multiple ones across different grade levels, and they are often charged-

Susan Mundry:

Different grade levels. And they are often charged with supporting an overall school improvement plan for that school. So being the group that identifies and solves and addresses some of that areas of problem or issues that the school wants to improve on. Those individuals are invited to participate and then are given some background in terms of learning to use data, analyze data, interpret data. We often also, in addition to reviewing criteria for equitable schools, do some additional background work with them around what is equity? What is equity dispositions? What is cultural competence? Depending on the particular district and what they need. And then, over time, they meet regularly to engage in the process that I showed on the prior slide of raising their questions, identifying data, investigating the potential problems, and generating solutions. So that’s generally how they’re formed and how they begin their work.

Nyla Bell:

And we have another question from Abner Oakes, and I have a nurse says, “Thanks for the presentation. How long do you engage with the district for this work?”

Susan Mundry:

That varies. It depends in terms of sometimes it is to get it up and running. And then, the goal is for the local leadership to keep it going and to sustain it. And that might be over one school year. But in other situations, we have worked with districts over multiple years as this actual facilitator of the team. So it does vary. But the whole… the big point is to keep it going, keep it sustained, make sure that it’s not just a flash in the pan one-time thing. But rather it becomes part of the ongoing work within the school and district. But that’s the way we do business. We come together, we reflect on what our problems are. We look at data, and we seek solutions.

Nyla Bell:

We have two more questions, actually, three more questions. We may not have time to answer all of them [inaudible 00:25:43]. We can try and get to two more. And then, depending on where we’re at in time, revisit the question that hasn’t been answered [inaudible 00:25:51] later on in the presentation. So our next question is from [inaudible 00:25:55], who asks, “Do you have a toolkit that can be applied to the classroom?”

Susan Mundry:

The short answer is yes. And maybe if we have time for more questions at the end, we can describe that when Susan Villani introduces the tool kit, she can talk a little bit about that. How what we’ve developed is what I would say a process that can really be applied to all aspects of the school. Whether it’s a equitable issue you want to investigate in a classroom about student engagement or messages or expectations are some of the things that you would see in a classroom, or whether it’s at a more district or school level. I think it’s applicable either way. Maybe we’ll say that and the rest of the questions for later. So we can introduce the toolkit and then hear from a team that’s actually done all this that we’re talking about.

Nyla Bell:

Okay. So an [inaudible 00:27:03] asked [inaudible 00:27:04] more questions. We will get to those questions later on in our presentation, but this time we’re going to move forward. And it’s my pleasure to pass the presentation over to our next presenter, Dr. Susan Villani.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Hello everyone. I’m very glad to be able to talk with you a little bit about the toolkit that we’ve developed and which we are piloting. And thank you, Susan, for setting the stage in terms of all the things we were thinking about when we wanted to create the toolkit. Toolkit is research-based. The process is research-based and the focus of the toolkit, the Data Guide we call it. It’s really to assist educators and community members, parents, family, all to be thinking about how to be looking at data with this focus on equity. I do want to answer the quick question about whether there’s any kind of guide for classrooms. And the quick answer is yes. Just as the link is for looking at schools in districts, there’s also a tool at the Center for Education Equity and Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. And we can put that link up also for classrooms.

Dr. Susan Villani:

So what we were interested in doing in setting up this Data Inquiry Guide is to have a set of materials that were accessible, that are accessible to teachers in the classroom. To curriculum coordinators. To school administrators. To central office administrators. Also, to parents and community members who should be an important part of this process. And so, in our toolkit, we have several sections, and I apologize, but this is not larger. The first section makes the case, and this is similar to what Susan Mundry shared. There’s research about the importance of this. And there are also compelling reasons why it is so important to use an equity lens. In our second section, we describe a Data Inquiry Cycle. This is not a new cycle. It stands on the shoulders of giants, including our Susan Mundry and others. And so, we’ve created an easy-to-follow Data Inquiry Cycle.

Dr. Susan Villani:

And then, we gave examples through an example that might be happening in a school around discipline and discipline data. So after we described each of the steps in the Data Inquiry Cycle, then we modeled how would in that particular made up school, how would they follow the different steps so that they might uncover more about what the discipline data was able to tell them most importantly, so they could together create solutions to make the school more equitable for all students. The third section has some worksheets, and it’s a way for a team in the school to try to start to practice what would this cycle look like? And so they can envision, if we were doing this step, what might we be thinking of. And here is some guidance questions and some things to be careful to avoid, so that it’s a worksheet for different steps in the Data Cycle.

Dr. Susan Villani:

The fourth section has three more examples of ways that equity issues can play out in schools in terms of school climate. In terms of LGBTQ issues. In terms of EL issues. And when I say issues, I mean around different populations, there may be inequities that are preventing the students from feeling comfortable in the school, their families feeling comfortable in the school, getting the education that they need, getting the supports they need. Many of the things that Susan mentioned. And so in addition to the example that we gave in section two, we gave three more equity examples. Our thinking is not only do they model how those fictitious schools might be looking at those issues in their schools through the Data Inquiry Cycle. But also our hope is that perhaps readers will say, “Actually, that’s happening in our school. Wait a minute. This is very relevant to the work that we need to be doing.”

Dr. Susan Villani:

And then, in section five, we have some resources for different aspects of this work. There are many, many resources, and I think sometimes Inquiry Teams could get overwhelmed with so many things that are out there. And so we tried to call and make their resources in our section five the most directly applicable to this data inquiry work with the focus on equity. So at the end of this webinar, my contact information will be listed, and you are invited to contact me if you are interested in having access to this toolkit to this Data Inquiry Guide. We’d like to talk and find out what you’re interested. It’s in the pilot stage. And I will be very happy to send you the pilot version and to stay in touch to find out how you’re using it and what issues may be coming up for you. It’s possible that through the Center for Education Equity, we may be able to provide some technical assistance, or it might be that with a phone call and some intermittent communication, you have what you need in this guide to get started with this work.

Dr. Susan Villani:

We also want to say that we know that many educators are familiar with using data. And so the purpose of this guide is to help them go deeper into Data Inquiry with this focus on equity. And so it’s my pleasure to turn us to thinking about how this has been working in the last school year in Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, which is in Massachusetts. And as you’ll see, the vision and mission of Acton-Boxborough are right to the heart of the work that we’re talking about. So I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Dawn Bentley. Please tell us just a little bit about your vision and mission and your team. And then, we’ll learn more about how you’ve been doing this process in Acton-Boxborough.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Thanks, Susan. Hello, everyone. Welcome. A few years ago, the district redesigned and reviewed, and engaged in a process to sort of revamp the mission, vision, and values. And that’s what you see here before you. Wellness, equity engagement are our three core values and really guide the work that we are engaged in. And you can say that our vision is to provide high-quality educational opportunities for our learners. And we, of course, want to develop engaged, well-balanced learners through collaboration and relationships.

Dr. Susan Villani:

So what [crosstalk 00:34:27]-

Dr. Susan Villani:

I’m sorry, please. Go right ahead.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Go ahead. You’re good.

Dr. Susan Villani:

What we’re going to do now is try to follow the story is Acton-Boxborough. And initially, Dr. Bentley will be answering some of the questions that I pose to help set the stage. And then we will be hearing from different team members because they have different perspectives. And we want to hear perspectives from different positions within the school district. There were also people from the community, but we decided for this webinar, we would start with the people that are in the schools. And so, Dawn, would you please tell us about your district demographics?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Yes, but before I do, could you go back one slide so I can introduce my team?

Dr. Susan Villani:

Oh, yeah. Sorry.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

That’s okay. Thanks. To my left here, your right is Dana Labb, who is a he. He’s the principal for Blanchard Memorial School, which is a K-6 building in Boxborough. David Green is down in the purple shirt at the end. He’s our social studies department chairperson from the high school. And right next to me here is Heather Haines, our mathematics coordinator. So the four of us are hopefully going to take you through our journey today.

Dr. Susan Villani:

And I want to say before we move on that it has been my intention to introduce each of you. And I wanted to say right now what a pleasure it is to work with you and how delighted I am that you’re here with us today. So to the demographics of Acton-Boxborough Region [inaudible 00:35:58].

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Sure. We thought it might be important to just share a little bit about our demographics at the district level to sort of give you a little bit of context. We’re located for those of you outside of the state, about 30 miles Northwest of Boston. Combined, our two towns have around 30,000 residents. Our median home price is between 600 and 615,000. And our average household income in the two communities is around $145,000. District-wide we have about 5,600 students. We do operate preschool through grade 12. And you can see from the chart that about the majority of our students are white. [inaudible 00:36:39] about a third of them are Asian. And then the remaining 10 or so percent is combined between African-American, Hispanic, multiracial, as well as some native American and Pacific Islander. But if we looked at the snapshot 20 years ago, in 1998, it would be 90% white and 8% Asian were really the two big demographics.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

That was actually a little bit after David and I were here as students. And today, you can see from the chart that about 18% of our students have a language, a first language that is other than English. 5% are English learners. 16% of them have an IEP. And around 6% of them are economically disadvantaged, which translates for us to about 10% actually, who are on free and reduced [inaudible 00:37:30]. And if I, again, go back a few decades, 1.2% of our students spoke a language other than English as their first language. One 10th of a percent were English learners. And fewer than 2% of our students were economically disadvantaged. So you can see in just a few decades that our population has shifted in some significant ways, and that’s helping inform our work as well. You can go ahead to the next one, Susan, thanks. We are considered a high-achieving district.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Our average SAT scores are 1340. We have quite a large number of our students. About 60% at the high school take AP exams with a 96% passing rate. And we’re consistently ranked one of the top districts in the state. You can see on the right-hand side this data was just actually unembargoed yesterday. But by 10th grade, 99% of our students are proficient on our state assessments in English, language, arts, and 96% are proficient in mathematics. So you can see, probably, why folks look at the district as and consider us to be high-achieving.

Dr. Susan Villani:

So, given those statistics that you just shared about the high achievement, what prompted your interest in this work?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So I started in 2016, but in the summer of 2017, my counterpart, our other assistant superintendent, Deborah Bookis, who is overseas teaching and learning. We were charged with figuring out how to accomplish one of our long-term strategic plan goals around equity. And as I shared earlier, that’s one of our district’s core values. And specifically, our annual goal was to conduct an equity audit of the districts, looking mindfully at equitable access for our historically underserved populations. But prior to that, I had had extensive coursework around educational equity and equity audits through my master’s and doctoral programs at Michigan State. And Deb is actually currently enrolled in a doctoral program. That’s where she is today. So we both… we certainly had a lot of knowledge, and we know that this is something that we really sort of needed to start to take a look at as a district. So that was sort of a lot of the beginnings of the work.

Dr. Susan Villani:

So how did your thinking shift from when you were originally contacted CEE asking for an Equity Audit to forming your Data Inquiry Team facilitated by CEE?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So this is outlined, I think in a little bit more detail in the blog that I wrote that CEE just actually published today. In November 2017, we were lucky enough to have an onsite meeting with folks from [inaudible 00:40:14]. So we had Dr. Carmen Roland here. We had [inaudible 00:40:16], and you were here, obviously, Susan, and we shared our history and our demographics. We identified our goals, and we talked about our requests for technical assistance, which initially came in the form of a formal equity audit. But during this meeting [inaudible 00:40:31] really, really hard on this request on this notion for an external equity audit. And ultimately, we agreed that we really needed to learn how to do much of the work inside because we do believe in building strong systems that will survive sort of over the test of… they’ll survive the test time and they can outlive the individuals who created them or initially began them.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So we instinctively knew if we brought in experts from outside to do this work, sort of to us, not with us, it would situate that power elsewhere. And instead of it really being here with our own teachers and our building leaders and our central office administrators, where ultimately it should be. So about a month later, we had a conference call to sort of follow up. And we decided that at that time, we would not do the equity audit, but we’d engage in some technical assistance. And that was where Susan sort of threw out the curveball around this Data Inquiry Guide for exploring equity and asked if we would be interested in piloting it.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So, of course, we were super excited about that because any way we can help to not only find a tool that works for us but to help sort of develop one that other districts can then possibly use would be fantastic. And, of course, we knew we’d be learning all along the way. So, in addition to [inaudible 00:41:49] piloting that data inquiry guide, we also determined that Susan would facilitate our Data Inquiry Team, our DIT, and we met multiple times last year to sort of start examining data through an equity lens. So that’s sort of our thinking about the work and kind of how we got to the place sort of where we are today.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Would you speak a little bit about how you formed the Data Inquiry Team?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Yeah, so we have about 450 certified staff in the district, and we have quite a number of administrators. And so, it was, of course, this, how do we distill this down to a group that’s reasonable. We sort of settled on the number 12 and hope to keep it within that. But we also knew we wanted different genders. We wanted different levels represented. We wanted parents who can serve on the team. We wanted somebody from our teacher association. And we also knew that we wanted our team to be racially diverse, which was actually the hardest challenge because we don’t have a very diverse teaching or leadership staff currently. And in some cases, folks wore multiple hats because we really did want to keep it at 12. So a few folks served as a parent and a leader or a parent and a teacher. But we did. We were able to keep it at 12.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Thank you. So I’d like to know about how the members of this newly formed district Data Inquiry Team responded to the Data Inquiry Cycle and the data dialogue that we did with Acton-Boxborough data. David, would you start us off with that, please?

David Green:

Sure. Thank you, everybody, for joining us. I’m David Green, the department chair of social studies at the high school here in Acton. My take on this is that this was a very much long incoming. So I think it was with great relief that we felt like we could begin this conversation in a more formal way. So it’s not that people never talked about it, but there wasn’t a way to formalize the conversation. In addition to that, I think once again, it’s not that we were afraid to discuss the issues, but it felt like we were talking around them. So, for example, on the ground, what that looked like is we would say, “Well, there’s a cultural aspect to this problem in the school.” But we wouldn’t name exactly what that meant. There was some fear around naming that. And so I feel a personal sense relief that we’re now able to start having these conversations more bluntly, to be honest, and more safely.

Heather Haines:

And so, for me, I really appreciated the structure of the Data Inquiry Cycle, and really it made us slow down. A lot of times, when you look at data, people sort of rush to explaining away differences that exist. And so this really forced us to slow down and question some of those differences that we were seeing. And I love at the beginning of the process we’re asked to make predictions about what we’ll see in the data. And for me, that really made me come in to looking at the data, to being curious. And also thinking about what the predictions said about my own biases that I come into this process with. So if I’m making a prediction, why am I thinking that that’s going to be the case? I also really liked that we had a wide range of people who were part of this process because it made me feel like we were really all in this together to do this work.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Thank you, Heather and David, thank you. And I’m going to come back and ask you some more. Are there examples of when using the data dialogue and thinking of possible root causes, it lead to new insights for consideration?

David Green:

Yes, definitely. So one of the things that it was actually heavy that really brought it to the table was the need to define equity. And it’s something that I’ve been thinking about as well. And I noticed that it was one of the questions from one of our attendees as well today. It’s a word that…

Dana:

…can be used as well today. It’s a word that gets used fairly reflexively and has been used for quite a long time, but not always correctly. And I would argue that it’s the access quality of it that’s often missing in the conversations. That was a big piece of it for me.

Dana:

I think the other insight is that I grew up in this community. So, my family moved here in 1979 and I graduated from the very school where I now work and am very aware of how dramatically the student population has changed. And what’s interesting is, observing the community, I think there are many people who acknowledge that change and are ready to make changes accordingly in how we educate kids. And I think there are other people who really either aren’t aware or aren’t ready to embrace the fact that that change has occurred. And that’s an insight that I think informs us moving forward.

Heather Haines:

So, for me, the root cause analysis was the part of the process that I really struggled with the most, but I also think it was the part of the process that was most valuable for me. It really forced, I think all of us, to think about what were the things that we had control over.

Heather Haines:

This is something that Susan highlighted at the beginning. Susan [Mundry 00:47:24] did. And I often have a hard time when there’s a large problem to think about, really thinking about how it’s okay to take those small steps. And so this really made me value those small changes that we could look at, and how we could, because this was a process we were going to come back to over and over again, I could feel confident that even though it was a small step, we were going to come back to it and then we could take another small step to try to work on a bigger issue.

Susan:

Thank you. Next question is about using the data dialogue to prompt the data inquiry team’s thinking about equity, or to encourage members of the data inquiry team to think differently. And for this, it will be great to hear from Heather, Dana, and David, please.

Heather Haines:

So as I mentioned before, this process really surfaced for me some of my own biases that I come to this process with. I really looked at what were the inequities that sort of bothered me the most in this process and ask myself why that was. And also as I was making predictions, to sort of ask myself why I was making those predictions.

Heather Haines:

I also think that it helped me in thinking deeply about the data and made me investigate more deeply about the large number of groups that we were seeing having inequitable outcomes. And I might not have taken a deeper dive into thinking about those other groups without this process. I might’ve stopped where we were just looking at places where there were larger differences, but this process made me keep asking myself, I wonder why that is.

David Green:

Hi. So I don’t know if there’s any building level administrators out there, but for us, I feel like it helped us to slow down the process of how we look at students. One of the things we did in our opening this year was to really talk about the story of the children that we have in front of us, and start to notice and wonder about the students and the information that we have available to us. A lot of the work that we’re doing this year is around looking through a strength-based lens, as opposed to a deficit based lens, and really trying to start from there and working on our relationships with students.

David Green:

Susan, to talk a little bit about where we have control. And for me, as a building level administrator, at the building level it really starts within the classrooms. So really looking at our classroom spaces and how we create them to reflect the culture, values, and experiences of the students we have in front of us.

Dana:

For my part, I think it took a subject that’s very subjective, we know it when we see it, but again, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not always easy to talk directly to it. So it made equity study-able. And I think it also made me much more passionate about getting people on board with making this part of the fabric of what we do every day. So as opposed to it being reactive, if there’s something that requires our attention in the moment, rather we would have it become something that is part of our day to day.

Susan:

Thank you. What went well in doing the data dialogue? Again, going to turn to Heather, David, and Dana.

Heather Haines:

So part of the process when we start looking at the data is this idea of having the data be a third point. So everyone doesn’t have an individual copy of the data that they have in front of them, but the group is looking at one place to look at it. And for me, that really made me feel like we all had ownership over this data rather than having it be individually my own.

Heather Haines:

I also think another thing that was really valuable was we all are asked to verbalize observations that we make about the data. And I think that allowed everybody to sort of validate what people were noticing. Because sometimes you may think in your head something, but it may not actually be true. And so verbalizing those things for the group made it so that we were all looking at that. And then it made me feel like, okay, we all have the same understanding as we’re moving forward and making decisions.

David Green:

For me, I think because this definitionally involves such a large number of stakeholders, I don’t worry about this work falling through the cracks. It doesn’t feel like an initiative that we begin and then let go of when things get busy. We have teachers involved, administrators, counselors. It’s happening at all levels. There’s a wide awareness that this work is happening.

David Green:

And then also, we worked hard to establish norms that we take very seriously. And what it does is it allows us to come to the table and speak about all of this in an unencumbered way, without worrying about judgment, without worrying about being accused of something really negative, knowing that there might be some gentle prompting me to expand our thinking or some work on language.

Dana:

Yeah. Just to follow up with David on that, on the point about the norms. It caused us to really examine our existing norms because we wanted to make sure there was psychological safety. We’re talking about our own biases that we’re bringing into this process, in addition to the actual data that we’re looking at as well. And as we know, teaching and learning is very personal. And in order to avoid some of the hard feelings around that when we are returning and returning to the root causes, we really wanted to focus on those causes as opposed to the symptoms around shifting blame to whatever it might be the cause of those.

Dana:

Something that really worked well was we did a lot of data dialogue across a number of days. So while we did it in the existing team together, we also had another day set aside where we had heterogeneous groupings of folks from the district, with upper administration at the district level, as well as teachers and administrators, to really go through the process and to do it multiple times so that we could compare the causes that we came up with and start to really put together some smart pulls for solutions. And it was interesting to see that we all landed in the same place.

Susan:

Thank you. Would you speak about whether there were challenges in using the data dialogue process, please?

Heather Haines:

So as I talked about before, the part that I struggled with the most was the root cause analysis. And I think that says more about me than it does about your process. But when you do the root cause analysis, each time you’re answering that question, why? You’re sort of cutting off the whole section of the tree until you’re kind of looking at a little twig. And I really worried as a participant in this, what if there was some other really important branch in the tree that I should have been thinking about first? And here I am looking at this tiny twig that may not be the most important thing. But as I said before, the fact that I knew we were going to keep coming back to this and that it was okay if we took that tiny step from that tiny twig, we’d come back to the tree, I was okay.

David Green:

For me, it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about the definition of equity. I think the group, thanks to Heather’s question, really needed to slow down and back up and make sure that we were working from the same assumptions about that word and what it means. I think personally, we don’t know what the consequences of this kind of work will be. We like to think that the outcomes will be positive, but we don’t know what relationships this kind of work strains. We don’t know what happens in a community that historically supports the school unquestionably, how it will react to this work. And what will the conversations really be about when we look at putting resources into building new schools and sourcing the schools that we already have.

Dana:

It’s always a challenge to look at data and only try to make objective statements. We tend to jump to inferences. So that was a really difficult piece of the process. As a building leader, again, you take the data at times personally. And so it was really important to go back to those norms and set out that our objective was in the best interest of students. And so we just had to keep that at the forefront.

Dana:

I think another difficult piece, at least for me at the building level was, we’re having all these great and rich conversations about the data. We have it accessible to us. Starting to think about how you share that with other folks in your building, it’s something that you start to worry about as well. And so some of the ways that I started embedding that with my co-leader was, we used the five why’s, in a rather innocuous way, but usually just as a process to try to work through some issues of a book study that we were doing as it’s related to social, emotional learning. And knowing that once the staff understands the process of moving through and staying away from inferences and really trying to get to root causes, being able to transfer that to some of these key issues was really important.

Susan:

Thank you. Now, in what ways has the work of the data inquiry team, the work that was done last year, been shared? Dana, would you please speak to that?

Dana:

Sure. So both the data inquiry team and the school leadership team, which is comprised of building principals and central office administrators, we engaged in two separate data inquiry cycles, one of which Dawn and I both co-facilitated, with the same dataset, which ultimately led to proposed smart goals embedded into our district wide annual goals under the long range strategic plan. Some of these goals included increasing educator diversity in the workplace, the workforce, and developing greater capacity and consistency among and between evaluators on standard two, which is teaching all students with the Massachusetts’ Educator Evaluation Rubric through learning and calibration exercises for high quality feedback.

Dana:

So part of the work that I’ll be doing with the district as we get closer into the winter months is really focusing on that second part of that rubric, and really try to calibrate not only with the principals so that we can all get on the same page around what we’re really looking for in that area of teaching all students, but also of the other folks are responsible for evaluating as well. And then creating a stakeholder survey around homework policies and practices through the equity lens.

Susan:

Thank you. Dawn, what are plans for future work of the data inquiry team?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So, one of our proposed district wide annual goals for this year include some of this work here that’s listed on the screen. Our school committee is still in the process of reviewing these, so they haven’t been finalized. But we are looking at continued capacity building with the data dialogue process. Ultimately, I think the way that this will play out at the school level, Dana sort of gave some really good examples of what that might look like at the building level, even just using a piece of the data inquiry process with the root cause analysis, but also looking at our school improvement teams and how we use data to inform that work.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

We’re also going to be looking at a stakeholder survey. We did a pretty big overhaul on our homework policies and practices in the last few years at all of our levels. And so we’ll be engaging in a stakeholder survey this year around those policies and practices. And we’ll be doing that through an equity lens with some support from [Mack 01:00:12] and you, Susan.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

And we also, the most pressing work, which we’re actually going to start in a few weeks, is to look at the existing practices in our buildings. And we’re looking at family contributions around time, treasure, and talent. We sort of call them the three T’s. And we’re actually starting with just treasure. So looking at ways that we ask our families to contribute to schools, whether it’s supplies, whether it’s field trips, whether it’s boxes of Kleenex, all of those things, and how that plays out in ways across each of our buildings and could contribute to certainly inequitable circumstances for some of our students and our families.

Susan:

Thank you. I’m going to ask you to start, Dana, and then Dawn next, what advice would you have for people beginning this process using the data inquiry guide for exploring equity issues and solutions?

Dana:

Sure. So for building level administrators, one of the ways that we can really have an impact change is through the school improvement plan. And I think it’s important that you have a school council that’s representative of your school and that this is fairly large too, made up of several parents. One of the things that we did a couple of years ago was we did a large survey and what came out of that survey was the finding that we hadn’t really considered before around families and how to make some of the activities through our parent teacher experiences more equitable. And so I guess what I would say is, you’ve got to ask the stakeholders and you’ve got to trust that if you’re starting to get an inkling of something that you follow that.

Dana:

What can also happen on the other side is, we can’t always be implementing and you can get really caught up in that with a school improvement plan process. So you have to have time to monitor, review, and determine where the benefits could be made, and it has to be intentional and deliberate. We have to move away from all the knowledge we have and start acting at some point.

Dana:

So another big piece would be, after asking, is really to model that. So I have a really strong opinion of a co-leadership model. So my assistant principal and I, we both try to practice what we preach. And so having the actions and really getting in with the teachers. And then also the language that we’re using, both with each other and with students, is really important.

Dana:

So I think those are the things that I would really focus on. We have a culture and climate goal in our school improvement plan, and we really feel like one helps support the other. It’s hard to determine sometimes which one comes first, but we feel like it’s really important that the things we’re doing well in the building, we really focus on, and connecting that to the district and making sure that the student experience is what helps to drive us.

Susan:

Thank you.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

And I’d also say, it has been mentioned a few times, and I know there was at least one question down below, maybe 10 more now, about what is equity. And it’s interesting. So we have a working definition of equity, because it’s already sort of been tweaked a few times and we still don’t feel like it’s necessarily perfect, but I will read it to you. It’s not on the slide, but I’ll read it to you. Equity is an operational principle for shaping policies and practices that provide high expectations and appropriate resources so that all students can achieve with minimal variance due to race, income, language, or gender. And that’s adopted actually from an old piece from [Hart & Jermaine Watts 01:03:45] from 1996.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

The other big thing I think, that we thought about when we … Well, I think looking back now … Being ready to slow down, so it’s a go slow to go fast sort of thing. And we did have to back it up a little bit before we could go forward. So some of this work can sort of start out in fifth in sort of different stages.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

And one of the things I think that’s super important through any work that you’re doing, but especially this kind of work, we’ve talked about how some of these are sort of third rails, sometimes really tough conversations for us to have here, is to just really be ready to listen to one another and to dig deep in respectful, but ways that hold one another accountable for the work and to what we owe our students and our families.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

And I think the other big learning for us is, often when we talk about equity and the notion of equity, it means a loss for some in order to benefit others, right? To sort of level that playing field. And so that can be a really tough sell for a lot of different stakeholders. Change often represents loss. So that’s something that we’ve been thinking a lot about and actually was one of our big worries when we sort of started the process, when we were thinking, we want somebody else to come in and do this work because it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be messy and we don’t want to get our hands dirty.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So we’re really excited we got our hands dirty and we feel like we’re much better able to support those conversations, but those are going to be really hard. And I sort of feel like they’re just beginning. We’re sort of just at the beginning of that. So those are the things I would think people should keep in mind, I guess.

Susan:

Thank you. In just one moment we’re going to turn to the questions that we have. I just want to say that what we’ve heard is, I think, amazingly inspiring in terms of the process of thinking about data inquiry with a focus on equity, with individuals who’ve thinking about these things, with individuals that are accustomed to working with data, and with individuals that some might say had more to lose by opening up some of these issues, working in a district that enjoys very high reputation and high test scores. And yet if every student isn’t being served, the educators that met today, and many others, are not satisfied.

Susan:

So I just want to say that before we turn to questions, what I want to make clear is we designed this data inquiry guide to be accessible at many different levels. So if you’re an educator in a school where this kind of work hasn’t been happening, we wrote this guide so that it would be easy to access and the tools would be clear and you would have the support you need to engage in this process. And if you are an educator working in a system where many of these things are discussed and you want to go broader or deeper, we also believe that the toolkit could be useful … Toolkit, guide. We vacillate between the terms. But we do believe that what’s provided are tools and resources, as well as a clearly defined cycle and process, that can be accessed at different levels of experience with this topic, with this work, and to support the commitment that potential users would have.

Susan:

So I’m going to task this to [Nyla 01:07:29] Who’s going to give lots of opportunity for questions to be answered. Thank you so much, Acton-Boxborough team. And now here come questions for you.

Nyla:

Okay. So, so far we have about four questions. We’re going to start going through the questions, but as we go through the Q&A, if you have any questions that you have not posted, please take a moment to post them now. Again, we’ll begin, but you can always continue to post questions in the Q&A box and we’ll get through as many of them as possible.

Nyla:

So we have two questions that [inaudible 01:08:11] when Susan [Bellany 01:08:13] went through the Q&A session with the Acton-Boxborough team, but we also have two questions that were asked right after Susan Mundry concluded her part of the presentation that I’m going to get to first. I’m going to try and pose questions in the order in which they were presented. So M. Kim asked, and this question was answered already, but the latter part of the question wasn’t, and M. Kim’s question is, what is your definition of equity? Which has been answered. But then also she asks, or he asked, how does that inform the dis-aggregation of data?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Jump in anybody who has any …

Heather Haines:

What is your definition of equity?

Dr. Susan Villani:

What’s your definition of [crosstalk 01:09:03].

Dawn Bordley:

Well, so our definition and how does it… so one of the ways that we slice and dice sort of what we look at is really dependent on some of those variables. We don’t have actually a data person in the district so to speak, so a lot of the data is done. We have to sort of do a lot of that work ourselves. So that actually is one of our limiting factors, but we do look at race. We look at gender, we look at socioeconomic status, we look at absentee rates, we look at free and reduced lunch. So there are a whole bunch of different ways that we do try and look at the data. We also look at the data by elementary building, we have six elementary. So we look at the data across the elementary schools and then look at the population.

Dawn Bordley:

So one of the things we found the most useful is that anytime we’re using the data to also have whatever that population sort of broader representation either in the school itself or in the district, what that looks like, so that there’s sort of a comparison because sometimes the data isn’t all that skewed, even though it may look like it at the outset. Did you have anything to add to that?

Dana:

Yeah, we looked at students that were on IEPs and we tried to triangulate that with the data in the district, as well as some similar school districts as well.

Nyla:

Okay. Should I move on to the next question?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Sure. Thanks Nyla.

Nyla:

Okay. We have another question for Anne Kim and that is, what from the research have you discovered is unique to examining data with an equity lens as opposed to other lenses. And I can repeat that question again if you’d like,

David Green:

I think I can speak to that a little bit. One way. I think there’s a lot of ways to answer that question because there are so many different lenses, but one, and I’ll say it I was a student here and now I work here, as I mentioned before, is that it’s a district that has always enjoyed a successful reputation. And I think one thing that we’re looking at is our definition of success. So when you look at what we do through an equity lens, we don’t want to take away from the ways in which people traditionally succeed, but we definitely want to expand that definition.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

I also wonder if either of the Susans have thoughts on that as well, because this has been a big research area for them.

Susan Mundry:

Yes. I would just point out that in the citations that I talked about earlier, the Copeland and Dalmore and the Timperley in particular, those studies really looked on more on the data inquiry side and engaging teachers in analyzing the data and identifying how data could be used to improve practice and outcomes. But the third, the randomized control trial looks specifically at the using data model and their use of collaborative inquiry teams and that process, which we developed with a group of folks with three people from West ed and Nancy Love from originally from chart and add on. And then that research for better teaching that initially that model did not have an equity as a focus, but as we developed it, we found that it was very, very difficult, the data team to have productive results without themselves having conversations about equity and digging into what happens when you just aggregate data and how do you have conversations about that in a very productive way?

Susan Mundry:

So it is with that model that we did begin the work around putting on the equity lens. So that’s study does really examine, I think, were processed that has the equity lens. The new work that we’re doing now for the center for educational equity, we have not done a study yet of its results or its impact. And, maybe down the road, we could do that as well. But that’s what I can offer in addition to what the panel said about that question.

Nyla:

Okay. So our next question is from Virginia Winter, and I believe she asked this question after at the point where the active optical team responded to the question of what worked well on data dialogue. So her question at around that time is, or was, as you discovered some of the areas where via SEED made themselves evident. What professional learning supported the shift of mindsets from deficit to strength based lens for viewing the students. What’s the journey to forge a common definition of equity. And again, I can repeat that question, if you like.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So that question has a number of moving parts. I will take part of it, but I know my colleagues are going to chime into four parts of it. Our focus, our guiding question this year is, how do we support kids through a strength-based lens and so we really are looking at the language that we’re using, we’re looking at how we’re thinking about children, we’re looking at person first language where all sorts of those things, just to shift what our school health does sound like in terms of the adults communicating with one another. When you look at this aggregated data and supported the shift of mindsets from deficit to strengths-based…

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So, as an example, yesterday, my counterpart Dawn Bordley and I spent the day, we actually are going to be spending days with every one of the grade levels this year. And our whole entire presentation is around inclusive literacy classrooms and the language that we use, but all of it under that strength-based umbrella. So, really thinking about what our students bring with them, and then how we build upon those versus you know, they can’t, or won’t kinds of mind frames. So really shifting how they think is one example of how we’re thinking about that.

Speaker 2:

So, I come to this with the elementary math lens and so, this year in particular, we’re thinking about what types of tasks are good ways to sort of open up who can participate in mathematics discussion, and how can we sort of shift from the students can’t do the standard algorithm for addition to this is how the student can solve the problem and how can we move them towards more efficient strategies.

David Green:

I would say at the high school level, and specifically in the social studies’ department, we’ve really been looking at assessment, what’s the purpose of assessment, what is it trying to measure and helping teachers understand that you can use alternative assessment and still offer rigorous education. And so I think that what I’m speaking to there is the piece of your question when you’re talking about the shift of mindset, I think sometimes teachers worry that if something isn’t rigorous, they’re not doing their jobs. And I think what we’re working on is that you can actually have it both ways.

Dana:

I think for us, it was before getting the business of teaching and learning, really getting to know the student in front of you having a shared a common language, not only within the classroom where a lot of the work of getting to know each other’s by the students, but how we do that in a broader area in the building. So that we’re all approaching students the same way, and really coming at it from a strength-based language or being positive and the things that they’re able to do as opposed to not. I think the part of the process we do and where I’m leading to have a study about a child is to really come out at first and the things that they bring to the table and how we can adjust the learning for them to access it.

Nyla:

So our next question is from Laura Connie, please forgive me if I’m pronouncing her name, Laura. She wrote “Sorry, if I missed this, had to step out, we’ll all a part of the toolkit and shared also, what do you use or develop to conduct root cause analysis? And I know this is a question that I’m asking boxful can respond to answers, then Andrew Anderson and Landry or Susan Mundry.”

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

So in terms of the root cause analysis, we use the five why’s protocols where we identify one of our inferences and we dig deep into the why is the inference the case, and then why is that the case? Why is that the case? Why is that the case? Then often as Heather was describing earlier, it does sort of form a branch and goes into some different directions, but we use the five why’s.

Susan Mundry:

And I did put a link to one resource that describes that process there in the chat, as well as a link to the protocol of data-driven dialogue that the team discussed, that’s also in the chat. But those tools are also included in the data inquiry guide that we developed. And yes, that is something that you can request as Susan Villani said, we are pilot testing it. So it isn’t up on the C website or a download yet, but we’re happy to share it and you can contact Susan Villani for that. And I think we’ll provide her, I’ll actually put the email right in the chat for you. Susan Villani, you’re on you, thank you.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Yes. We’re very interested in sharing our pilot version of the guide and because it is a pilot version, we’d really like to stay in touch with people that receive it and find out how you’re using it, are there things you could suggest that would help us make it better as we move towards finalizing it. And that’s why rather than put it on the website, we’re asking people to contact me because then we can have a conversation about it and also establish some way that we can be staying in touch. Not in any way that our competition, but rather in ways that can inform our thinking when we move from pilot version to the final version, although everything has always evolved. So I had to take to you towards final, but as we move from pilot version to our next version.

Nyla:

Okay. So our next question, our next set of questions comes from Kim Hopper. She asks, or he asks, “What research did you, the DIT team, do to build your own cultural competencies prior to taking on this project?”.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

That is a great question and continues to be a work in progress. We are engaged with the seed project right now and seeking equitable education through… I wish I knew what the DIT stood for, we just call it SEED. I want to say I’m not even going to make it up, but it’s through, I believe it’s out of Harvard, is it not.

David Green:

Wellesley?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Wellesley? yeah. It’s in Wellesley. The national seed project stands for creating-

Dana:

Educational equity and diversity.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Yes. Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, thank you, we just call it SEED. So a year ago, over a year ago, the entire school leadership team. So all of our principals and all of our central office leaders engaged in the training for the year, which is all around building cultural competency. Not only to be able to talk about these things, but to really examine our own implicit biases and sort of our own thinking, our metacognition, all of those things that inform it, but really just to understand the history of inequity sort of across our own history as a country.

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

And right now our district leadership team, which David is a part of, is engaged in that as well. And so they’re going through that this year. And within the next few years, we’ve asked all of our teaching staff, our certified staff to also engage in that training. And we’re in the process right now of we have four or five people in the district who are trained as trainers offering those workshops across time. So, that was one of the big ways and we’re really excited that if all of us can have that background and ability to talk about those things, we’ll be in a pretty exciting place.

Nyla:

And another question from Kim Hopper or any solution quote, unquote, or solution or best practices implemented from your findings?

Dr. Dawn Bentley:

Well, I think because our findings just sort of have happened in August, June, July, August, over the summer. We haven’t had time to do that. They certainly are, as I mentioned earlier, there are some goals that are no strategic actions, embedded in our goal plan for the year that the school committee is currently reviewing. And one of them for instance, is around hiring more diverse educators over the course of the next few years, we have a smart goal around that. As Dana shared, we have a smart goal around our… that teaching all students are the second area of our Massachusetts education framework. And we’re also starting to look at ways to families contribute. So nothing necessarily in terms of outcomes yet of that, unless, although I consider those outcomes because we looked at data, we decided that, that we needed to do and we made a decision to include them in our big work this year.

Dana:

I know at the building level, I brought some of the conversations from our initial work back to the PTF, which is our parents’ future organization. And they have changed the structure of giving and of how families can get involved. That came out of some of the work that those families did through our school improvement plan. So for example, something as simple as the auction, we’ve totally rearranged the way that we asked folks to give in and to help them feel a part of that. So, another I think outcome of that too, was just really being thoughtful and how we help support our families and the district financially. Don had mentioned about school supplies, and those are conversations that we’re having, what are need to have, what a nice staff and what are we going to be responsible for helping to support for student learning. So that’s a conversation we have in ad amongst building principals and tell now it’s definitely going to change the way that we support students in a positive way.

Dr. Susan Villani:

Great! Thank you. Nyla, do we have any other questions?

Nyla:

Yes, we have about two more questions left and about one more minute, so we’ll try and get through one of the two events. But this question is from Anne Kim who asked “what were some of the norms your team developed to add structure and psychological safety during the data inquiry process?”

David Green:

I think a big one for us was assumed good intentions. That’s the thing I always went back to. Okay.

Dr. Susan Villani:

I might that, artist with the seven norms of collaboration, which were familiar to some people and others. And we tact a little bit about words that we know the meaning of, to understand how seven norms of collaboration can be useful for any group to enhance their communication and build their trust. And we can put up the seven norms toolkit, it’s a resource you can get free online, spelling out seven norms tool kits for more information about.

Speaker 2:

We also talked about not climbing that ladder of inference when people make statements.

Nyla:

Okay. So we have one final question from Virginia Winters and she, or he asked “What do you think about, sorry, let me say that again. When you think about curriculum alignment and equity, what tools did you use alignment?”

Dana:

I can speak on behalf of the building had their hands and I kind of started up a pre-pilot last year of math programs. And so the first thing that we did was, we asked ourselves what are the non-negotiables that we have? And so in order to start formulating those, we looked at not only our school level school improvement goals, but we also looked at the values of the district, one of them being equity. So, one of our non-negotiables was to make sure that we selected programs to pilot, which we’re doing this year that were equitable to all students and that I can go very deep into what that means for a particular mathematics program, but that was the major sole focus for us i how to make it accessible and how to diversify it.

David Green:

And at the high school level, in social studies, we went through a process of curriculum mapping and not just mapping the content of our courses, but mapping particular skills to that content. And now we’re in the process, as I mentioned earlier, we’re looking at assessment. So mapping particular kinds of assessment to particular content.

Speaker 2:

And I talked earlier about how in mathematics, we’ve been thinking about, how can you, you’re still teaching the curriculum standards, but how can you open up the tasks that you’re asking students to do so that everybody has access to doing the mathematics. And at a very seemingly simple sort of level, but it’s actually a lot more complex, all of our departments, I think preschool through grade 12 have been engaged in really looking at the literature and the materials that we used to support our instruction and ensuring that all of our students see themselves and sort of hear themselves in the types of things that we’re choosing for them to learn through.

Nyla:

And so those are all of our questions. If you have more information, you can contact Susan Villani. I believe you wanted to make a final statement?

Dr. Susan Villani:

I just want to encourage anyone that would like to pursue this to please contact me, no obligation. And I’d love to talk with you about what you’re working on and to put an equity brief on data increase will be posted soon on the NAEC websites. The center for education equity is part of the mid Atlantic equity consortium, so that’s NAEC. Thank you everybody. Thank you, Atkins Bucksbro. Thank you Susan Mundry. Nyla thank you. And Pamela for facilitating. And viewers, thank you for your thoughtful questions.

Nyla:

So this concludes today’s webinar. Thank you for joining us and for your great questions and thank you to all the presenters. When you walk out, please take a couple of minutes to complete a survey after the webinar to let us know what you think of this webinar and what we can do to improve future webinars.

Susan Mundry:

Thank you everyone.

David Green:

Thank you everyone. For your participation, you may all disconnect.

 

 

 

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