Modesto CA School District Updates on Equity Goals

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Modesto City Schools administrative office in Modesto, Calif., On Friday, June 25, 2021.

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At the first of two public forums this school year, school leaders in the city of Modesto shared their progress and asked for feedback on their work to make schools more equitable.

Thursday night’s virtual forum was chaired by Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services Mark Herbst and Equity and Intervention Specialist Fallon Ferris. Twenty-nine people watched, including seven district staff and a reporter from Modesto Bee. The second forum will take place in May.

Herbst said the district approach equity includes issues of access to education related to race, ethnicity, gender, language and disability. While equality in education means that students are treated the same, equity means that students receive the support they need to receive a quality education given their circumstances and their styles of education. ‘learning.

Equity is “something that we are committed to for the long haul,” Herbst said.

The district created a racial equity and justice framework last year, as well as a racial equity and justice task force that recommended six equity goals that administrators approved in the spring.

The forum was designed to share the work on these six actions.

District officials also report on equity goals at appointed council meetings in person and posted to YouTube on Monday evenings every three weeks. People should check the council agenda, published the Friday before each meeting, to see when presentations on equity goals are scheduled.

Bee broke down information from Thursday’s forum by each goal.

Increase teacher diversity

The district’s human resources department has restructured its hiring process to eliminate bias and extend recruiting to more diverse communities in the Bay Area, Herbst said. This is part of a five-year process to diversify teachers, he said.

Herbst said a review of the district’s teaching force last year indicated she was predominantly white. Although consistent across california, he said, “When you look at a community as diverse as Modesto, you can expect to see a diversity that is a little closer to the students we serve. “

State data for the 2019-2020 school year shows that Latino students made up 58.8% of the district’s high school student population and 69% of the primary student population.

Research shows that students benefit academically and behaviorally from having teachers who share their race. The district will always hire the best qualified candidates, Herbst said.

Analyze teacher placement

This objective aims to avoid placing new recruits in the classes of students with the greatest needs. The district has negotiated with the Modesto Teachers Association to speed up the hiring schedule to find more qualified candidates, Herbst said. Recruitment for the next school year began in November.

Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Mike Henderson is tentatively expected to make a presentation to the school board on hiring teachers and placing teachers on February 7, Herbst said.

Analyze course offerings

After the goal was passed, California ordered districts to offer ethnic studies classes by 2025. Modesto school officials then considered whether to add a ethnic studies course itself to the determination of its content.

A district task force is tasked with deciding how long the class should be – a year or a semester – and which ethnicities to highlight, Herbst said. The aim is to teach the contributions, history and struggles of historically marginalized ethnic groups, he said.

Ethnic studies differ from Critical Race Theory, which examines systemic racism in American institutions.

Analyze the rating policy

This fall marked the start of a three-year process to expand fair rating practices. A working group meets for workshops throughout the school year, and the 66 teachers involved try out different strategies.

Fair scoring is not designed to lower expectations. The goal is to deepen academic standards and provide students with the opportunity to succeed through additional examination and remedial action, Herbst said.

“It’s really about building long-term capacity and increasing the effectiveness of teaching in a classroom,” Herbst said.

Education specialist Douglas reeves guides the work of the district. A presentation to the school board is tentatively scheduled for February 7.

Improve communication with parents of color

A new Parent Ambassador program aims to share information, answer parent questions and connect parents with resources, said program manager Madie Herrera.

“We are very confident that the new program will expand the awareness of parents of schools in the city of Modesto,” Herrera said.

The district hired a senior coordinator and 11 of the 14 parent ambassadors, Herrera said. The last three ambassadors are expected to be hired by the end of next week, she said.

District officials are also working with Parents Leading Change, a board-recognized parent group whose mission is to ensure racial and tax fairness, said leader Jocelyn Cooper.

Teacher and staff training this year focused on customer service, Herbst said.

Communications Manager Krista Noonan will brief the school board on May 16.

Equity audits

District leaders analyze enrollment data by ethnicity for advanced level courses, education of the gifted and talented, and vocational and technical education, in addition to disparate discipline rates.

They plan to collect the data by the end of the winter vacation, present it along with recommendations to the school board in May and take action the following school year.

Emily Isaacman is the equity reporter for The Bee’s community-funded Economic Mobility Lab, which includes a team of journalists covering economic development, education and equity.

Your contribution helps support the Lab.

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Emily Isaacman covers education for the Modesto Bee Economic Mobility Lab. She is originally from San Diego and graduated from Indiana University, where she majored in journalism and political science. Emily interned with Chalkbeat Indiana, the Dow Jones News Fund and Reuters.

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