To meet students’ needs, look for the equity throughline
Equity Corner by Micah Studer
March 16, 2020
It was a poignant moment for me ­— I was drinking some coffee and looking over the draft LCAP Template that was going before the State Board of Education for adoption. It contained a statement in the instructions portion for Increase or Improved Services that leapt out at me. I grabbed my phone and tweeted it immediately: “Conclusory statements that a service will help achieve an expected outcome for the goal, without an explicit connection or further explanation as to how, are not sufficient. Further, simply stating that an LEA has a high enrollment percentage of a specific student group or groups does not meet the increase or improve services standard because enrolling students is not the same as serving students.”  This caused me to pause for two reasons. First, it caused me to reflect on my own practice. Second, it caused me to applaud (even though I was by myself) the California Department of Education and State Board of Education for taking such a bold stance in supporting equity work by defining that the required justifications in the Increased or Improved Services section must be rooted in the identification of the student need, the intended action, and why we think the action will work. Equity leaders everywhere should capitalize on this moment to help steer our governance planning into a moment of reflection whereby we can have authentic discussions that cause us to deeply consider how we may best serve our students.  This language was also timely because this year’s drafting season comes on the heels of a report last year from State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office that found that dollars intended to support unduplicated student groups (English Learners, Foster Youth, and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged) did not always make it to the intended student groups, and that better oversight and transparency are needed in ensuring that dollars are spent as intended in meeting student needs.
Flowing from need to action presents a throughline narrative that can be told as a cohesive story in the ongoing conversation with our stakeholders.
The best possible way to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students is to design our plans with a consistent throughline that presents a coherent picture of how student needs are being met. That is, that our planning activities start with the school, district and community understanding who their students are and what needs they have based on local and state data. Then, through a robust process of stakeholder engagement and collaborative data analysis, we craft goals and actions specifically aimed at addressing the students’ identified needs.  Finally, we need to provide the rationale rooted in evidence of effective practices as to why it is believed that the actions are the best way to meet the needs of the students. Flowing from need to action presents a throughline narrative that can be told as a cohesive story in the ongoing conversation with our stakeholders. So, as our school year draws to its inevitable conclusion and planning documents across the state are adopted before July 1, equity leaders everywhere must not forget that the work does not end there and that we move into implementation and data collection efforts. We cannot forget that a plan is only as good as the paper it is printed on, especially if we do not measure the implementation and impact of our planned activities for the students and communities they are intended to serve. Micah Studer is Executive Director of Equity and Support Services for the Yolo County Office of Education and a member of ACSA’s Equity Committee, representing Region 3.
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