'We have made progress': Minority hiring, retention up in Naperville 203 but academic gaps still a concern

A Naperville Unit District 203 equity report indicates progress with minority hiring, but work remains to close academic gaps among minority student groups.

District officials presented data at Monday's school board meeting from the Naperville 203 Comprehensive Equity Plan, which details steps taken to better serve the minority student population.

Superintendent Dan Bridges said more specific aspects of the plan will be discussed during future board meetings.

"Despite unplanned interruptions to our work related to this plan, we have made progress," he said. "The report (highlights) some areas for continued improvement going forward."

According to data from the equity plan, 7% of district teachers in 2022 were Black. That's compared to 0.77% in 2019 and more closely represents the Black students accounting for 5% of the total district population.

Asian Americans represent 18% of the student population. Ten percent of district teachers in 2022 were Asian American, an increase from 2.3% in 2019. Hispanics represented 13% of district teachers in 2022, compared to 6.1% in 2019.

The rate of retention among minority teachers also has improved. While the overall retention rate in the district stands at 93.5%, retention of Black teachers has improved, from 77.4% in 2019 to 93.8% in 2022.

"Since 2019, each new hiring class of certified educators has trended upwards towards becoming more representative of our student demographics," said Rakeda Leaks, the district's executive director for diversity and inclusion.

Officials tempered the good news by stressing the continuing need to narrow academic gaps. The most significant gaps, they said, are among students with Individualized Education Programs compared to students without IEPs and Black students compared to white students.

"We've been actively enhancing our curricula and resources to ensure accessibility, representation, participation and strong outcomes," said Jayne Willard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "Despite these efforts, achievement data still reveals disparities among our student groups."

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