U-46 plan aims to close achievement gaps, diversify workforce, promote cultural awareness

  • Seventh grade gifted class teacher Amy Kelly works with her students at Kimball Middle School in Elgin. Elgin Area School District U-46's new equity plan aims to close achievement gaps, including remedying underrepresentation of students from diverse backgrounds in programs, such as gifted, honors, academies and Advanced Placement courses.

      Seventh grade gifted class teacher Amy Kelly works with her students at Kimball Middle School in Elgin. Elgin Area School District U-46's new equity plan aims to close achievement gaps, including remedying underrepresentation of students from diverse backgrounds in programs, such as gifted, honors, academies and Advanced Placement courses. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 
Updated 11/12/2019 6:16 PM

Closing achievement gaps. Diversifying teaching and administrative staff. Promoting cultural awareness.

These are among the goals of Elgin Area School District U-46's new five-year Equity Plan -- envisioned by former U-46 administrator Ron Raglin, who died in August.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Raglin championed social equity policies helping U-46 establish its mission of including and valuing all students, especially those who historically had been marginalized.

"Ron welcomed participation from everyone in his equity work. He liked to use to the phrase 'radically inclusive' to describe his approach to recruiting team members across the district," said Brian Lindholm, U-46 coordinator of strategic initiatives. "The best way to honor him is to continue the important work that he started."

The district established an equity committee in September 2018 to research and craft a plan. Among its pillars and goals are:

•Student achievement: Close opportunity gaps for all student subgroups to ensure equitable access to academic systems and programs.

•Effective and engaged staff: Value, develop, recruit and retain a forward-thinking, highly qualified and diverse workforce.

•Community engagement: Ensure welcoming, safe, inclusive and equitable school environments.

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•Excellence, efficiency, accountability: Communicate how funds are allocated to ensure equitable access for all students.

"We believe one of the ways that we close the opportunity gap is to ensure that all curriculum and instruction materials reflect the unique cultural and linguistic diversity of our student population," Lindholm said.

Officials said culturally proficient teachers, administrators and support staff are needed to meet the needs of all students and their families.

Of U-46's 38,395 students, nearly 55% are Hispanic, 26% white, 8% Asian, and 6% African American. A majority of its schools serve significant Spanish-speaking student populations, while groups of students who speak Gujarati, Lao, Polish and Urdu are served at Liberty Elementary School in Bartlett.

Nearly 61% of U-46 students come from low-income families, 34% are English language learners, and 15% are on individualized education programs.

Providing equitable funding based on students' needs eliminates barriers to success in academics, athletics and extracurricular programs, Lindholm said.

In addition to providing students access to high quality and culturally relevant instructional curriculum and educational resources, officials said they seek to remedy any practices that lead to overrepresentation of students from diverse backgrounds in special education and student discipline, and underrepresentation in programs, such as gifted, honors, academies and Advanced Placement courses.

Establishing a culturally proficient workforce includes providing training to strengthen employees' knowledge and skills in eliminating disparities in achievement based on race and ethnicity, said Suzanne Johnson, U-46 deputy superintendent of instruction.

U-46 will maintain an equity task force to help meet these goals, develop action plans of accountability and measurable outcomes, and conduct a yearly equity audit of the district, its schools and programs to ensure progress is being made. Audit findings will be published in an annual equity report card, officials said.

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