Thursday, April 4, 2019

Equity in RISD

"In an effort to ensure every student performs at or above grade level, the Equity Action Team developed an action plan to recommend the drafting and potential Board approval of an Equity Policy in RISD. An overview of the committee’s process will be presented as well as a preliminary draft of the current Equity Policy. Next steps will be discussed as well as a timeline for policy recommendation."

That's the agenda item for last week's Richardson ISD board of trustees meeting. OK, I'm in favor of what RISD is attempting here, so don't take what I have to say as criticism of the goal. If you must, take it as a reason why I should never be appointed to one of these committees.

First, the board heard that the committee spent time learning and discussing what a "policy" is and doing "definition analysis" on what the terms equity, diversity, inclusion mean. Yes, that's necessary work, but it's the kind of wordsmithing exercise that too often bogs committees down, preventing them from ever implementing any real change. But then, committees seldom have power to implement real change. Instead, they are tasked with writing a report. It's up to them to see that the report contains concrete, specific recommendations for change, but it's up to the administration to adopt the recommendations in that report and implement real change.

My ears perked up once during the presentation, when it was mentioned that RISD plans to pilot a black history course at Berkner High School next year. Now that's a concrete, specific change. More of this, please. It was also mentioned that a Mexican-American history course is being considered. I don't know if the committee was responsible for this or is only reporting it as an example of good things already going on regardless, but whoever is behind it, keep up the good work.

Second, there was this paragraph in the report that starts out all motherhood and apple pie, but slips in a hidden reversal in its last clause:

"The District will equitably distribute resources, opportunities, transportation, facilities, supports, and teachers/staff, to meet the identified needs of a campus, even if carrying out the commitment results in differentiated resource allocations."

Let's rephrase that: "The District will equitably distribute resources even if that results in unequal distribution of resources."

Anyone who didn't pay attention during the meeting when the committee did "definition analysis" on the meaning of equity, diversity, and inclusion may be less happy with the way that sentence ends than how it began.

Of course, almost all politics boils down to a fight over the allocation of scarce resources. I predict, no matter how noble the rest of the policy sounds, it will be sorely tested when it runs up against the allocation of scarce resources. Let's hope that all the groundwork the Equity Action Team has done minimizes the eventual fights.

No comments: