School Highlights: Equity Work Across the District

The district is committed to making equity work a priority within each of our schools. In response to the news in May 2020 about national protests and riots occurring in the wake of horrific events involving the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd who was killed by police in Minneapolis, our schools offered opportunities for dialogue and engagement for students, their families, and staff:
- Sharing resources and learning experiences with staff and students at every level to address the current news and provide a forum for anti-racist education;
- Hosting a Virtual Town Hall, sponsored by the REAL Coalition, for all staff to join in a conversation about how we can support our staff and students of color as well as address these ongoing issues;
- Providing additional resources for families to access to talk to their children about recent events and to provide support.

There are countless examples of the ways in which we are succeeding and continuing to face challenges as we make progress in carrying out this complex work. Below are a few more examples of our small steps toward equity over the years, and we encourage our community to return to this webpage as it is updated.

BROADMEADOW 

Broadmeadow teachers engaged in job-embedded professional development on Culturally Responsive teaching and anti-bias/anti-racist social justice curriculum for elementary students.

Broadmeadow faculty continued to build classroom libraries and programming that incorporates diverse people to reflect different cultures, races, family structures, religions, and gender orientation.

Broadmeadow sponsored a PTC/School Council panel discussion with 4 parents (METCO, immigrant family, parent of transgender children, gay parent) who spoke to their joys and heartaches as members of the Broadmeadow community, with an engaging Q&A afterwards.

One part of the Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan focuses on engaging parents in conversations about equity and inclusion. With that in mind, Broadmeadow kicked off a Parent Book Group using The Hate U Give, This is How It Always Is, and Refugee as their book choices.

At a full faculty meeting, Broadmeadow staff explored equity resources for lessons and book suggestions (e.g., Raising Race Conscious Children, Anti-Defamation League, and Teaching Tolerance).

ELIOT

Eliot used faculty meetings for training staff on Culturally Responsive Teaching, and introduced the Racial Literacy curriculum as well as lessons addressing anti-Asian racism.

Eliot changed its approach to student discipline with the introduction of Second Step which reduced office referrals.

Eliot was awarded a three-year grant to introduce Spatial Temporal Math, a visual math program for grades K-2. The program engaged students with language disabilities and students who are English Language Learners in challenging math lessons.

The Eliot PTC provided activities free of charge for economically disadvantaged families, and breakfast was provided during early release and delayed opening days. In prior years, students would not be provided breakfast during these times and many of our kids rely on this meal because they do not get it at home.

Annually with the help of the PTC, Eliot staff organized a school-wide focus on a specific culture that represented their students and enhanced their Multicultural Night events to celebrate their diverse community.

SUNITA WILLIAMS (formerly HILLSIDE)

Sunita Williams established an Equity Drop-In on Wednesdays for staff to find support for their work with the Racial Literacy Curriculum and/or concerns on any equity issue in their school.

Hillside hosted author Gloria Respress-Churchwell, whose book Follow Chester is a true story about a black football player at Harvard who dared to play at UVA in 1947 during the era of Jim Crow. His white teammates supported him in ways that were considered radical at the time. Hillside 4th and 5th graders prepared for Gloria's visit by doing research on the timeline of Civil Rights in the US.

Hillside staff were introduced to Diverse Bookfinder, a website for identifying and exploring multicultural picture books, in an effort to diversify and balance their school library.

MITCHELL

Mitchell piloted the Racial Literacy Curriculum aimed at bringing greater understanding and respect between all students and planned supplemental classroom lessons to support Asian and Asian-American students.

Mitchell administered a cultural survey for their families in September 2020 and responses allowed teachers to shape classroom experiences for all students. 

Mitchell universally applied lessons on the civil rights movement and MLK's leadership and kindness.

Several Mitchell staff members participated in DESE's "Inclusive Practices Workshop" covering the strategies that improve academic and social and emotional outcomes for students with and without disabilities in the general education setting.

Mitchell worked with an consultant from IDEAS, Ed Walker, who observed classrooms and met monthly with teachers to provide feedback on creating more culturally responsive classrooms and pedagogy.

Staff at Mitchell participated in PD with Adrian Mims, National Director of the Calculus Project, about the impact that grouping students by affinity has on their educational achievement. This PD informed student placement practices.

NEWMAN 

Newman Racial Literacy Parent Workshop was developed and delivered in January 2021. It provided an overview of the Racial Literacy curriculum and the work of the Racial Literacy Task Force.

Newman School Council focused on forming a diverse group and using an equity lens regarding all work at Newman.

Students in 4th and 5th grades gathered for a special community meeting about being "upstanders" in fighting hate speech. Following the presentation, classroom teachers held a "closing circle" to discuss how to counter hate speech.

The NEF awarded Newman a grant to boost equity efforts. Newman hosted a Teaching Tolerance Workshop: Facilitating Critical Conversations. The grant also provided a basis for school-wide professional development for the school year.

Newman's Music teacher arranged transportation from Boston for Newman's Boston-resident students so that they could participate in band for the first time. 

A Newman teacher worked with colleagues and the Needham History Center to make sure the 3rd grade "1850 School House Day" included the voices and perspectives of Native Americans who have not been represented in that experience for our students.

HIGH ROCK

High Rock established an equity team that meets monthly and is linked to faculty meetings.

High Rock staff began accessing resources from the district's Diversity Equity & Inclusion webpages, including the Roadmap for Culturally Responsive Educator.

High Rock faculty engaged in systematic examination of implicit bias, including micro-aggressions and how they can work to disrupt these systems in their classrooms. The work was facilitated by High Rock's Assistant Principal and METCO Coordinator. Smaller groups worked in teams to: 1) Continue to examine race issues; 2) Come to a better understanding of how equity affects LGBTQ+ students and faculty and how High Rock can better understand and use best practices for equity in those areas; 3) How to create curriculum that disrupts the cycle of bias.

As part of a Dr. Martin Luther King program, Pollard and NHS students shared a video message with all 6th graders, challenging them to do one small thing to improve the world.

High Rock staff completed their reading of the book Ghost by Jason Reynolds and reflected on their school’s culturally responsive practices. They considered how to respond effectively with students, colleagues, and others when witnessing everyday bias or stereotyping.

POLLARD

In recognition of Arab American Heritage Month (April) as declared by the State Department, Pollard put up a window display and shared with students and staff some suggested books and resources to honor the history and contributions of Arab Americans.

Pollard staff engaged in professional development using the "Speak Up At School" resource. Staff also completed a school-wide "Pollard Staff Takes Small Steps toward Equity." All staff shared practices and plans for creating equitable classroom environments.

Students, staff and community members participated in a book talk about Refugee by Alan Gratz.

Pollard continued to provide affinity groups and lunch groups to support students.

Pollard 7th grade English and Social Studies teachers are updating a unit to incorporate new learning, including revising their history timeline so that it starts before slavery, examines resources from the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and revises instruction around norms and language to ensure that students know how to have respectful conversations about race.

Pollard continues to offer Launching Scholars for students who have been challenged by the traditional approach to math instruction. This program narrows the opportunity gap by increasing participation of the number of students of color, low income, and other marginalized students in advanced math classes from grades 7 through 12.

NEEDHAM HIGH

Courageous Conversations On Race (CCOR) was added to the high school curriculum. Students applied what they learned about how racism operates on a systemic level to design an interactive workshop that they delivered in all 9th grade biology classes.

Our high school students led a Black Lives Matter rally involving hundreds of students, staff, and community members. They were eloquent and poised as they shared stories about racist experiences they have had in school and town.

The Greater Boston Project included an assignment for students to read the Needham Public Schools Equity Audit and write a proposal for how to respond. Some of these papers were sent to the Superintendent because student input is an important component of our equity work.

Castle Scholars continued at the high school. This is an African-American and Latino/Hispanic scholars program meant to increase representation in educational programming. Castle Scholars are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have shown an interest in challenging themselves in rigorous coursework. Involvement in the program gives students opportunities and resources that will further strengthen their commitment to achieving at the top academic levels.

Needham High School hosted a series of programs called "Join the Conversation" for the purpose of providing opportunities for students and adults to discuss issues related to equity. On January 8, 2019 from 2:45 to 3:45pm, the topic was gender equity. While it is challenging to share personal experiences and discuss challenging topics in a group setting, those who came together found it to be a safe space to share perceptions, hopes, and fears (within and beyond the school); to listen thoughtfully; and to reflect meaningfully. This model continued to be used through the school year.

Back in December 2017, Needham High School students protested incidents of racially charged and homophobic graffiti by walking out of classes. It was not easy to manage the many perspectives, emotions, and anxieties of almost 1,700 adolescents, but staff provided support and encouragement, and had high expectations for students' behavior, including how they were expected to treat one another in a kind, caring, respectful way that acknowledged and honored human differences. The NHS staff developed a protocol to follow when offensive graffiti is reported at school.

DEPARTMENTS  & MORE 
EQUITY WORK ACROSS THE DISTRICT:
HEALTH SERVICES has increased visuals and resources  in each of the health offices to make all students feel welcome. Examples include the availability of different skin tone bandages for students to choose from; visible posters that say "Welcome" in different languages; resource books for students; and each clinic now has a Cultural Health Assessment pocket guide that depicts the health customs, language, and beliefs of populations from more than 170 countries.

K-5, 6-8, AND 9-12 MATH CHAIRS/COORDINATORS met with Boston resident families in Boston to describe the K-12 math program and share options for their children. Families engaged in doing some math as the staff illustrated the connection of math concepts at each level. In addition, the participants reflected on how Needham Public Schools does/does not meet the needs of our Boston-resident students and families.

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