Equity Plan revisits inequalities in Chapel Hill schools

Chapel Hill/Carrboro City School District aims to create an equitable learning environment.

By Brooke Bauman

In April 2016, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district was featured in an article in the New York Times that examined racial inequalities in public schools across the nation. The article, “Money, Race and Success,” detailed a study from Stanford University that found the most significant achievement gaps between white and minority students were in wealthy communities like Chapel Hill. This conclusion was supported by the district’s end-of-grade testing report from 2016 which stated that 31 percent of black students were considered to be on track for college while 85 percent of white students were college-ready.

Although the press was for something not worthy of praise, the response to the article and the various studies was positive. In early 2016, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district drafted an Equity Plan to work towards closing this achievement gap. According to the News and Observer, the plan has outlined four major goals that it aims to address: community engagement, culturally responsive teaching practices, equitable discipline policies and practices, and expansion of relationships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The ideals promoted by the Equity Plan are not completely foreign to the district. One particularly successful program in the district, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), has provided assistance to the least served students in the community. Kimberly Manning, a teacher who is heavily involved in the AVID program at East, realizes the importance of this plan.

“The achievement gap is truly the biggest blemish on our district’s performance, but it more than a mere blemish it is an indicator of the social conditions that plague Chapel Hill,” said Manning. “It reveals the entrenched disparity of socioeconomic status, the lack of resources, and the inability of a school district to adequately address the needs and concerns of every student, teacher, and staff person.”

This Equity Plan could be a major step forward for the district but first it must be approved by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board. Many feel that the plan is not detailed enough because there are no specific deadlines associated with the goals. In June, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district director of equity leadership, Sheldon Lanier, presented the draft of the plan to the school board. After reviewing the draft thoroughly, the school board agreed to push back the voting date, previously set in December 2016, to address certain issues in the plan that need to be more detailed.

“We can do something and put something on paper just to have it on paper or we can make sure that it’s right,” said Lanier. “If we’re going to do something in order to target black and brown students, then I definitely want to make sure that it is done correctly and it is rock solid and it is tight.”

Manning agrees that this plan should be a platform to serve the students who take standard and honors classes. “One example of how our East can help shift the paradigm is to dedicate more resources for hands-on and alternative learning approaches,” explained Manning. “In some departments, almost half of their allocated budget is spent on resources for AP courses alone, leaving very little for students in honors and ‘standard level’ courses.”

In the coming years, this plan could play a major role in addressing the outrageous achievement gap in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district.

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