Frontier, Union 38 to undergo equity audit

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-27-2023 9:41 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — As the Frontier Regional and Union 38 school districts continue the diversity, equity and inclusion work that started three years ago, they are prepared to undergo an “equity audit” to examine how it can provide an equitable education to all students.

The district has contracted Curriculum Management Solutions Inc. to provide an independent examination and review of the districts’ systems and policies. The goal, Superintendent Darius Modestow said, is to take a step back and evaluate what the school is doing through a data lens.

“We’ve never done an audit of where we are as a system with equity to all. This is not just about race and ethnicity, this is also about gender, ability and socioeconomic background,” Modestow said. “It’s looking at all our students and their backgrounds and are our systems inclusive of all students. Are we doing things ensuring that all students have equal opportunities?”

The audit, Modestow emphasized, is being undertaken out of their own volition. He said the audit costs $31,000 and will be paid using the school districts’ allocation of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) money.

“This is a choice we brought in. It’s not a state thing, it’s a private company,” Modestow noted.

In the audit’s proposal document, compiled by Curriculum Management Solutions, it explains an equity audit is a “comprehensive evaluation of a school district’s processes, plans and procedures for monitoring and assuring equity and equality in its treatment of and services to students.”

“The equity audit is an unbiased, objective review that provides not only feedback regarding the status of equity and equal access in school districts,” the proposal reads, “but also a plan with detailed actions and recommended steps to establish goals and processes to assure equity, monitor it and thereby improve learning for all students.”

Curriculum Management Solutions, which has conducted audits of hundreds of school districts around the world over decades of work, collects curriculum guides, state assessment reports and other documents to examine inconsistencies in the school system to do its audit.

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Additionally, Frontier and Union 38 have opted for optional audit processes, such as interviewing administrators, school committee members and other stakeholders in the district to collect more information. Online surveys will be offered and Curriculum Management Solutions’ staff members will conduct site visits in March to get an on-the-ground look at how the districts operate. All information gathered is confidential and audit reports will only be released to Modestow and the school committees, who will then decide if they wish to release the report to the public.

Modestow said school officials want to “focus on areas we may not be considering, to address that our school is equitable.” He expects the report to be released around September, at which point they will then consider integrating certain suggestions into their strategic planning.

The audit’s proposal document states any recommendations are made to “understand the root causes of the inequities so that they can be addressed directly.”

“All recommendations are tied to specific findings or groups of findings and will address root causes in practical, measurable ways,” the proposal states. “All recommendations are meant to be implemented over a three- to five-year period, usually with extensive training and professional development.”

Creating lasting change, Modestow said, is a “long road,” but it is something schools must do to ensure students of all backgrounds are getting the highest-quality education possible.

“As students in front of us change,” Modestow said, “we have to change with them.”

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