MAEC Presents Antiracist Audit to BOE
The Board of Education heard a public presentation of the MCPS Antiracist Audit by independent auditors, Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, Inc. on Oct. 11.
In 2020, Dr. Monifa B. McKnight, in her capacity as MCPS deputy superintendent, initiated a study of the district’s policies and practices to ensure MCPS had a clear understanding of how well the district was serving all students. With the Board’s support, Dr. McKnight sought a full understanding of the experiences of students, parents and educators in MCPS.
“I am pleased to have the affirmation of what we have known for years and what student performance data tells us—that students of color have a different experience in our school system,” said Superintendent McKnight. “If we are truly going to ensure that all students can succeed, then we must eliminate racism and bias in teaching and learning. As a result of this work, when we ask ourselves what will be different, the answer must be—we will be different.”
The audit, from its inception, was intended to be a review of MCPS policies and practices to understand the impact of race and racism on teaching and learning. The study examined six areas of MCPS:
- Workforce Diversity Analysis
- Work Conditions: Progress & Barriers
- PreK-12 Equity Curriculum Review
- Equity of Access
- Community Relations & Engagement
- Evaluation of School Cultures
Key Finding of the Antiracist System Audit
The report confirmed that MCPS has many elements needed to eliminate racial disparities for students, families and staff. However, as referenced in the study, “the implementation of policies and application of best practices with fidelity differs greatly from school to school, suggesting that the system is currently fragmented. Many of these challenges stem from the lack of a clear, systemwide comprehensive approach to antiracism.”
To succeed, the audit findings suggest that MCPS organize around a series of recommendations that do not add more programs or initiatives.
The recommendations are:
- Coherence: The district must develop a systemic, coherent plan to address the issues identified. This plan should be co-constructed with the community and articulate a vision and strategy for district improvement across the organization. MCPS should develop a theory of change centered on racial equity that represents what matters most to the community.
- Accountability for Racial Equity Work: MCPS must create mechanisms and processes for consistent outward accountability of its racial equity work to ensure the consistent implementation of the district’s racial equity-centered vision across organizational levels.
- Equity-Centered Capacity Building: The successful planning and implementation of a districtwide racial equity vision and coherent strategy require equity-centered capacity building. Professional learning needs to be systematic and ongoing. Families, students and community members must be included in professional learning opportunities to create authentic collaborations and partnerships.
- Continuous Data Collection: The successful planning and implementation of a districtwide strategy for racial equity requires ongoing data collection to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and determine areas for revision. Interim and formative data points are critical to ensure MCPS is being adaptive and responsive to district needs.
- Relational Trust: The successful planning and implementation of a districtwide racial equity strategy requires MCPS to develop systems, procedures and practices that increase relational trust between the district and the community. Relational trust relies on multiple factors, including continuous communications, opportunities for feedback, deliberate conversations, transparency and execution of stated objectives.
Other Recommended Actions
Beyond these recommendations, the report states that it is equally important to ensure the district has:
- Ongoing Community Engagement: MCPS should continue its commitment to ongoing, repeat, two-way community engagement to build trust and meet system goals for antiracism.
- Next Steps: Development of a comprehensive plancreated with the community and presented by March 2023. This provides the time to engage the whole community and develop specific strategies, measures and milestones.
Past Studies Informed the Antiracist Audit
While there have been many studies and initiatives in the past, this is the first comprehensive, systemwide opportunity to engage the MCPS community in discussing the role race plays throughout the entire school system.
- MAEC used findings from past reports in the development of its audit.
- The audit was designed to analyze how MCPS policies and practices are experienced by students, staff and families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- This audit is focused exclusively on race and racism, rather than socioeconomic status, gender, religion, language proficiency or disability.
- A steering committee composed of students, staff, families and community organizations provided input and feedback throughout its development and implementation.
- The size and scope of this audit are larger and more reflective of the community. More than 130,111 people participated in surveys, focus groups and community conversations.
The findings and recommendations infer that all students will be college, career and community ready if MCPS has coherence, accountability, equity-centered capacity building, continuous data collection and relational trust.
MCPS embarked on the Antiracist System Audit in the fall of 2020 because racial and ethnic disparities are seen in almost every area of the school district, including reading levels, participation in higher level classes, graduation rates, suspension and discipline rates, and staffing.
MCPS sent out a request for proposals in the fall of 2020 and a committee of students, staff and families reviewed the proposals. MAEC was selected and began work in December 2020. Because the goal of the audit is to look across the whole system, MAEC was asked to analyze the school district in the following six areas, referred to as domains in the final report:
- School culture
- Workforce diversity
- Work conditions
- Pre-K–12 curriculum
- Community relations and engagement
- Equity of Access