Racial Equity Office update on Dallas ISD
The Dallas Examiner | 3/25/2019, 11:03 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner
In an effort to better balance the cultural scales of education and opportunity for local scholars, the Dallas Independent School District’s Racial Equity Office was established in 2018. Its goal was “to identify and remove obstacles to creating a level playing field for all students to succeed,” the agency announced in a prepared statement recently.
“What we did, as an office, we developed seven strategic outcomes after we reviewed the various racial equity policies from urban school districts throughout the United States,” remarked Leslie Williams, deputy chief of racial equity for Dallas ISD, as he cited Denver and Boston by name.
“Our policy, which is so different, is that most of the school districts, they only had like maybe one or two goals they tried to achieve,” he said.
Dallas ISD instead created a policy consisting of multiple issues that have goal-progress measures tied to each specific outcome.
“So that the board and the superintendent can always determine if we have reached those particular goals,” Williams voiced about investigating the ground gained on the seven targets.
As an effort to discover what steps are required and where improvements are still needed, the office released its first Fall 2018/Spring 2019 Updates and Accomplishments report.
“Just to summarize, we’ve met with every department within the Dallas Independent School District and what we did was … [met] with every chief of every department, and we did that to meet with them and to go over the policy that had been approved by the trustees,” Williams continued as he described the methodology behind the results of the report.
“And we want to applaud our trustees because the board policy was passed – and the racial resolution was passed – both of them, by a 9-0 vote,” he added, citing a willingness of the district to reflect on itself in terms of moving toward greater equality.
“Which means that we receive support from all nine of the trustees, and that was exciting to me. That doesn’t always happen in the district.”
The resolution to create the office was passed in Dec. 2017.
As outlined in the report, the needs of African American students and those who are learning English as a second language are the highest of priorities, leading to campuses with the higher populations of both groups receiving specialized attention from the office.
For example, the office has placed a heavier emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities than the district has in the past in an effort for graduates to continue on to higher education. The report documents that the HBCU Experience, originally an African American Success Initiative program, took place on Sept. 19, 2018. More than 800 students from 14 high schools participated at the time. Williams confirmed a similar event was on track for this year.
According to the deputy chief in the prepared statement, however, such targeting did not mean other student populations would be passed over. He used the African American Read-In, held Feb. 9, as an example of the multicultural makeup of local schools and the importance of the district to meet their needs as well.