Carroll County Public Schools has an equity policy for the first time, approved formally earlier this month.
Under regulations put in place at the end of 2018 by the Maryland State Department of Education, all school systems are required to develop an equity policy and guidelines. The purpose is to “remove institutional barriers through providing access to educational opportunities that benefit each student.”
CCPS has been working on their policy for about a year, even before the new regulations were official. Writing the guidelines are the next step.
“We didn't just want to put any policy in place, we didn't want a check-off-the-box. We really wanted a policy that had teeth to it and meant something,” said Judith Jones, Supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach.
CCPS worked with staff from school systems across the state — those that have already passed policies and those that have policies in the works— through the Education That is Multicultural (ETM) council.
Even more exciting than that, Jones said, has been the communication with students through focus groups.
When writing a policy to address the needs of someone, “You need to know what the needs are, you need to talk to them,” Jones said.
The policy includes desired outcomes, working definitions and a policy statement. The opening text of the policy reads:
The Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education is committed to the success of each student in our schools. For that success to occur for each student in lifelong learning and the world of work, the district prioritizes educational equity by recognizing and removing institutional barriers and ensuring that social identifiers are not obstacles to accessing educational opportunities and supports that benefit each student.
A full text of the policy is available at the CCPS website, carrollk12.org or at the CCPS administrative building.
“The policy isn't just for minority students or minority employees, the policy is really for everyone. But what we've been doing as a system is focusing on our students who have historically been underrepresented, or underserved,” she said.
“When you look at things through an equitable lens, that's what you have to do. You have to celebrate those areas, obviously, where we are doing well. But then you have to focus on ‘Who are we missing?’ And those were the students that we were missing.”
Equity-related language wasn’t totally absent from the CCPS handbook previously. Sentiments of it were spread throughout other policies. But this is the first time CCPS has had a full-fledged equity policy.
While the finished draft takes into account what CCPS learned from other counties and the guidelines from the state, Carroll’s policy is specifically tailored for Carroll, Jones said.
It’s written so it “perfectly” aligns with the CCPS strategic pillars, their overarching mission statement.
Though the small size of the county means CCPS can’t do some of the things other counties are doing, Jones said small size can be an asset. It means that everyone from stakeholders to the superintendent are in close proximity.
“We're talking about changing numbers into names. How often can you do that?” she asked.
Student voices will continue to be part of the conversation. The school system’s goal is not only to listen, but to take action, Jones said.
“A lot of times we have student voices, and it's always reactive. … But why use student voice to be reactive instead of proactive and making them a part of the collaboration and the discussion to make the school system a greater school system?” she asked.
Under the state regulations, the policy will be reviewed every three years.
“And of course, you can go back and make adjustments to a policy if things come up, and things change,” Jones said. “But right now, every student and every employee should see themselves somewhere in that policy. That's the whole point of it.”