School Highlights: Equity Work Across the District

The district is committed to making equity work a priority within each of our schools. There are countless examples of the ways in which we are succeeding and continuing to face challenges as we make progress in carrying out this complex work. Below are a few examples of our small steps toward equity, and we encourage our community to return to this webpage as it is updated through the years.

BROADMEADOW 

One part of the Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan focuses on engaging parents in conversations about equity and inclusion. With that in mind, Broadmeadow kicked off a Parent Book Group using The Hate U Give, This is How It Always Is, and Refugee as their book choices.

At a full faculty meeting, Broadmeadow staff explored equity resources for lessons and book suggestions (e.g., Raising Race Conscious Children, Anti-Defamation League, and Teaching Tolerance).

ELIOT

The Eliot PTC is providing activities free of charge for economically disadvantaged families, and breakfast is now provided during early release and delayed opening days. In prior years, students would not be provided breakfast during these times and many of our kids rely on this meal because they do not get it at home.

Annually with the help of the PTC, Eliot staff organized a school-wide focus on a specific culture that represented their students and enhanced their Multicultural Night events to celebrate their diverse community.

HILLSIDE

Hillside staff were introduced to Diverse Bookfinder, a website for identifying and exploring multicultural picture books, in an effort to diversify and balance their school library.

MITCHELL

Mitchell has begun working with an consultant from IDEAS, Ed Walker, who has been observing in classrooms and meeting monthly with teachers to provide feedback on creating more culturally responsive classrooms and pedagogy.

Staff at Mitchell participated in a Professional Learning session with Adrian Mims, National Director of the Calculus Project, who talked with them about the impact that grouping students by affinity has on their educational achievement. This PD prompted school-based work on student placement practices, informed by the achievement research.

NEWMAN 

A Newman teacher is working with colleagues and the Needham History Center to make sure the 3rd grade "1850 School House Day" includes the voices and perspectives of Native Americans who have not been represented in that experience for our students.

Newman presented its School Improvement Plan to the School Committee and highlighted the achievement gap as a priority to tackle, particularly for their low income students, English language learners, students of color, and students with disabilities.

To ensure all students have access to higher level math problems, Newman teachers are asking all students to first complete challenge questions that otherwise were completed only if the regular assignment was done first. This switch aids in exposing all students to mathematically challenging material and thinking.

HIGH ROCK

As part of a Dr. Martin Luther King program, Pollard and NHS students shared a video message with all 6th graders, challenging them to do one small thing to improve the world.

High Rock staff completed their reading of the book Ghost by Jason Reynolds and reflected on their school’s culturally responsive practices. They considered how to respond effectively with students, colleagues, and others when witnessing everyday bias or stereotyping.

POLLARD

Students, staff and community members participated in a book talk at the Needham Library about Refugee by Alan Gratz.

Pollard 7th grade English and Social Studies teachers are updating a unit to incorporate new learning, including revising their history timeline so that it starts before slavery, examines resources from the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and revises instruction around norms and language to ensure that students know how to have respectful conversations about race.

For several years, Pollard has been offering the Launching Scholars program for students who have been challenged by the traditional approach to math instruction. Launching Scholars aims to narrow the opportunity gap by increasing the participation of the number of students of color, low income, and other marginalized students in advanced math classes from grades 7 through 12.

NEEDHAM HIGH

The Greater Boston Project now includes an assignment for students to read the Needham Public Schools Equity Audit and write a proposal for how to respond. Some of these papers have been sent to the Superintendent because student input is an important component of our equity work.

Castle Scholars is being offered once again at the high school. This is an African-American and Latino/Hispanic scholars program meant to increase representation in educational programming. Castle Scholars are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have shown an interest in challenging themselves in rigorous coursework. Involvement in the program gives students opportunities and resources that will further strengthen their commitment to achieving at the top academic levels.

Needham High School hosts a series of programs called "Join the Conversation" for the purpose of providing opportunities for students and adults to discuss issues related to equity. On January 8, 2019 from 2:45 to 3:45pm, the topic was gender equity. While it is challenging to share personal experiences and discuss challenging topics in a group setting, those who came together found it to be a safe space to share perceptions, hopes, and fears (within and beyond the school); to listen thoughtfully; and to reflect meaningfully.

Back in December 2017, Needham High School students protested incidents of racially charged and homophobic graffiti by walking out of classes. It was not easy to manage the many perspectives, emotions, and anxieties of almost 1,700 adolescents, but staff provided support and encouragement, and had high expectations for students' behavior, including how they were expected to treat one another in a kind, caring, respectful way that acknowledged and honored human differences. The NHS staff developed a protocol to follow when offensive graffiti is reported at school.


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