Race and Achievement
The Newton Public School district has undertaken a district-wide initiative to create greater understanding about the impact of race and racial identity on the school experience. The programs and trainings implemented reflect a commitment to becoming a more culturally responsive district in which all students consistently feel connected to school and achieve at high levels. This initiative connects our larger district goals of narrowing the achievement gap with respect to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status and supporting the social and emotional growth of our students through evidence-based learning. There are three main components to our work, which are outlined below.
An update on the work described above was recently provided to the School Committee. You can view the presentation here (PDF document for download.)
Newton Family Conference
Dear Newton Families,
For the past few years, the Newton Public School have hosted the Newton Family Conference – a conference for Black/African-American and Latino/Hispanic families to provide opportunities for learning, connection, and discussion. Because the event has been so informative and helpful, this year we are expanding it to invite ALL NPS families.
We postponed last spring’s conference to this fall and now I am pleased to invite you to the 2018 Newton Family Conference to be held on Saturday, December 1st from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Newton North High School. The goal of the Newton Family Conference is to build relationships between families of color and white families within the district, advance dialogue around issues of race, culture, and identity and create opportunities for families within NPS to meet each other. The Family Conference is one way in which the Newton Public School District is seeking to create culturally responsive school communities with equity and excellence for all.
Participants at the conference will attend workshops on “Courageous Conversations About Race” facilitated by NPS trained facilitators. These sessions will be similar to the workshops in which Newton faculty and staff are participating. In addition, we will offer sessions at the conference that will provide parents with ideas and strategies for talking to their children about race. Our goal is for you to partner with us as we strive to make our Newton school community welcoming and inclusive to all students and families.
To facilitate your participation, limited childcare, provided by Newton classroom aides and high school students, will be available for children in grades K-5. Please RSVP at: https://2018familyconference.eventbrite.com. Workshop online selection forms will be emailed by November 5th to those that RSVP.
I hope you will consider attending what should be an excellent conference.
Superintendent of Schools
Work with Faculty/Staff
In 2015, the district established the goal to build school leaders' capacity to lead their school communities to improve the academic and social/emotional achievement of Black and/or African-American students in Newton Public Schools. The work began in the summer of 2015 with a Principal's Institute at which central staff and principals reviewed student performance data and began to identify ways in which we might address and eliminate the achievement gap.
In 2015-16, a team developed and delivered workshops to 110 administrators and staff. These workshops were based upon Glenn Singleton's book, Courageous Conversations about Race, and addressed topics including the distinction between equity and equality, and microagressions.
In 2016-17, the expanded team who had been trained in the summer of 2016, delivered workshops to eight school-based leadership teams in elementary and middle schools. In the summer of 2017, principals and central staff were introduced to the language of cultural responsiveness using the work of Dena Simmons and Zaretta Hammond on Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.
In 2017-18, the Race and Achievement Working Group facilitated ongoing education for Newton Public Schools faculty and staff. School-based teams led their staff in Courageous Conversations on early release/professional development days. Train-the-trainer sessions continued so that more staff were trained to facilitate workshops and extend the reach of the professional development.
In the summer of 2018, NPS held its first Race and Achievement Summer Institute. Faculty and staff attendees spent two days exploring more deeply the connection between race and achievement and strategies for continued work to eliminate the achievement gap.
Trainings and learning institutes will continue through the 20-21 school year, at which time NPS will assess progress and identify new goals for this work within the district.
Work with Students
We have instituted a number of promising programs for students to address this issue, both system-wide (e.g. The Calculus Project, Dover Legacy Scholars), and at individual schools. All of our secondary schools are working to support student learning and student leadership efforts that will address achievement gaps.
Both high schools have shifted their anti-bullying curricula to focus more directly on anti-bias education, and all of our schools are focusing on peer-led student learning experiences that are aligned with our work with adults.
Newton South High School
Newton South has led anti-bias workshops for students in each of the past three school years. In 2015-16, school-developed anti-bias training was piloted in student advisory classes. Last year, this was expanded and anti-bias training conducted by students was delivered in all 10th grade chemistry classes. This anti-bias experience for all 10th grade students has continued this year, and the school is working with the ADL to provide training and develop anti-bias/bullying lessons for all ninth graders as well.
Newton North High School
Last year, the Leadership class at North shifted its focus to school and community outreach in order to address issues of diversity and student engagement. This year, anti-bias work with students and faculty is connected to North’s broader effort around social and civic engagement learning for all students.
Three years ago, our middle schools began a new partnership with the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference Program and the program continues this year. A group of students from each school are trained to lead activities and discussions with their peers on issues of bias. These lessons are then presented to all sixth graders. This year, our ADL Peer Leader Program continues and micro-aggression training piloted at Brown for all 8th grade students, and is expanding to include all middle schools. As a part of the training, the students grappled with real life micro-aggressions in small groups and offered suggestions about how to respond. Middle school leaders are currently exploring a pilot of a new ADL anti-bias curriculum at the middle level in the near future.
Work with Families
In 2016 we held a very successful workshop for elementary families on talking to children about race. The forum was inspired by a conversation with NPS parents who had recently formed a group called Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ). More than 100 people attended the event and there was real interest from families in engaging in this work at the school level.
To engage families in this work beyond the event, the district has continued working with FORJ to expand the conversation and increase opportunities for family learning. The goal of the initiative is to:
- Continue to educate families about issues of race, culture, and identity
- Share information about district initiatives and programs
- Connect interested families at the school level to facilitate events and activities
- Engage additional families to create a broader understanding of challenges related to race, culture, and identity in our schools
Responding to Incidents of Bias or Discrimination
The Newton Public Schools (NPS) are committed to providing equal educational opportunities and a safe learning environment for all students, faculty, and staff. NPS takes very seriously any report or incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
In 2016, updated in 2018, NPS established a very specific and thorough protocol for reporting and investigating such incidents. The protocol, which includes definitions, examples, staff and student responsibilities, reporting processes, investigation process, resolution, expectations of confidentiality and potential disciplinary actions can be found here. The protocol directs the staff response to the incident to ensure that we maintain an environment free of discrimination and supportive of all students and families. Importantly, it is aligned with best practices in this area.
For detailed information on the policy, protocol, and a list of frequently asked questions, please follow this link.