Every child in every community has the right to a high-quality education and a fair shot at success. However, systemic and institutional racism disproportionately affect the experiences that many students of color have in school. Education resource equity is when schools, systems, and communities work together to mobilize the right combination of resources that create high-quality learning experiences for all students, so that race and family income are no longer predictive of a student’s life trajectory. Working together as The Alliance for Resource Equity, ERS and The Education Trust partner directly with state and local systems and communities to support education resource equity through a framework for shared understanding and a plan for collaborative action.
Dallas Independent School District is leading the way to show what education resource equity work looks like by recognizing and addressing persistent racial inequities — and ERS, in partnership with The Education Trust, is supporting and informing their work.
In 2017, the Dallas ISD board took a big step. It unanimously passed a Racial Equity Resolution and Policy and established the Racial Equity Office (REO). The REO functions to eliminate inequitable practices within the district that negatively impact learning for all groups of students, with an emphasis on Black students and English language learners. As part of this work, Dallas ISD convened a Resource Equity Working Group that includes district leaders and community advocates, supported by The Education Trust and ERS.
Together, we’ve been studying Dallas ISD’s educational landscape through an equity lens and partnering with the district on how to provide students with the right combination of supports based on their needs. Our report, Achieving Excellence and Equity Through Resource Use: ERS Summary Report for Dallas ISD, digs into how the district allocates resources, identifies where there are inequities, and offers some big ideas to help all students reach high standards and thrive. As part of this work, Dallas ISD convened a Resource Equity Working Group that includes district leaders and community advocates, supported by The Education Trust and ERS. Equity Working Group that includes district leaders and community advocates, supported by The Education Trust and ERS.
Dallas ISD is showing signs of early progress on its road to education equity for all students. As seen below, the district has implemented solid equity initiatives that include strong early learning partnerships, the largest bilingual program in the nation, and 27 early college programs. Dallas ISD’s commitment to equity has resulted in overall performance growth for Black students and English language learners. Between 2014-2019, Black students in Dallas ISD made a 7 percentage point increase in reading on the state’s STAAR exam, compared to the 4 percentage point increase among Black students statewide. English learners in Dallas have also outpaced their peers statewide (11 percentage point increase, compared to 7 statewide) during this same time period.
While this commitment and growth are encouraging, there is further to go and more work to be done to get to equitable and excellent student outcomes across the district.
As part of our Alliance for Resource Equity work, we’ve identified 10 research-backed areas that have the greatest impact on students’ experiences in school. When combined, these 10 dimensions create a strong foundation for meeting students’ distinct needs and unlocking better, more equitable school experiences.
To reach high standards and thrive, all students need equal access to resources — and certain students, like higher-needs students or students from historically underserved backgrounds, may need more of some of these resources. A visual overview of the specific dimensions studied in Dallas ISD is provided below. These findings illustrate how different groups of students in the district experience key aspects of school — the amount and combination of resources are not currently distributed in ways that support strong outcomes for all groups of students.
In this analysis, specific metrics were used as proxies for indicating the level of access students have to a resource — for example, class size for core classes (such as math and ELA) was used as a proxy for gauging students’ access to instructional time and attention. Red bars represent where certain groups of students get less access to an important resource; yellow bars indicate that all students have similar access or that students’ access is similar to the district’s average level; and green bars represent more access to the resource. For example, students who are economically disadvantaged and Black have less access to empowering, rigorous content — only 44 percent of proficient students from this group get enrolled in advanced ELA in 6th grade. But among students of any race/ethnicity who aren’t economically disadvantaged, enrollment rises to 80 percent.
Upon seeing this snapshot, School Board President Justin Henry (District 9) said, “These are our numbers. We are the system. We have to be self-aware and recognize that even with the great programs we have, they’ve given us these numbers. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. We need to do something different — not incrementally different, but systemically different.”
To identify ways to continue to improve excellence and equity for students, ERS and Dallas ISD’s Racial Equity Working Group grounded our work together in the knowledge that we must intentionally design systems and schools for equity, and that teachers and principals are the top two most important in-school factors influencing student achievement. Based on these common understandings we identified three foundations for success and seven big ideas.
Invest in equity mindset.
Meaningfully engage stakeholders.
Measure, monitor, and report on progress.
Expand support for teachers at higher-need schools.
Support the hiring of strong teachers at higher-need schools.
Accelerate teacher growth through meaningful collaboration.
Invest in strong leaders at higher-need schools.
Ensure equitable access to application/lottery programs and advanced course pathways.
Provide coordinated school budget, staffing, and scheduling options that optimize resource-use for student learning.
Determine funding levels that differentiate for student need and incoming performance.
For each big idea, we identified ways to sustain existing work, expand on current progress, and explore new work. For examples of strategies to support each big idea, visit the full report.
Dallas ISD is committed to taking deliberate actions that address racial inequities across the district: Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said, “We have a reserve that is healthy and will be investing in these actions however we need to.” In June, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees followed up by holding an action planning workshop with district administrators to discuss ways for the district to continue moving forward on these big ideas in alignment with their recent Resolution on the Commitment of Dallas ISD to Black Students and Black Lives.
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