Equity is a foundation for our work at HWDSB because it is so integral to our operations. We want all voices to be at the decision-making table. We want all students and staff to feel welcome at HWDSB. We want to tackle this complex work, with the understanding that it will entail a shift in thinking and culture across the organization.
Related reports: Equity of Opportunity, Access and Outcomes;
Our work in this area is essential and extremely complex. Because equity of outcomes has many aspects – including equity related to access, opportunity, socio-economics and more – we face the challenge of how to select the most relevant lens for each decision we make.
We are embracing a more strategic view of equity of opportunity, access and outcomes. We must make challenging fiscal decisions, we must monitor and review our responsive system, and we must always keep in mind that this work will never be completed.
In 2011-12, HWDSB solidified a shift in thinking from “an equitable allocation of resources” to a broader concept of equity of opportunity, access and outcomes. This is based upon the recognition that an equitable allocation of resources is a component of “how” we achieve equity of opportunity, access and outcomes. Even in this broad form, defining and achieving equity of opportunity, access and outcomes continues to be an extremely complex and challenging task.
Tackling these complex concepts is essential as we continue our direction of being an intelligent and responsive system, focused on students learning and achieving. Equity of opportunity and equity of access support achieving equity of outcomes. Equity of outcomes are defined through our system-wide expectations of:
Some of supporting initiatives related to equitable resource allocation included:
Work in 2011-12 resulted in the creation of a system-wide Equity Fund, as well as involvement of Superintendents of Student Achievement in determining funds to be allocated to high needs schools for student experiences.
We want each student engaged in personalized learning. This was important for the development of our Mental Health and Early Years strategies, the accommodation review process and subsequent Program Strategy, the creation of a process to review program fees and school fees and the creation of a new program to respond to specific student needs.
In 2011-12, we continued to review resource allocation, including a differentiated approach to staffing of elementary central support personnel and elementary teachers.
Some of our next steps regarding equitable resource allocation include:
Executive Council is considering an equity framework based upon the research of Doug Willms which considers interventions that can raise student performance and reduce inequalities. This model considers five types of interventions:
With this model, we will review past work and consider future supports. We have engaged in the discussion around what schools need. This conversation must move to the more difficult discussion around the difference between “what schools need” and “what schools believe that they need.” We need to press further in making decisions that will support allocating resources in the most equitable way. Staffing processes and allocations will be a particular focus in 2012-13. The Action Plan for 2012/13 focuses on the following areas:
We are all responsible for recognizing the particular needs of each student, including the most complex challenges faced by students, and to find ways of meeting those needs.
An important measure of a caring and safe school is its ability to identify students’ needs and determine their influence on student behaviour. The increased use of assistive technology, which is good for all and essential for some, has helped students demonstrate their learning in new and engaging ways.
For our students learning English, we have learned how to incorporate technology within a classroom to enhance a student’s organization and comfort level with computer use for literacy. Behavioural and academic supports such as the Centre for Success, Character Networks supports and in-school and system Alternative Education, provide students with academic and social-emotional supports so they can participate more fully in their education.
Some of our supporting initiatives regarding diverse learners include:
Our schools are more wired than ever, in our effort to respond to the needs of students now and in future careers. Technology supports rich learning tasks, equips students for a knowledge-based society, includes students with learning difficulties in the regular classroom, and provides social learning networks such as the HWDSB Commons which hosts 2,500 blogs for staff and student interaction and learning.
First Nations, Metis, Inuit Education
The First Nation, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) Education Policy focuses on improved outcomes for FNMI students. In 2011-12, we also saw the need for a dedicated social worker for aboriginal students and the need for a support program at Sir Winston Churchill. We also saw interest in expansion of the native languages program at two elementary schools.
Newcomers and ELLs
Newcomer students with limited schooling continue to receive support through the expanded ALPHA (Accelerated Literacy Programs for Hamilton) Program at Sir John A. Macdonald secondary. We also finalized resources to support equity and inclusion, such as: Using an Equity Lens: A Guide to Creating Equitable and Inclusive Learning Environments Assessing Learning Materials for Bias Inclusive Language Guideline. E-BEST began research on ELL student achievement to identify practices that helped elementary student achievement.
Strategies for the Arts & 21st-century Learning
Both of these strategies address equity of access. We want all HWDSB students to have equitable access to a balanced and comprehensive arts education that develops their critical and creative thinking, collaboration and communication skills. Likewise, we want all HWDSB students to have equitable access to 21st-century learning experiences that are engaging, real- world and authentic, and that develop their critical and creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills.
We need system coherence around how a positive school climate contributes to student engagement, which is essential for student achievement. We are doing extensive work on positive school climate. Supporting the system in understanding how the pieces connect and building capacity is a critical next step. The Safe and Inclusive Schools Report will detail our five year plan that will bring these components together in an aligned and coherent way. Additional work related to Positive Space and Anti-Racism was also undertaken.
Our next steps regarding diverse learners include:
Our safe, equitable and inclusive school (SE&IS) strategy encourages school practices that promote a safe and caring school culture—a culture that models and reinforces socially responsible and respectful behaviours, so that learning and teaching can take place in a safe and caring environment. A safe, caring and equitable school is a place where all partners—students, staff, parents, and community members—treat others fairly, with respect and kindness, and act in a socially responsible way towards all members of the school community, including students with special education needs.
Here are some things we have learned recently:
Our supports for safe, inclusive and respectful learning environments include:
We are pursuing next steps that include: