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Colorado Springs School District 11 facing criticism over equity audit

Posted at 8:29 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 23:22:26-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs School District 11 is facing criticism over an equity audit.

The District contracted the American Institutes for Research last fall to develop a comprehensive report of the district’s programs, policies, practices, and outcomes. The goal of the audit was to find inequities in district data and develop strategies to target inequality and improve outcomes.

"It is numbers of things, that taken together, really do call into question the validity of this report," said Joseph Boyle.

He is among community members questioning the intention of the equity audit, and the findings.

"For example, the assumptions that are apparently baked into the conclusions that are drawn. Much of the data seems to be arrived at prior to the collection of the data. If people are wrong about those then I think it would be good for the administration to tell us why that is not the case. There are also questions about the wording of the questions to the teachers, how they've been interpreted, and the conclusions that are drawn from them. They seem to not be aligned with one another," said Boyle.

He is also concerned with how the word equity is being used by the district.

"It is explicitly termed an ideology, and District 11 parents don't want ideology being taught in public schools," said Boyle.

As well as the number of funds used to conduct the audit.

"It would be good to know how much funds are being put in this. The district is not forthcoming on that as far as I know," said Boyle.

The district has been holding a series of public meetings to discuss the findings, but Boyle says there is no transparency or accountability with the "Equity Cafes."

"The current Equity Cafe system doesn't look like accountability or transparency. It is a system where questions are solicited to be written down on sticky notes and pieces of paper, and it is possible for the people at the cafe to address those pieces of paper
and answer citizen questions in real-time. It is being done all over town in candidate forums and other forums," said Boyle. "They are scripted, choreographed, and the one at Coronado High School included a flat-out refusal to answer questions. That is concerning," said Boyle.

Director of Equity and Inclusion Alexis Knox-Miller says the meetings aren't for questions and answers, but rather to present the data and gain feedback.

"We went with the community cafe model because that is the model we have been using when Dr. Thompson came in, and it provides equity a voice. I want to ensure our parents know what the data is, I want you to be able to get on our website and read the report, strategies, and what we are doing," said Knox-Miller.

She says data showed some schools are performing better than others in the district, and there is predictability around those performances.

"So if you go to a school that has a high concentration of kids of color, students with IEPs, or English-language learners, those schools tend to be doing less well than the schools that don't have a high concentration. That is the gap between schools, then we have the gaps within schools, and that speaks to instructional inequities," said Knox-Miller.

The research focused on organization and instructional changes that needed to be made.

"When we are talking about mindsets, we are talking about instructional technique. We want teachers that are culturally responsive, and when I talk about the culture I'm not talking about race or ethnicity. Culture is big and broad," said Knox-Miller. "Organizational we have to look at how we created these inequities. Have we allocated our funds that feel equitable," said Knox-Miller.

She says the funds and time spent on the report could yield long-lasting benefits.

"I read a slide that says our GDP will rise about one billion dollars if we commit to focusing on equity," said Knox-Miller.

The district plans to host an equity cafe on November 1st where the community can ask questions. The session is limited to 50 and RSVP is required.