Education

The Jefferson County Board of Education has approved a racial educational equity plan.

The policy aims to deal with a number of issues including achievement gaps between white students and students of color, as well as inequities in the way students are disciplined. The plan also aims to diversify JCPS staff in order to better reflect the student population.

John Marshall is chief equity officer of JCPS.

“I think we try to dodge some of the systemic issues we have,” Marshall said when he presented the plan to the board in late April. “So the reason it takes so long because there’s discomfort when you start talking about racism or you start talking about systemic inequities that we all have to own.” 

The plan comes following a recommendation by Kentucky’s Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis that the state takeover management of JCPSThe district has until May 30 to request a hearing on the matter.

Dave Christopher, executive director of the music education program at the Academy of Music Production Education and Development, or AMPED, spoke in favor of the racial educational equity plan at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

“If you look at the clear inequities in terms of how many of our students are dropping out, how many students of ours have been suspended and put on [In-School Adjustment Program] and all these kind of things,” said Christopher, “and then when you look at the achievement, the test scores, it just shows the disparity in the way these students are being treated.”

According to the Trial Urban District Assessment, white students in JCPS remained at the same level or improved reading and math scores in grades four and eight from 2015-2017, while black students declined over the same period. Latino students improved in math during the same time but declined in reading scores.

The racial educational equity plan also aims to do a better job identifying gifted black and brown students.

Michelle Dillard, assistant superintendent of JCPS, said the district can benefit from a holistic approach when identifying and testing some talented and gifted students of color.

“We don’t want to say that if an African-American or Latino student are gifted and talented in an area that we want to allow one test to keep them from being in gifted and talented and advanced programs,” said Dillard.

Board Chair Diane Porter said it took some time to get to this point but the board feels good about going forward.

“Before we got to this point and talking to people in the community, they are amazed that it has taken us a while to get here, but I think that we are proud of the fact that this board unanimously approved this policy,” said Porter. 

Students of color account for just over 50 percent of the district;  JCPS serves more than 100,000 students.

Superintendent Marty Pollio or another designated person will meet with the Racial Equity Advisory Council bimonthly. The council is made up of 11 members, which include a Jefferson County Teachers Association representative, two community representatives appointed by the superintendent and two student representatives.

Read the JCPS racial educational equity plan here: 

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.