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Missouri’s state equity plan calls for all students to have equitable access to excellent educators. However, after surveying districts, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MO DESE) found that in some rural areas, and areas with high concentrations of minority and lower income earning families, students do not have that access. To support these schools, MO DESE is partnering with REL Central to develop a survey and interview protocol to help districts capture, understand, and share successful equity improvement strategies and plans developed with the support of the Missouri Education Equity Labs.

The Missouri Equity Labs provide district representatives who attend an opportunity to learn about how equity functions in ensuring students access to educators; review the state’s equity plan; review data points indicative of inequitable access to excellent educators such as clustering of first-year or inexperienced teachers, excessive implementation of disciplinary measures, and low teacher attendance rates; and develop potential strategies that may inform their districts’ equity efforts. Those attending are encouraged to incorporate what they learn into an examination of applicable district data as well as into equity strategies and plans that their district implements.

Sample District Equity Data figure
Sample District Equity Data

“What I tell district leaders is that equity doesn’t mean equality,” said Paul Katnik, deputy commissioner of education at MO DESE. “Unless every student in every one of your classrooms is experiencing high quality content, excellent instruction and deep engagement every day, which no school can claim, then there is equity work to be done.”

With representatives from more than half of the districts having participated in an Equity Lab, MO DESE wants to find the successful strategies and practices stemming from the Labs that districts have implemented. To collect this information, REL Central and MO DESE staff are developing a survey for district leaders that will help determine which strategies are successful, with the goal of creating a repository of best practices for education leaders. Possible questions include the following:

  • What types of data did you look at to determine equity concerns in your district?
  • How many schools did you look at when examining equity data?
  • How many school years of data did you examine?
  • What patterns did you see in the data you examined?
  • Who was the information shared with?
  • What planned actions did the examination of equity data lead to?
  • What permanent change is anticipated from this plan?

Equity Gaps: Discipline Incident Rates figure
Equity Gaps: Discipline Incident Rates

REL Central and MO DESE will finalize the questions and administer the survey to districts that have taken part in the Missouri Equity Labs so far. Once the survey is conducted, MO DESE staff will use it to select districts that have implemented successful equity strategies and conduct interviews concerning each district’s strategies and anticipated outcomes. REL Central will support MO DESE to develop questions for those interviews to ensure the information gathered is useful to districts working to improve equitable access to excellent educators.

“Let’s say that a district has a high percentage of students, across demographics, attending Advanced Placement classes in a school in a lower-income area,” said Katnik. “That is something that every district wants. And they are likely to say, we can do that.”