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Statement on Equity in District 97’s Gifted, Talented, and Differentiated Program

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Introduction and purpose:

District 97 Administration and Board have announced there will be a review of and changes to the Gifted, Talented, and Differentiated (GTD) Program. In response, a group of Oak Park residents have drafted the below statement in support of changes that make the GTD program truly equitable and inclusive. The statement will be submitted to the District 97 Board and Administration at the August Board meeting and read during public comments. We invite you to add your name in support of this statement.

Statement on Equity in District 97’s Gifted, Talented, and Differentiated Program

Data on the District 97 GTD program reveal stark underrepresentation of African American and Hispanic children. In the 2016-2017 school year African American children comprised just 5.16% of enrollment in the GTD program; yet comprise 18.5% of total D97 student body enrollment according to the most current data on the Illinois Report Card. Last year, Hispanic children comprised just 6.15% of the GTD program despite comprising 11.5% of the total student body at D97.

Data from one elementary school reveal that while African American children comprised 17% of total student body enrollment, last year just one African American child was selected for participation in the GTD program. Not a single Hispanic child attending this elementary school was selected for the GTD program, despite Hispanic children comprising 9.4% of this school’s total student body enrollment. Data from the other D97 schools are similar.

On July 12, 2016, the District 97 Board of Education adopted a shared vision for the district, which includes this statement: that the District aims to, “Create a positive learning environment for all District 97 students that is equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child.” (Emphasis Added). The District defines “Equitable” as “the practice of beliefs and creation of systems that provide access and opportunities for all students in order to eliminate the predictability of outcomes associated with race, gender and socioeconomic status.” (Emphasis Added).

Further, we understand that the District is currently reviewing the current practices of the GTD program to “study the program before making wide changes, with input from a variety of voices, including teachers, parents, students, and administrators.” (source: “Informational report”, D97 Administrators, July 18, 2017 Board Meeting Agenda Packet).

Given the racial/ethnic disparities in the GTD program data, the stated vision of the District, and the current GTD review process underway, the undersigned District 97 community members state the following:

1. We applaud the District on its decision to review the GTD program and create this forum for information sharing and community input. We hope that the forthcoming GTD program review process continues to be transparent and provides, with ample notice, multiple avenues for parents, students, and teachers to provide their input and feedback in the GTD program review process.

2. We support a GTD program that is:
a. Informed by best practice in education policy focusing on how race/ethnicity and income shapes educational opportunity;
b. Inclusive and equitable throughout its implementation premised on the belief that every District 97 student must be nurtured, empowered, and academically challenged, while accessing learning at their individual levels of readiness;
c. Held publicly accountable;
d. Evaluated using an inclusiveness and equity lens framework;
e. Led by teachers who are provided the time, support, training, and resources needed for successful implementation; and
f. Administered and overseen by staff who have participated in and value equity-based bias reduction training and have shown a proficiency reflective of cultural competency.

The undersigned community members stand ready to work with the District to reform the GTD program into the excellent and equitable program we know it can be.


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