Paradise Valley Unified School District has taken the concept of equity and developed a progressive approach to make sure each student reaches his or her academic potential.
One K-6 school in the district, Indian Bend Elementary, has one of the most diverse student bodies in the district, making it the epitome of how this equity approach is providing opportunities for students that they could not get elsewhere.
Educational equity puts a spin on the idea of equality, as it is a way to measure achievement, fairness and opportunity for all students, despite their diverse backgrounds.
Bennett MacKinney is the Director of Elementary Education for the PV school district.
“We bring up this issue of equity to make sure we are really looking at each student group, whether its boys, girls, Hispanic, African-American, Autism-any kind of subgroup we can think of, and we compare that subgroup to the overall school. Then we say, is there an equity issue here? Meaning, are we having equal outcomes?” MacKinney said.
The concept of equity is not just applicable to test scores, but also applies to the entire school experience. Field trip participation and availability of art classes are examples MacKinney provided as well.
“A good example is ELL students. We certainly need to teach them English, but at the same time, we can’t give up on teaching math, and social studies and science. So that requires additional efforts to make that equal outcome,” MacKinney said.
At Indian Bend, there are three cluster teachers that specifically teach classrooms full of English Language Learners, to help students who speak English as a second language.
One of these teachers is Elda Schrock, who teaches the kindergarten ELL class.
Schrock focuses more than half of her day on language. She uses small group activities that focus on letter recognition, sounds, speaking and listening.
Zachary Fredstrom is the assistant principal at Indian Bend. He provided some insight on how the school approaches meeting the needs of its diverse community.
“We often think of race or ethnicity or religion as the only examples of diversity. Socio-economic and language differences with students and staff can be quite diverse as well.
“Many schools, Indian Bend included, have various special education programs from Communication development, to emotional development, structured autism, twice exceptionally gifted programs, etc.,” Fredstrom said.
Another example of how IBES works on achieving equity is through their social worker, which helps with food boxes, clothing, community resources, support groups and much more.
Debby Behrendt has been at Indian Bend for six years. Her job as a social worker ranges from helping students with classroom skills, to providing support with any at home issues or the development of social skills.
“Every year is a little different. My job is a wide variety of things, if you go to different schools, the job of social work is different as well,” Behrendt said.
“We do things like provide a ‘Friday food bag’ program, so kids whose families’ need the help, every Friday we send home a little bag of food and they consider it to be small meals and snacks.
“So it’s the idea that those kids who normally get a few free meals a day, on the weekends they don’t. So that kind of helps out, it supplements a little bit for when they’re at home,” Behrendt said.
Students are appointed to Behrendt mostly by their teachers. She also works in groups when working on social skills or the issue of bullying in a classroom.
Indian Bend is a Title One school, meaning the school receives extra federal funding to help all students, based off the average incomes of the students’ families. This funding is what pays for additional staff members, such as the social worker.
Indian Bend elementary school is near Thunderbird Rd. and 36th St. in the north Phoenix area.
The school has an open enrollment policy; meaning students from all over the valley can apply to attend their school.
“The way teachers conceptualize learning or student management can be quite diverse as well. It is important for leadership to be sensitive and competent navigating these waters careful to not pigeon hole people or their circumstances. Be open, be empathetic,” Fredstrom said.
Image source: PVschools.net