Community Invited to Provide Comments
The Anchorage school board will be looking at two possible policies addressing anti-racism and equity.
Two public town halls took place in late March on the possible policy changes. During the March 25 town hall, school board Vice President Margo Bellamy said the board plans to embrace all feedback.
“I think we have to be open and accepting and try and listen to where people are coming from,” Bellamy said during the town hall. “... all means all, and all of our kids, right now, are not being as successful as they could be. One of the ways that they are not is around poverty, it’s around special education, and it’s around race.”
During this school year, the number of Black students who failed a core subject in the Anchorage School District is double that of white students. Alaska Native and Pacific Islander students face an even greater disparity, with triple the number of students failing a core subject in comparison to the number of white students. In the 2018-19 school year, more than a quarter of Black students in the district received at least one failing grade, while 12% of white students received an ‘F’. Hispanic students averaged 21%, according to Anchorage School District data.
One of the policies focuses on anti-racism, “the practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures, and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism, racial hatred, bias, and the oppression of marginalized groups,” the policy document said. The document goes on to say the school board and superintendent will work to end the predictive value of race on students’ academic success and access to opportunities.
“The Board rejects all forms of racism,” the draft document said. “The Board acknowledges that racism has historically existed in our educational systems and is often compounded by other forms of discrimination.”
The potential policy would direct the board and superintendent to identify and redesign any racially inequitable policies and procedures limiting opportunities, as well as “work to champion” a district culture that “values and respects” diversity.
“Instruction should encourage critical thinking on the history of racism in Alaska, America, and around the world and the current structural, explicit, and unconscious biases toward people of different races,” the policy document said.
The other potential policy the school board will address focuses on instructional equity. The policy document said the school board believes instructional equity involved “increasing justice and fairness within the procedures, processes, and allocation of resources within the District and its systems.”
The policy would direct the superintendent to submit an annual equity report to the school board. “This may be a compilation of data presented at Board meetings as part of the Board’s goals and guardrails monitoring, measuring equity of both inputs and outcomes,” the document for the potential policy said.
The district and board are still accepting public comments, which can be sent through the district’s website at www.asdk12.org/Page/18089. The board’s goal is to have public discussions, receive feedback and respond to questions prior to the first and second readings in April.