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Norwalk schools open diversity and equity conversation to public

Hour - 10/14/2021

Oct. 13—NORWALK — The city's school district will open its continuing conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion to the whole community on Thursday.

Norwalk Public Schools will host "A Community Conversation on Equity Literacy" at Marvin Elementary School from 6 to 8 p.m. The conversation will be one of four events focused on defining equity in schools that will take place over the next six months.

The district asks that participants register for the event using its online form. A virtual option will also be available on the school website.

Dr. Edward Fergus, an associate professor of urban education and policy at Temple University, will lead the workshop that aims to normalize what is diversity and inclusion, and what benefits does it bring to individuals, society and the school environment.

Fergus and the district will work to build equity literacy, using a common vocabulary and teaching strategies that parents can bring back to their neighborhoods and their friend groups to develop cross cultural skills. The workshop also aims to help parents be supportive of what their kids are learning.

The community conversation will build off discussions already occurring among school leaders to identify disparities between groups of students. The goal is to include parents in those same discussions and not have the conversations isolated to the school administrators.

One disparity of particular interest for the district is how suspensions and expulsions are handed out and the levels of recidivism in the individual schools, according to Superintendent Alexandra Estrella. Data collected last year showed Black students, as well as male students, in the Norwalk Public Schools were more likely to be suspended from school.

"We want to identify the cause and build support plans. That will yield a reduction, particularly among Black and brown students, who are more frequently identified for suspension and expulsion. Why is that happening? I don't believe it's a product of the child," Estrella said.

School leaders are also looking at disparity gaps in diverse programming such as gifted and talented programs, International Baccalaureate, and other specialized programs and pathways.

Estrella added, "As well as paying close attention to performance, how are different subgroups doing compared to other groups and what's leading to those outcomes day in and day out."

The next conversation will take place in January and be held in Spanish with English interpretation available. Spanish is the second dominant language in the district and the next event will allow Spanish speakers to immerse in a school workshop in a way that isn't always available to them, according to Estrella.

"We want them to have the experience where they're the most predominant," Estrella said.

The last two events will take place in March and May. Exact dates for all future events are yet to be finalized.


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