10 MMG Middle School ClassroomThe Cumberland County School District is being recognized for its commitment to equity in education, earning two awards in the 27th annual Magna Awards program sponsored by the National School Board Association’s publication American School Board Journal. The Magna Awards honor districts that advance equity and break down barriers for underserved students.

Across the nation, there were 15 total awards given. CCS was the only district to earn two awards for “Mentored Next Steps in Equity” and “Equity-Focused Classroom Management.”

An independent panel of school board members, administrators and other educators met in December and selected the winners. This is the fourth year that the awards recognized school districts and their leaders for efforts to bring educational equity to their students.

Educational equity depends on two main factors — fairness and inclusion. Fairness implies that factors specific to one's personal conditions should not interfere with academic success. Inclusion refers to a comprehensive standard that applies to everyone in the education system.

“The 2021 Magna Award-winning districts represent the enormous efforts of school leaders during the pandemic to continue removing barriers to achievement for their underserved and vulnerable students,” said NSBA Executive Director and CEO Anna Maria Chávez.

Cumberland County schools serve a diverse pupil population: “Almost 72% of our population are students of color (45% African American, 14% Hispanic, 9% multiracial, 2.5% Asian American/Pacific Islander, 1.5% Native American),” said Jovan Denaut, CCS Integrated Academic & Behavior Facilitator. In CCS, 78% of the student body receives free and reduced-price lunches.

The District Equity Team strives to develop comprehensive programs that encourage diversity and excellence in its administrators, teachers and staff and works to ensure that all students are provided equitable opportunities and outcomes. “I've been doing equity work in the district for seven years,” Denaut said. “The Core Values of the CCS Strategic Plan focus on equity. Students have equitable access to engaging learning that prepares them to be collaborative, competitive and successful."

“We proudly serve diverse student populations at our 89 schools,” said Alicia Chisolm, chair of the Cumberland County Board of Education. “Despite the challenges associated with the global pandemic, we are moving forward with the Cumberland Commitment: Strategic Plan 2024, and are making progress toward accomplishing our goals, which include defining, understanding and promoting educational equity. “

The growing importance of equity is based on the premise that an individual's level of education directly correlates to his future quality of life.

“Mentored Next Steps in Equity” was launched after a professional development workshop left participants asking what they could do to promote equity in their respective areas. The other initiative “Equity-Focused Classroom Management,” was an intensive classroom management course implemented to embrace diversity.

Equity in education usually means fairness. It requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success. That requires understanding the challenges and barriers faced by individual students or by populations of students and providing additional support to help them overcome those barriers. While this may not ensure equal outcomes, school systems should strive to ensure that every child has equal opportunity for success.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that race/ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status are likely to emerge as predictors of adult health status. Socioeconomic status interacts with and confounds analyses of race/ethnicity and gender. The Academy recommends that pediatricians, in collaboration with social scientists, should develop and apply research methodologies that result in careful definitions of the effects of these variables on child health.

In the context of social systems such as education the terms equity and equality have similar but slightly different meanings. Equality refers to scenarios in which all segments of society have the same levels of opportunity and support. Equity extends the concept of equality to include providing varying levels of support based on individual need or ability. In education, equality means providing every student with the same experience. Equity, however, means overcoming discrimination against specific groups of people, especially defined by race and gender.

In modern times, usage of the term equity has increased because of concerns about social justice and a desire for fairness for historically oppressed groups. Minority groups often have equal rights but are treated unfairly due to unequal access to resources or opposition from the majority who deny others equal representation while still acting within the law.

Pictured above: The Cumberland County School District is being recognized by the American School Board Journal for its efforts to advance equity and break down barriers for underserved students. (Photo courtsey Cumberland County Schools ). 

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