NKSD Equity Audit -- Explained
Prior to the release of the Equity Audit report, we wanted to provide a brief overview of how we got here and provide some answers to FAQs regarding the audit.
In March of 2021, the North Kingstown School Committee voted to approve the creation of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Special Subcommittee. One of the major objectives of this subcommittee was to review and evaluate the district’s efforts to create equity among students. The subcommittee decided to do this by hiring an outside consultant to perform a DEI Community Assessment, colloquially known as an Equity Audit.
After evaluating the two responses to the RFP and revising the scope to reduce the cost, the DEI subcommittee presented an updated version of the proposal from Public Consulting Group (PCG) to the full school committee, where it was approved unanimously at the April 26, 2022 School Committee meeting. The audit commenced over the summer of 2022 and ran through the end of the year. The audit is now complete, and the final report will be available to the public on Tuesday, January 31, 2023.
This audit was conducted to provide the district with a data-driven, evidence-based examination of where the district is in terms of equity and fairness, especially as it relates to marginalized and underserved populations. Studies have shown that many working in the educational field continue to underestimate the degree to which opportunity and achievement gaps exist, and that the causes are often systemic and structural, not based on individual circumstances or genetics. This audit was a chance to study the presence and extent of those gaps in the North Kingstown school district, and determine the causes, so that those issues can be properly addressed.
The North Kingstown Democrats have been supportive of this effort and the elected officials and school department employees who have been integral in moving it forward. The NKDTC Executive Board will be issuing a press release and subsequent Letter to the Editor reiterating our committee’s continued support of our school committee officials and the DEI subcommittee, as well as our trust in the audit process and our support of district staff and officials as they address the results of the audit and implement any necessary changes.
At this time, we don’t know what the report will say, but there is a possibility that there will be some difficult information and statistics to digest. We encourage all NKDTC members to review the final report, reflect on the results and their implications, ask questions, and engage in conversation with your family and friends about it.
How was the audit funded?
The cost of the audit was funded by the Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and did not impact the school district’s operating budget. The cost of the audit was approximately 1.2% of the total ESSER funds the NK district received. The final cost of the audit was $54,980, which is about 20% less than the original proposal of $73,250.
For more information on how school districts have used ESSER funds: Investing in the Future: How Rhode Island Districts are Spending Federal COVID-19 Funding and Why It Matters | Annenberg Institute at Brown
What is the subject matter of this audit? Is it just about race?
The audit is not just about race. The audit looks for inequities in many areas, including race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religious affiliation, etc.
What were the methods of the equity audit?
PCG used a combination of data collection methods including surveys and focus groups. The surveys were available to students, parents, school staff, and alumni, and were provided in English and Spanish. The focus groups were made up of students, families, teachers, principals, administrative staff, and community partners. There were focus groups specifically designated for BIPOC attendees.
PCG also performed a comprehensive review of district policies and procedures; family and community engagement practices; and targeted intervention supports for academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs. They also identified and assessed current strategies that promote equity, and leadership’s readiness to address institutional/systemic discrimination.
Was participation voluntary and was any personal information collected?
Participation in the PCG equity audit was voluntary. No personal identifying information (PII) was collected.
What will happen with the results? How will the school district address them?
The results will be reviewed carefully and thoroughly by the school department, the school committee, and the DEI subcommittee. Based on the results, NKSD will develop a plan for implementation of recommendations.The timeline of implementation will depend on what the recommendations are. It is likely that there will be an array of possible solutions, some being quicker to implement than others. It’s important that this be a thoughtful, careful process, which can take time.
Will additional funds be needed to implement recommendations?
The final report is likely to include some recommendations, but without seeing them, it’s hard to say what cost, if any, will be associated with them. In other districts that have gone through this process, many of the recommendations were cost neutral. Any changes that do require an outlay of funds will have to be approved by the school committee.
Have other districts also done equity audits?
Yes. Several school districts in RI have done equity audits in recent years, including Portsmouth and Barrington. The Westerly School District is also preparing to begin their equity audit, which will be conducted by PCG, the same group that did ours. It’s also a common practice in other institutions including higher education and private corporations. For example, the RI Bar Association announced recently that they are going to do a DEI survey after they implement a number of initiatives to improve equity in their ranks
Where can I find more information?
You can visit the DEI Subcommittee website for more information about the subcommittee and the audit, and to access the equity audit proposals and other supporting documents, including these FAQs put together by the NKSD.
You can also find more information in these blog posts on the NK Democrats website:
What can I do?
Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, about how important this work is. Vocal support is a valuable thing, even if it’s only within your immediate circle.
Attend the upcoming school committee meetings (Schedule of Meetings). Being there to show your support is important and appreciated, and you can learn a lot from listening to the committee discuss business.
Attend subcommittee meetings, particularly the DEI Subcommittee (DEI Meeting Schedule). While there is no public comment during the DEI Subcommittee meeting, you can email the subcommittee with any notes you would like included in the meeting minutes.
Write a letter to the editor expressing your support and appreciation of DEI initiatives, the school committee, and district as a whole. Communicate your support and appreciation directly to our elected officials!