News

Pleasanton Unified tackling implicit bias and problematic disciplinary practices

'It helps to have people of different perspectives,' Laursen says

Pleasanton Unified School District leadership will spend a three-year period working with an outside consultant to identify and address equity gaps among students, including any problematic policies and practices that contribute to systemic racism, microaggressions and student marginalization.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $248,000 contract with Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting at its March 25 meeting, marking the first step toward developing and implementing a district-wide, multi-year equity gap plan.

"I'm supportive of the work, largely because it's necessary, but also we have tried to do this on our own for a number of years," Board President Joan Laursen said before voting. "I've had the privilege to participate in some of that work and it is difficult to do this on your own, to recognize the implicit bias."

Laursen added, "It helps to have people of different perspectives, who can look at a situation and tell you that your experience is not everyone's experience, and that's very helpful."

The three-year process will involve workshops to help PUSD evolve and align its definition of equity, close and eliminate identified equity gaps, and change policies accordingly to ensure high outcomes for all students.

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According to a district report, Black students make up just 1.38% the district's overall racial composition but have the most disabilities at 16.5%, and most suspension incidents by ethnicity at 10.17 %. Collectively, Black students also make up 27.27% of suspension incidents for students with disabilities. The graduation rate is the district's lowest at 93.3%.

Hispanic students make up nearly 10% of the district's overall demographics, with slightly fewer disabled students by percentage (at 16.29%), but only slightly more than 3% of suspension incidences by ethnicity, and 5.46% of suspension incidences for disabled students. Graduation rates were reported just slightly higher at about 93.4%.

White students account for 35.38% of the district's ethnic makeup and 11.11% of disabled students, but only 2.7% of all suspensions by ethnicity and 6.45% suspensions for disabled students, with a graduation rate 96.4%.

Asians comprise 45.58% of PUSD racial demographics but have the fewest students with disabilities (4.25%), and less than 1% of all suspensions by ethnicity. They also had the fewest suspensions for disabled students, at 3.42%. The graduation rate was 99.2%.

Trustee Mary Jo Carreon said she was "alarmed" at the suspension rates of Black students, and asked consultant Nicole Anderson for "some examples of what you could do, what kind of strategies you would use to change this."

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Anderson replied that "it's important to recognize the historical context of public education," which wasn't originally intended to educate women or girls, poor people or minorities.

"When you look at that foundation as it evolved over the years, the reality is that we slowly start to make those changes as we start to educate more and more kids," Anderson said. "When you fast forward to where we are in 2021, some of our policies and practices have a lot of mirroring to the past."

Anderson continued, "When we look at things like ... addressing the mindsets, the mental models and where implicit bias sits, a lot of times, you look at the data and go, 'well wait, we only have 1.4% of our kids,' but yet they have this larger disproportionate discipline rate."

"What it tells you is that there's some practices happening that have to be looked at around multiple things," Anderson added.

Bias with cultural differences between staff and students also needs to be explored, including "how we determine what behavior is appropriate and what's not."

"You see the same disproportionality (of discipline rates) in most districts, and it's not because African American kids aren't great students, are not brilliant, are not able to behave in school -- it's that we have a structure in place that's built around these cultural disconnects," Anderson said.

The multi-year process will begin with district and site leadership but Trustee Kelly Mokashi said, "I would love to see some teacher representatives take part of that because ... change has to come from the ground up."

Trustee Steve Maher said, "While I support all of this, certainly ... besides doing this step, is there any thought about putting the same amount of money into, say, tutoring clubs, homework clubs, anything like that?"

Maher then asked if "the students we have now, do they have to wait three years before they start seeing a change?"

Assistant superintendent Janelle Woodward said those proposals can be "with the money we have now," by using LCAP funding set aside by the district every year.

The district also has "some grants coming our way that are designed for that specific purpose, and so yes, there's a real time need to do something that helps our struggling students," Woodward said.

"I can understand that there might be some concerns and in particular about the dollars," Laursen said. "I know in our Pleasanton community, not all of our residents are prepared for us to do this work, and part of the reason is that we need to work with the leadership, including ourselves, to really deeply understand the work and be able to explain the why and the how of what we're doing to our community members."

Permanent systemic change is needed, Laursen said, "otherwise it'll fall away as people change in leadership roles, if we don't build that capacity and build that learning, and build that understanding, baked in our bones, in our district."

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Pleasanton Unified tackling implicit bias and problematic disciplinary practices

'It helps to have people of different perspectives,' Laursen says

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Apr 5, 2021, 4:42 pm

Pleasanton Unified School District leadership will spend a three-year period working with an outside consultant to identify and address equity gaps among students, including any problematic policies and practices that contribute to systemic racism, microaggressions and student marginalization.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $248,000 contract with Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting at its March 25 meeting, marking the first step toward developing and implementing a district-wide, multi-year equity gap plan.

"I'm supportive of the work, largely because it's necessary, but also we have tried to do this on our own for a number of years," Board President Joan Laursen said before voting. "I've had the privilege to participate in some of that work and it is difficult to do this on your own, to recognize the implicit bias."

Laursen added, "It helps to have people of different perspectives, who can look at a situation and tell you that your experience is not everyone's experience, and that's very helpful."

The three-year process will involve workshops to help PUSD evolve and align its definition of equity, close and eliminate identified equity gaps, and change policies accordingly to ensure high outcomes for all students.

According to a district report, Black students make up just 1.38% the district's overall racial composition but have the most disabilities at 16.5%, and most suspension incidents by ethnicity at 10.17 %. Collectively, Black students also make up 27.27% of suspension incidents for students with disabilities. The graduation rate is the district's lowest at 93.3%.

Hispanic students make up nearly 10% of the district's overall demographics, with slightly fewer disabled students by percentage (at 16.29%), but only slightly more than 3% of suspension incidences by ethnicity, and 5.46% of suspension incidences for disabled students. Graduation rates were reported just slightly higher at about 93.4%.

White students account for 35.38% of the district's ethnic makeup and 11.11% of disabled students, but only 2.7% of all suspensions by ethnicity and 6.45% suspensions for disabled students, with a graduation rate 96.4%.

Asians comprise 45.58% of PUSD racial demographics but have the fewest students with disabilities (4.25%), and less than 1% of all suspensions by ethnicity. They also had the fewest suspensions for disabled students, at 3.42%. The graduation rate was 99.2%.

Trustee Mary Jo Carreon said she was "alarmed" at the suspension rates of Black students, and asked consultant Nicole Anderson for "some examples of what you could do, what kind of strategies you would use to change this."

Anderson replied that "it's important to recognize the historical context of public education," which wasn't originally intended to educate women or girls, poor people or minorities.

"When you look at that foundation as it evolved over the years, the reality is that we slowly start to make those changes as we start to educate more and more kids," Anderson said. "When you fast forward to where we are in 2021, some of our policies and practices have a lot of mirroring to the past."

Anderson continued, "When we look at things like ... addressing the mindsets, the mental models and where implicit bias sits, a lot of times, you look at the data and go, 'well wait, we only have 1.4% of our kids,' but yet they have this larger disproportionate discipline rate."

"What it tells you is that there's some practices happening that have to be looked at around multiple things," Anderson added.

Bias with cultural differences between staff and students also needs to be explored, including "how we determine what behavior is appropriate and what's not."

"You see the same disproportionality (of discipline rates) in most districts, and it's not because African American kids aren't great students, are not brilliant, are not able to behave in school -- it's that we have a structure in place that's built around these cultural disconnects," Anderson said.

The multi-year process will begin with district and site leadership but Trustee Kelly Mokashi said, "I would love to see some teacher representatives take part of that because ... change has to come from the ground up."

Trustee Steve Maher said, "While I support all of this, certainly ... besides doing this step, is there any thought about putting the same amount of money into, say, tutoring clubs, homework clubs, anything like that?"

Maher then asked if "the students we have now, do they have to wait three years before they start seeing a change?"

Assistant superintendent Janelle Woodward said those proposals can be "with the money we have now," by using LCAP funding set aside by the district every year.

The district also has "some grants coming our way that are designed for that specific purpose, and so yes, there's a real time need to do something that helps our struggling students," Woodward said.

"I can understand that there might be some concerns and in particular about the dollars," Laursen said. "I know in our Pleasanton community, not all of our residents are prepared for us to do this work, and part of the reason is that we need to work with the leadership, including ourselves, to really deeply understand the work and be able to explain the why and the how of what we're doing to our community members."

Permanent systemic change is needed, Laursen said, "otherwise it'll fall away as people change in leadership roles, if we don't build that capacity and build that learning, and build that understanding, baked in our bones, in our district."

Comments

Mr. Julius
Registered user
Downtown
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:16 am
Mr. Julius, Downtown
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:16 am

So over 6% of white students (compared to less than 1% of Asian students) are suspended because of implicit bias? And implicit bias leads teachers to not suspend Asian students? See, the logic doesn't follow.

Maybe a few percentage points can be changed by different approaches, but we see the same behavioral problems in urban schools with a large percentage of minority teachers.


Zoe
Registered user
Foothill High School
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:26 am
Zoe, Foothill High School
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:26 am

As is often the case, Steve Maher is the voice of reason. I seriously doubt Pleasanton's teachers are biased or that we have disciplinary problems. Instead of throwing away tax dollars for a consultant, do as Maher suggests -- figure out why these students are lagging and tackle that problem. They need help to improve their opportunities to succeed. Perhaps the school district can work with the families to see what struggles they face. Offer tutoring that others in our district are able to afford for their kids. Make sure these kids end up with the best teachers in our district. Mr. Maher is correct -- the money would be far better spent NOW to help students succeed. Quit wasting our tax dollars on more BS studies and consultants.


Amador Parent
Registered user
Mohr Park
on Apr 6, 2021 at 11:35 am
Amador Parent, Mohr Park
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 11:35 am

So I don’t understand why this would take 3 years to complete? I reviewed the presentations under the board meeting agenda item #12.3 here: Web Link

Hardly anything is planned for year 1. This taking 3 years to implement gives me pause for concern. By the time you are ready to implement plan proposals in year 3, many things could have changed obsoleting the plan.

Also am I to assume this starts w/the 2021/2022 school year?

I am going to email the school board & others about this as I actually feel that the administration needs to be planning on addressing the impact of the remote learning time on our students. Thing such as:

1. Mental health issues w/a plan to address these short-term & long-term effects
2. Learning Loss Gaps & how to address this as students move on to the next grade level. We need to understand what may have been missed w/the curriculum conducted under remote learning & how that differs from what would have been taught if students were on-site. What issues will students have moving to the next level in a class? Will students struggle because they have gaps in what would normally have been taught if not for Covid? I worry about how this will effect how students do when teachers assume some things were taught during remote when they weren’t. This will effect students grades, have the students stress & anxiety rise, & result in lower grades than would have been if Covid had never happened.
3. Looking at how a fall school year return to on-site learning will be effected that will impact students, teachers & admin. Things won’t be exactly like it was pre-Covid & we need to understand what is going to be effected & how these need to be addressed. The analysis should be done w/academics, but also on social, extracurricular activities like dances & rallies, athletic programs, band, field trips that typically happen, etc.


A.F.Soby
Registered user
Mission Park
on Apr 6, 2021 at 6:11 pm
A.F.Soby, Mission Park
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2021 at 6:11 pm

You seem to offer only one possibility to explain the gaps that are being measured, that of implicit bias that must be institutionalized in the PUSD system. The statistics presented cannot be used to justify your general statement of implicit bias or racism. I think it would be more useful to have actual numbers and statistics on the reasons for the discipline actions and suspensions. I would think you are compiling this information already and someone is actually reviewing it for causation, which may or may not be implicit bias. You might even find actions you can take to reduce the "gaps" that can be implemented now versus at least three years from now (the 3 years is just to get the report, so I would guess you are 4 to 5 years away from implementing anything based on the study and report.). In the meantime, will you just be telling concerned parents you are waiting for the results of the study and the consultant report?


Dennis Goode
Registered user
Valley Trails
on Apr 19, 2021 at 7:47 am
Dennis Goode, Valley Trails
Registered user
on Apr 19, 2021 at 7:47 am

I do not believe, in any way, the PUSD is racist or practicing systemic racism. If they are, everything we do in our society is systemically racist. Results indicate Asian students are doping best. Explain that before you claim White racism, dating from 1627, is the reason Black and Hispanic students have a lower score in graduations and discipline.
The past is full of prejudice, ignorance and wrongdoing, and for nearly 500 years there has been an ongoing effort to make it equal for everyone.
The article doesn't say it, but the process to "de-bias" our PUSD staff is called "transforming perception".
Really? This sounds like what the Chinese are doing with the Uyghurs.
As I read about "Critical Race Theory", I see the same words and topics that are in "Implicit Bias" and must conclude that one is part of the other.
Is being "Woke" what we want?
Keep in mind that Implicit Bias is a universal phenomenon not limited to race, gender or country and our present school board can be voted out at next election.


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