ITHACA, N.Y. – Enter the Ithaca City School District’s Equity Report Card web portal and you’ll find yourself in a cloud of metrics: graduation rates, band participation rates, absenteeism and exam scores. You might notice gaps in outcomes by race, economic status, gender or ability. You might wonder how those gaps came about and what the district is doing to address them. If clicking through the district’s data sparks a lot of questions, that’s exactly as intended.
“My greatest hope for the Equity Report Card is when you look at it, you walk away with 10 new questions,” said Lynn VanDeWeert, evaluation officer for ICSD.
The Equity Report Card has been around for over a decade, since ICSD and Village at Ithaca jointly launched the project as a step toward eliminating race, class and disability disparities in Ithaca’s schools. In recent years the tool has migrated online, and since last year community members have been able to explore data using an interactive online dashboard.
Using the dashboard’s tools, community members can compare groups across 10 achievement and engagement metrics that the district tracks. For example, the graduation rate tab shows the district’s overall graduation rate over five years, and also breaks down graduation rates by race and ethnicity categories and by whether students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a proxy for economic status. Asian students in the high economic status group graduated within four years at the highest rate in 2017: 100 percent. Black students graduated within four years at about a 60 percent rate in 2017, regardless of economic status.
Gaps like that are jarring, and the Equity Report Card is meant to ensure that community members take notice. Changing district outcomes, though, will require more than noticing; it will require concerted action.
ICSD and Village at Ithaca have led a series of community conversations to involve stakeholders from parents to activists in the change process.
“Data alone won’t change anything. It’s the conversations about the data, and the actions that this leads to, that matter,” VanDeWeert said at a forum in December.
At community conversations, participants learn how to navigate the online dashboard and are encouraged to share their observations about inequities. Questions raised in the forums will steer discussions between district leaders, school staff and community stakeholders as they work collaboratively to improve student outcomes.
The last community conversation of the year will be held 5:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 at Caroline Elementary School, 2439 Slaterville Rd., Slaterville. All are invited to attend.
Featured image: Community members jotted observations and questions on posters at a December community conversation. (Devon Magliozzi/Ithaca Voice)