FAQs and Misconceptions about Equity
What is Equity and how does it look in the WCASD?
“Equity” has become a politically charged term. When we talk about educational equity, the WCASD has defined that as working to remove barriers so that ALL students succeed. This requires us to evaluate why certain groups of students are not learning as much as others. School districts have been providing equity for decades. For example, by teaching special education students in different ways (e.g. providing additional time and support to master the lesson or complete a test) we have been helping to provide equity to this group of students. Additionally, low-income students and students of color have not historically performed as well as white, more affluent students. Equity is looking at how we can address those gaps. Can we provide breakfast so students aren’t distracted by hunger? Can we evaluate whether we are encouraging students of color to consider higher-level classes at the same rate that we are encouraging white students to take them?
What is Critical Race Theory and are children being taught this in school?
Critical Race Theory is a concept/academic theory that is more than 40 years old. Its main theory is that racism is embedded in our legal systems and policies, and isn’t just a product of any one individual’s bias or prejudice. Some components of Critical Race Theory are controversial, and concerns about whether it’s being taught in schools have swept the country during the 2020-21 school year.
The WCASD does not have a course or a unit of study titled “Critical Race Theory” and does not teach Critical Race Theory. This is not part of the PA Curriculum and we follow the state standards.
Critical Race Theory should not be confused with the fact that race and other identifiers have had a historical impact in our country. For example, history can’t be taught without mentioning how gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, ability/disability, and/or social systems have impacted our citizens (e.g. American Revolution, Civil War, Women’s Suffrage, American Disabilities Act.) The National Council for the Social Studies (established in 1921) endorses the teaching of these issues.
Misconception: White students are being made to feel guilty about their skin color, and all races of students are being taught to blame or judge.
This is simply untrue. Our goal is for every student to feel and be included, have a sense of belonging, dignity, and access to all of the WCASD offerings regardless of their skin color, religious beliefs, gender identity, or ability/disability. Our goal is to teach basic respect and human dignity.
Misconception: The District’s work related to diversity, equity and inclusion are part of a transition to Socialism/Marxism/Communism or part of a plan to eliminate individuality.
The District does not endorse a political party. We do not want everyone to be “the same” in any way. Our district celebrates and values the diversity of our students, staff, and community. We know that children will achieve at different levels and choose different paths. We are not in any way trying to eliminate individuality. We just want to ensure we are providing every student with the tools needed to achieve their personal best. (For example, if a student is left-handed, we should provide left-handed scissors or they won’t be able to cut paper as effectively as right-handed students using traditional scissors.)
Misconception: The District’s equity work has lowered the bar for our students.
Our goal is to raise the bar for all students - not “dumb down” curriculum so that everyone can master it. The WCASD has been engaged in Equity work since 2004. Before and throughout that time, the District has been consistently ranked as one of the top school districts in Pennsylvania and the nation.
Notable 2021 Statistics:
• 27 out of 500 school districts (top 5%)
• 1 of 34 districts rated as A+
• 44 out of 610 Public & Charter Schools in PA (top 7%)
US News & World Report - All three WCASD High Schools are ranked among the top schools in the nation and state with the following rankings out of 711 high schools in PA.
• East High School - 36 (score of 93.89)
• Rustin High School - 50 (score of 91.79)
• Henderson High School - 59 (score of 90.32)
Philadelphia Business Journal
• Rated 29 out of 500 districts for academic achievement for the last decade.
Myth: The Achievement Gap exists because certain students simply don’t work as hard as others.
The Achievement or Opportunity Gap is the difference between what’s known as historically underperforming subgroups of children, and historically performing subgroups of children. For example, Black and Latino children typically don’t perform as well on tests when compared to white children. Research has shown that these gaps exist because there are unequal and inadequate educational opportunities - not inherent differences in capability or work ethic. There are studies from the past 50 years confirming the root cause of the Achievement or Opportunity Gap from NAEP (National Association for Educational Progress), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS), and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The West Chester Area School District has implemented programs to address the achievement gap such as establishing a full-day kindergarten program for all children. We have encouraged more children of color, and low-income children to take higher-level course work, and provided supports to help those students succeed in those classes.
Myth: If the district focuses on supports for minority students, white students will lose out.
This is simply untrue. We operate with the mission of inspiring and educating all children to achieve their personal best. The words “personal best” also mean “individual best,” and we treat all students as individuals. If a student is struggling, we remove the barriers and provide support to help that student succeed. If a student is academically accelerating, we provide greater challenges to help that student achieve a personal best.
Our district has been recognized for its high achievement. For example, the College Board has recognized our school district as an AP Scholars District for seven out of the last eight years. This is calculated by enrolling more students in Advanced Placement courses each year and maintaining an 80% pass rate on the national AP exams. Also, we have expanded our dual enrollment offerings with West Chester University allowing students to take college-level courses while in high school. These course credits transfer into most colleges and universities. While we have seen more students of color enroll in these courses, we haven’t reached equitable levels yet.
Is Equity, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and Trauma-Informed Care the same as Critical Race Theory (CRT)?
No. These terms have been confused by many, and they are not the same. The table below explains the differences with these terms: