BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (Dec. 2, 2016) — Following years of organizing and collaboration, and months of rigorous negotiations, the Board of the Osseo Area Schools voted 6-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 22, to approve the first racial equity policy in its history.
Appropriately called the Racial Equity in Education Achievement, the passage of this policy represents an unprecedented step towards the institutionalization of a collective commitment to disrupting racially predictable student experience and educational outcomes in the district.
The policy essentially aims to accelerate the closure of the academic achievement gap between students of colors and their counterparts, improve practices such as culturally responsive pedagogy and hiring a more diverse staff. All told, the expected outcomes will ensure that every student receives an excellent, fair, and equitable educational experience, so that all students may thrive towards success.
“We know that every child has the right and the ability to learn. But what stands in the way are systemic racial and cultural barriers, alongside incidents of bias in the classroom, and a lack of teachers and staff of color who can represent the full student experience in the Osseo Area Schools,” said Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of African Immigrant Services (AIS). “AIS will continue its collaboration with the district to accelerate the implementation of this policy, even while recognizing some of the challenges and legitimate community concerns that emerged in the final hours of the adoption process.”
AIS has been working with parents, district leadership, and community stakeholders, to develop an education equity agenda that builds collective consciousness and commitment towards increased racial equity outcomes in the Osseo Area Schools. Beginning in 2014, AIS brought together more than 200 parents of color, district leaders, and community leaders to explore what students of color needed for an equitable educational experience in the district. In late November, after a week of community feedback through an AIS facilitated focus group session, drafts, and conversations, the Osseo School Board voted to move forward with a policy that would expand equitable experience for students of color while benefiting and strengthening the educational experience of all students in the district.
“The passage of this policy marks a major victory for AIS, the district leadership, and the community of parents and stakeholders”, said Fata Acquoi, AIS education organizer. “We must continue to work with our community to deepen and sustain the impact of this amazing work.”
The Osseo Area Schools system serves 52 percent students of color population, but lacks any significant representation of people of color as teachers and staff. Additionally, Osseo is facing a significant racial opportunity gap for students, marked by troubling racial disparities in discipline, test scores, and reading levels.
AIS applauds Dr. Kate Maguire, Osseo Area Schools’ Superintendent, and the entire Board, for their courageous action and partnership in the process. AIS looks forward to working with the Board, with Dr. Maguire and her cabinet, and with our community of parents and stakeholders to ensure a sustainable impact towards increased racial equity outcomes in the district.