The student news site of Brookline High School

School improvement plan: racial equity

February 3, 2016



This is one article in a series out of four concerning the school improvement plan.

The school improvement plan is a document that every school in Massachusetts is required to create and make public every year, according to Headmaster Deborah Holman. This year’s school improvement plan was released a couple of months late do to the amount of work that went into it.

“Brookline High School needs it, badly. It has taken three years of my being here to really see how the school is operating and what it needs,” Holman said. “We are just at a point that, not only faculty, but also students can see the direction of where we needed to go, in terms of the district vision of educational equity.”  

Holman said that the plan was created by the school council, which meets monthly and includes parents, students and faculty. The plan was developed during the spring and summer of 2015 and completed in the fall. The plan is available on the town of Brookline’s website and reproduced below.

Holman said that the plan focuses on changing instruction and culture at the high school, and less on creating new systems. The goals outlined in the improvement plan fit roughly into one of four categories: racial equity, academic and financial support, mental health and administration.

Check here for the entirety of the school improvement plan:


Racial equality


Student advisory group

According to Holman, a student advisory group composed of leaders from clubs such as METCO leadership, courageous conversations and the former SWS race and student of color committee, has met a few times with her and will continue to do so. According to Associate Dean Melanee Alexander, the meetings are to help Holman understand and plan for what students and staff want to do in the high school.

“There is the headmaster’s student leadership group, which is made up of reps of all those former clubs (METCO leadership, courageous conversations and the former SWS race and students of color committee), plus some teachers, which will come and advise her on the state of the school in terms of race, things that they have seen that have gotten better, things that still need work and suggestions for improving,” Alexander said.


Diversity series

There are plans for a spring event on diversity, an annual event that still needs a leader and organizer. It is not yet organized.


Courageous Conversations

The Courageous Conversations group met with Holman during the summer, which according to her, is when she realized that the high school needed a detailed school improvement plan urgently.

“The Courageous Conversations group met for a day away in the summer, in August, and we really had a discussion there about a lot of pieces of this,” Holman said.


Minority Student Achievement Network

The Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) is a national organization that meets annually with representatives from other schools. At these conferences, students have conversations about race and education at their schools and generate their own plans for educational equity at their school. According to Holman, a committee of students is working in collaboration with other student groups using the MSAN model on how to restart and strengthen MSAN at the high school.

Steps to Success Adviser Dan Arroyo believes the program will operate in the future.

“I felt like the vibe I got was that MSAN was going to be here moving forward,” Arroyo said.


Student action groups

Many student action groups around race already exist at the high school such as Race Committee, METCO Leadership Group, Steps to Success and others. There are plans to design the configuration of student groups, define goals, understand how each is both distinct and part of a whole. The plans also include defining MSAN within that configuration and engaging students in collaborating with teachers/counselors on growth and learning. The goal is to increase diversity of student representation in Legislature and Judiciary and to bring voice and experiences of underrepresented groups more clearly into the school culture and decisions.


Race Reels

The Race Reels committee plans to widen its audience, increase funds and teacher participation and appoint student leaders. The funding for Race Reels comes from a variety of sources including the PTO and the headmaster’s fund, a fund allotted to her by the PTO to invest in any way she chooses.

Check out some of our previous coverage on Race Reels:

Race Reels event features local connection


Diversity Hiring Committee

The goal of the Diversity Hiring Committee is to increase hiring of teachers of color. The members of the committee plan to work with Brookline’s human resources department and the Public Schools of Brookline to create structures to support staff of color. Alexander, who is on the committee, said there is already one-on-one mentoring for new staff but that she plans to add specific mentoring for new staff of color.

“We want to increase the diversity of our staff so that it reflects the demographics of our students,” Alexander said.

Check our our past coverage on the Diversity Hiring Committee:

Leaders diversify staff through hiring process


The African American and Latino Scholars Program

The The African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP) has plans to partner with the new College and Career Center at the high school and work on measuring its impact in the school both quantitatively and qualitatively.


The Calculus Project

The Calculus Project, like AALSP, plans to design how they will work with Race Committee and the METCO leadership group, increase diversity of Legislature and identify community members to coordinate efforts with the headmaster.

Their main goal is to diversify upper level classes.

“When you look at upper level courses, it is mostly White students. There are some efforts like the Calculus Project, which is aimed at kids of color starting back in 7th grade to move them into high level math. That’s a way of attacking the gaps,” Holman said.

Check out some of our previous coverage on The Calculus Project:

Calculus Project graduates second “cohort”


Identifying and removing biased materials in assessments

Departments plan to work on finding and eliminating biases from assessments and tests. Teachers will be asked to consider their own biases and how to ensure that every student in their class succeeds.

“What we would want to achieve is faculty really reflecting on, are they holding high expectations for all kids in every class? What are some of their biases that might be subconscious that get in the way of how they react to a student or how they support or hold expectations for a student, such as a student of color versus a White student,” Holman said. “There are really thoughtful learning experiences for adults that let us learn about those things and then connect it to our practice.”


Embedding issues of race in class dialogues

Holman said she wants to ensure that every student acquires the necessary education surrounding race and racial awareness before they graduate. It is still unclear whether actions like making a racial awareness class a requirement will be taken or whether issues of race will simply be added to class discussions.


Faculty learning and school-wide professional development time

Goals for community learning about race include half or full days on racial awareness. There will also be research done on professional development programs to determine a provider for racial awareness training for staff beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Holman said she has money from the PTO to hire a racial awareness trainer.


Racial awareness course

A racial awareness course for sophomores, taught by social studies teachers Malcolm Cawthorne and Kathryn Leslie, is currently being piloted. The goal is to run additional sections of the class during the 2016-2017 school year, with plenty of support and evaluation. Administrators are considering expanding the class and possibly including it in graduation requirements. Holman said that administrators are discussing how to embed discussions of race into academic curriculums as well. There are plans for faculty support for the pilot class and training for the course, as well as materials and supplies.

Check out our previous coverage on the new racial awareness course:

Racial Awareness class garners mixed reactions from sophomore students


Administrative teams

Administrative teams have plans to work on crafting principles to guide the school more towards equity with more consistent reviewing of leaders in the high school, action around school data, schoolwork, literature and research. The goal is to make reflections on equity a regular part of administrative meetings. Holman said one of her equity goals is to make the PTO more representative of the high school’s parent population in terms of diversity.


For more coverage of issues of race at the high school, look here


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