With the knowledge of persistent disparities in the educational system, the PSB have taken steps to close the racial achievement gap.
Some of the oldest work the district has done is in the form of the Calculus Project. Beginning in the early 2000s, the PSB has offered African-American and Latino middle school students the opportunity to participate in summer preview courses and after-school tutoring. The opportunities provided by the Calculus Project are designed to close the achievement gap in mathematics by increasing the number of African-American and Latino students in advanced math classes.
Another aim of the Calculus Project was to facilitate a community within the program’s participants to avoid feelings of isolation in higher level classes, according to Jenee Uttaro, Senior Director of Equity.
“There was a clustering of students of color. If you were all on this track to end up taking calculus by your senior year, then that meant that you had to be in certain other classes. And so, there was a tracking so that students could be in that same math class. That’s kind of tied in with African-American Latino Scholars too. It’s not that students of color need those programs, but they’re super helpful for many students,” Uttaro said.
Restructuring the curriculum is a different aspect of equity work in Brookline. “Equity audits” are intended to comb through class materials and determine their continued relevance, according to Uttaro. The audits also bring in new and updated content to classroom libraries which begin to include voices of marginalized groups.
Uttaro said librarians, curriculum coordinators, school leaders and teachers work together to reflect and improve the classroom content taught to students.
“What that looks like is thinking about the new titles that we can bring in and what are the conversations that we can have around how to share these new materials with students and with one another. So it’s not just about, we’re going to change the curriculum, but what are you doing with this curriculum?” Uttaro said.