As I think we all know by now, last week’s rally and subsequent storming of the U.S. Capitol were not isolated incidents nor are they a temporary problem that can quickly be resolved.
It was interesting (and difficult) timing that we held a Board and staff conversation about race, equity and inclusion the very next night. The session was led by a talented facilitator who helped us understand and reconcile our own biases and develop tools to overcome them as individuals and as an organization. We left the meeting feeling empowered and hopeful that we were having the hard discussions that can really make a difference, and that our entire team is deeply committed to equity.
A focus on educational equity
As we reflected on the work we did that night, we realized that our work to embrace diversity, to champion equity, to become more inclusive and to ensure justice is finally poised to move beyond talk and into action.
For a long time in education, and especially in Boulder Valley, we’ve talked about our persistent achievement gap. Students of color fare worse in almost every conceivable way, scoring lower on standardized tests, enrolling in fewer advanced classes and offered fewer post-secondary options. Our students reflect similar realities along economic lines.
Our affluent and middle income students perform well while their low income peers lag significantly behind. And despite all of the talk about the quantifiable facts that are laid bare when you look at student academic performance, very little action is taken to address this achievement gap.
Putting our beliefs into actions
Last week, over 50 of BVSD’s talented professionals serving on the post-pandemic recovery task force met to discuss the robust recovery work that will address these persistent inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic.
Educational equity was a priority when our organization was founded nearly 40 years ago. Since March, however, we’ve been particularly concerned about how disruptions to learning would impact students, especially those who are traditionally underserved.
Meeting the critical needs of BVSD students
The pandemic shifted our funding priorities from addressing achievement and opportunity gaps to addressing newly identified critical needs of our students. In 2020, we raised $2.4 million to support students in the Boulder Valley School District. This funding allowed us to provide:
- 1,000,000 meals to BVSD families,
- 15,000 backpacks full of school supplies,
- 10,000 age-appropriate books to K-12 students,
- 1,500 students with internet access,
- 75 preschool students and their caregivers a virtual Summer Shuffle, and
- 53 families in financial need with child care
Creating lasting change
Now, we are finally at a place where we can create targeted interventions to address both the academic and social-emotional well-being of students. I’m encouraged by the forthcoming BVSD plan and how it might create lasting change for students in our community.
While overcoming disparities and addressing inequities among local students will take time, we’re working to ensure that meaningful action is taken now to ensure changes that endure far beyond the pandemic. We are hopeful that this work may one day be seen as a turning point, and that a positive legacy of these trying times will be the way we finally moved beyond talking about equity to finally addressing it.