Shrewsbury schools examining student, staff diversity and equity

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Screenshot/via Shrewsbury Media Connection
Shrewsbury Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Amy Clouter speaks during a recent School Committee meeting.

By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer

SHREWSBURY — Does the racial makeup of Shrewsbury Public Schools teachers reflect that of the students?

That was one question raised by district administrators in a May 26 presentation to the School Committee on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. 

Committee Chair Jon Wensky said the report indicated that the district is moving forward in its work.

“This is evolving over time. It’s not going to yield immediate results right away, but certainly a work in progress,” Wensky said.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Amy Clouter said there was a “gap” between Shrewsbury’s graduate portrait and students’ experiences. 

Clouter outlined a number of steps the district has taken since its strategic plan was approved in 2018, including professional development, hiring consultants to examine student data and programs, and conducting an equity audit.

Clouter said a consultant analyzed Shrewsbury’s MCAS scores from 2017-2019, examining how racial subgroups performed on the test. 

According to Clouter’s presentation, the students’ combined MCAS averages have trended up over the three years.

“While we still see a gap, we’ve been doing better in these past three years,” Clouter said.

Group conducts equity audit

In 2020, the Assabet Valley Collaborative conducted an equity audit, which assessed Shrewsbury’s diversity, equity and inclusion. 

In addition to gathering data, the auditors conducted site visits at the schools and talked with families, staff and students. 

The audit reached a number of conclusions, including recommending that Shrewsbury review its discipline data and access to upper-level classes and exams. 

Additionally, the audit said people who identify as a minority are asked to lead equity work “in ways that tokenize, minimize, and unduly burden their experience in the district.”

Discussion spotlights staff diversity

Executive Director of Human Resources Barb Malone said that she noticed during strategic planning back in 2018 that Shrewsbury’s district staff didn’t reflect the diversity of the student body, a fact that was also noted in last year’s audit.

“What became clear to me is that our pools of candidates were overwhelmingly white,” Malone said.

According to the audit, in 2020, 51 percent of Shrewsbury students were white compared to 93.6 percent of staff. Additionally, 33 percent of students were Asian compared to 4.8 percent of staff members. 

Malone said the district’s most diverse staff pool was its substitute teachers, which it looked for in part thanks to its 2018 planning.

“[We] realized that a lot of them were very, very educated, gifted people with careers that might have originated in a different country, but that we could help them through the licensure process,” Malone said.

Malone also reexamined job postings, and the district talked with local diverse universities with education programs to attract candidates. 

“We hope that by building those diverse pools, we’ll have more finalists that better reflect the diversity both of our community and diversity in general,” Malone said.