by Anna Haas ‘23
In July of 2020, MCPS began an extensive study intent on discovering the depth of racism and racial inequities in its schools and what needs to be done about it. The study was named the Anti-Racist Audit, and its findings were revealed at a media briefing on October 10 before being officially announced at the Board of Education meeting the next day.
The hybrid media briefing was attended by a student representative from every school in the county as well as a panel of individuals who were the main leaders of the audit and many guests. MCPS Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight explained the audit as one “commissioned for us to be proactive in our approach to review how MCPS can take input from our stakeholders – students, staff, community – to truly understand how the school systems works for some and maybe not others and most importantly what can we do to shift that so that this school system meets the needs of every single one of its students, staff, and family.”
Racial disparities were evident in almost every area of MCPS, including reading levels, participation in higher level classes, graduation rates, discipline suspension, and staffing. Ultimately, the report provides a comprehensive overview of how race impacts the experiences of all students, families, and staff and “… states that, overall, students, families, and staff of color reported having a less satisfactory experience with MCPS than other members of our school community,” said McKnight. Data from 2015 and 2021 displayed at the briefing showed that the 5th grade assessment of Hispanic and African American student performance in English and mathematics was significantly less than the performance of white and Asian students. In reading, there were gaps ranging from 38 to almost 46 percentage points between Hispanic and African Americans and their white, Asian, and multi-racial peers. In math, there were gaps of around 50 percentage points. MCPS wants to find out what they need to do differently to close those gaps.
Though the audit made it clear that there are racial disparities in MCPS, it also confirmed that MCPS has many elements needed to eliminate those disparities for students, families, and staff. MCPS plans to defragment the school system through five areas: coherence, accountability for racial equity work, equity centered capacity building, continuous data collection, and relational trust. Other recommended actions include ongoing community engagement and a comprehensive plan that will most likely be presented by March. The plan will be created through community input. There are also six domains of the audit that MCPS plans to continue working on. These include school culture, workforce diversity, work conditions, pre-K-12 curriculum, community relations and engagement, and equity of access. Stephanie Sheron, Chief of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, said that “research shows that all six of these areas have an impact on both the experience and achievement of all students and they don’t operate in isolation.
Though the Anti-Racist Audit has been completed, MCPS leaders stated that they will continue to work on racism in their schools in order to combat these issues.