Sunday, June 09, 2002

Covington schools seek more diversity

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A handful of Covington schools lack multicultural education in teacher training and curriculum, an equity plan or fail to do enough to recruit and retain minority teachers.

        These were among findings in the Equity Review Report, comprised of critiques of Latonia Elementary, Thomas Edison Elementary, Holmes Junior High and Holmes High School.

        The report was compiled by the Kentucky Department of Education's division of equity, at the request of district officials. Although only four schools were studied, officials agreed similar findings exist districtwide.

        The report commended the schools on their community partnerships, quality leadership, welcoming environments and ability to handle crises.

        About 30 percent of the district's 4,600 students are minorities, while minorities comprise just 9 percent of the 335 teachers in the urban district.

        District officials believe Covington's diverse student body will do better if it sees itself reflected more in the curriculum. Multicultural education is a concept that embraces cultural diversity in learning.

        “We're trying to come up with some ways to meet the needs of all our students and meet their different learning styles,” said Debra Vance, Covington's equity/diversity officer.

        “We do have some teachers who are doing these things already and then we have some who aren't. But our test scores clearly reveal that we have a long way to go.”

        Covington is among a handful of state school districts that have volunteered for the review. Roger Cleveland, who directs the division of equity, discussed the report at a recent school board meeting.

        Despite gains last year in Kentucky's testing system, Covington remains among the state's lowest-performing districts.

        Ms. Vance said the report was not a surprise to district officials. She said educators will use the data to help reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students, boost state test scores and achieve equity among students.

        She said the district does not have an equity policy, but plans to develop one that includes guidelines for a multicultural curriculum.

        “We want to take a look at where we are and find out where we need to go as far as equity, diversity and our educational practices. What are we doing right and what do we need to improve on. That's what it was for. We want to make a change,” Ms. Vance said.

        Jerome Bowles, president of the Northern Kentucky chapter of the NAACP, said Covington schools have made strides in ensuring equity among its students. But he said the district has work to do — based on the findings in Mr. Cleveland's report.

        “I think the board is starting to get the message,” Mr. Bowles said. “We're going to be closely monitoring this situation.”

        Ms. Vance said she will meet with every principal and site-based decision-making council in the district to discuss the report's findings.


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