School equity audit expected by summer

School committee members are pushing to have the results released publicly.

School committee members met Thursday at Oak Bluffs Elementary School. —Abigail Rosen

School officials say that the results from an equity audit of Island schools — an exercise used to find gaps in education through surveys — will be completed by the summer.

There is a question over when and how the final report will be distributed to the public, with some advocating for its public release upon completion.

Marge Harris, a former Vineyard educator involved in the audit’s implementation, said the release of the final results would be subject to discussion amongst district administration and officials.

Harris, also a member of the district’s Culturally Responsive Leadership (CRL) team, says that Superintendent Richie Smith and the leadership team will receive the report before deciding what to do with it..

“When the report comes to us in June … we will talk about how we will get it to the community,” Harris says.

Amy Houghton, chair of Tisbury’s school committee, advocated on Thursday for final results to be publicly released. “I would certainly hope, after all of the interest in this, that it would be more than just the principals and the cabinet,” Houghton said.

School administrators publicly announced the start of the equity audit in February, following an Edgartown School committee meeting in which many parents voiced frustration with the school’s allocation and availability of resources for students. The purpose of the audit is to review the fairness of an institution’s policies, programs, and practices as they relate to students or staff relative to their race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, and several other socioculturally significant factors.

Harris, during an update before the school committee, said that the audit is on schedule so far. “We are right where we should be,” Harris said at Thursday’s meeting.

Come June, Harris says, the district superintendent and CRL will receive a final equity audit report from the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC), an organization overseeing the audit.

So far, the process has involved each school forming a committee and filling out and discussing individual online surveys.

According to the timeline, the first step of the audit occurred in November, for which the school district’s principals met with Harris and Rita Perez, a senior educational equity specialist with MAEC’s Center for Education Equity (CEE). 

From December to January, the audit committees met with Perez to review the audit process and receive training on how to take the survey and build a consensus amongst themselves.

From January to February, individuals within the equity audit committees completed an online survey portion of the audit. Each member then received a PDF of their responses. After this, MAEC and its CEE sent each principal data regarding their school.

By Monday, April 1, each school’s equity audit committee was to have finished meeting to review their equity audit responses, and to have finished building a consensus on any items for which they were not in agreement. Harris says that each committee’s consensus will be sent to MAEC.

Another piece of the audit, said Harris, will be the district’s yearly climate survey. This survey focuses on input from students’ families.

The schools conduct this survey every year through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), though Harris noted low response rates in previous years. She suggested that awareness of the survey be raised at school sporting events, and possibly via a video from superintendent Richie Smith. “We need to get it out there better than we have in the past,” Harris said.

Another element of the equity audit will involve focus groups, selected and conducted by MAEC, to gain further input from high schoolers. Harris noted that at a meeting with MAEC last Wednesday, the consortium asked whether the audit was missing the input of a significant population. “Everyone agreed — the high school students,” Harris said at Thursday’s meeting.

Harris says that MAEC will select students for the focus group process, and will have them answer a series of questions.

Harris said on Thursday that she looks forward to MAEC’s final report. “[It’s] basically to have us look and see what we’re doing right and what we need to improve. And they will continue working with us if we so choose,” she said.


  1. I’d like to think that the superintendent would believe transparency is vital, as he has stated such in the past. I would also like to hear him say that after the administrative team reads it, it will be 100%, in its entirety, shared with the public. That would mean, that regardless what the outcome positive or negative from this survey, it should be given to the public to revue. We all know, if there is a negative in the report, the administration most likely will not share it. As has been past practice, they the administration, will do their best to put a positive spin on everything and never actually share it with the public. Basically, they will TELL us what it says in hopes we nod and agree with them.

  2. We will probably find out our school administrators are doing a good job.
    Thank you to school workers, all of them.
    Keep up the good work.

    • They certainly have the revenue with some of the highest per pupil cost in the state but not even close to top performance of the students. Not sure how you judge what they are doing but with the huge revenue stream from the tax payers I would like to see better student success.

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