Equity data shows more work needed in township schools

Research includes survey of 2,505 students, staff and parents

Representatives from Hanover Research presented their findings on equity in Cherry Hill schools after reviewing data from the 2016-’17 and 2019-’20 school years during the April 12 board of education meeting.

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The group tested a number of variables, including how well ethnic groups are represented in the gifted and talented programs, proficiency in English/Language Arts (ELA) and math and disciplinary incidents.

Representative James Kornegay explained that the representation index is calculated by dividing the percentage of ethnic students in a category or program by the percentage of ethnic students total. If the resulting number is one, the group is considered proportionally represented. If the number is fewer than one, students are considered underrepresented.

The research involved quantitative research available through the district as well as qualitative data obtained through a survey of 2,505 students, parents/guardians, staff/administrators and the community. 

From the data and the survey, some of Hanover’s key findings show that there is an underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students proficient in ELA and math and in the gifted and talented programs. The survey also pointed out that Black and Hispanic students are more likely to receive disciplinary infractions or suspension. 

The board requested that Hanover look more in-depth at the infractions and the demographics of survey takers to see if the community is evenly represented. Hanover recommended a root-cause analysis to understand why representation varies and to evaluate discipline policies and practices for bias. Board member Kimberly Friddell also requested that special-education students be considered with regard to the different categories.

Hanover’s full presentation is available on the district website.

During committee reports, Board Vice President Miriam Stern reminded people the last free-meal distribution will take place in June. With the federal program ending, meal payments will revert to previous practice. 

“We always encourage people to fill out the free- and reduced-lunch application,” Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche said. “ … Especially for our secondary students, there are additional opportunities that are open to them if they qualify for free and reduced meals.”

Because of the state’s May 4 ban on single-use bags and polystyrene containers, Stern said  there could be an increase in meal costs.

“Unfortunately, as every change happens, (the ban) will also impact our food budget, because purchasing alternative products for meals, for plates and all that stuff or food containers, will be more expensive,” she added. 

In other news:

  • Meloche addressed community concerns regarding updated New Jersey student- learning standards that include a more robust sexual-education curriculum. He noted the change was not something the board adopted or developed, but one it must follow, per the New Jersey Department of Education. The curriculum has not been changed and will be reviewed in the summer. It will be shared with families who can express dissent or choose for their children not to participate.
  • The East student newspaper Eastside Online received the 2022 Pacemaker and Gold Crown Award from the National Scholastic Press Association and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association
  • There will be a renaming ceremony for the Malberg Administration Building and Barclay Early Childhood Center on June 3 
  • The board continues to work on its policy regarding remote attendance for members

The next board of education meeting will take place on April 26 at 6:30 p.m,. at the Malberg building.

This article was updated on April 25 to correct the how the representation index is calculated and the spelling of James Kornegay’s name.

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