by Mike Knaak
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s long-planned equity audit launched Dec. 7 with an online survey.
Students in grades three through 12, parents and community members will be asked to complete the online survey by Dec. 21.
The survey is one component of an equity audit conducted by consultants Equity Alliance MN to identify where schools are falling short in educating all students and also identify successes for achieving equity.
Parents and community members can find a link to the survey here: www.sartell.k12.mn.us/equityaudit. Students, who are currently distance learning, will be given time during the daily homeroom activity to complete the survey.
“We are asking our parents, students and teachers to fill out a survey about how our kids are being educated,” said Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert. “We want to know so we can continue to prepare our kids for the 21st century world. If we don’t get that feedback, we can’t adjust our curriculum.”
Although education equity issues that center around race, religion, family economics and gender have been discussed for years, the topic gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd and subsequent debates about systemic racism. After a listening session in June where students and others shared stories about unfair comments and actions in schools, the school board debated how to move forward and decided to conduct the audit.
Schwiebert said completing the online survey should take 15-20 minutes and people should set aside time to complete it because once started, the survey has to be finished.
Equity Alliance prepared the questions that were then reviewed by the school board. The survey collects no personal data and responses won’t be tied to individuals. Equity Alliance will compile the data and present it to the board, probably in February.
The survey is just one part of the audit plan. Starting in January, researchers will conduct focus group meetings with parents, community members and students. In addition, Equity Alliance is collecting the district’s data that reports tests scores, demographics and economic indicators, such as the number of students receiving free or reduced-price meals.
Parents will receive emails explaining the survey and listing the survey link. Since the Covid-19 outbreak forced students out of classrooms and into hybrid and distance learning, the district has sent many emails. “We know people are tired of dealing with email,” Schwiebert said. But he emphasized the importance of everyone completing the survey.
“We want to hear all voices,” he said.
The school board will receive a full audit report with recommendations in the spring and then the board will decide what short-term and long-term solutions are needed.
“We want people to complete this survey,” Schwiebert said.