OKEECHOBEE — In a video message posted to Yearling Middle School’s Facebook page, Principal David Krakoff announced two steps the school would be taking in the future to build systems that result in academic, social, and cultural equity for all students.
“Every single student who attends our Title I, highly diverse school matters, and we consider it our moral and ethical obligation to serve every one of our students,” began Mr. Krakoff in the video. “It’s one thing to talk about equity being important in schools. But it’s another thing to take action and build systems that result in academic, social and cultural equity for all.”
He went on to say that the two steps were designed on data and evidence-based practices by a leadership team at YMS.
The first step involved the school forming a cultural competency committee for the 2020-2021 academic year that will include students, staff and parents. According to Mr. Krakoff this committee’s task will involve analyzing Yearling data and research to define cultural competency at the school, to generate an evidence-based plan to educate all YMS staff and students on cultural competency, to train all students and teachers on cultural competency and to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the cultural competency system.
The National Education Association defines “cultural competence” as having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about differences, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families.
The second step involves the ending of tracking, or grouping students by ability, beginning in the early grades.
“We have committed to untracking and eliminating the labeling and therefore limiting of our students,” explained Mr. Krakoff. “Based on research from the National Institute for School Leadership, the National Center on Education and the Economy and AVID, our Yearling leadership team has committed to a three-year plan to systemically and nearly entirely untrack our school. We know from many years of research that when we track students, we can systematically limit their future, particularly our minority and low-expectancy students. We want all students to leave our school with an equitable opportunity for long-term success.”
Mr. Krakoff said that the untracking process will be gradual, occurring with one grade at a time so that the school’s leadership team can provide the coaching and support needed to help staff master the system.
“In 2020-21 our sixth grade classrooms, with the exception of our gifted program and a couple other exceptions, will include balanced class rosters composed of students of varying races, ethnicities, genders and historical achievement levels,” continued Mr. Krakoff. “To support this effort, our sixth grade teachers will work to perfect our learning scale system that we already have in place to guide every unit of study. Within our learning scales for every unit, all students will be challenged to produce work that reflects mastery on every level of the unit scale, moving from the lowest levels to the deepest levels of analysis and application.”
Mr. Krakoff says this process will allow students to grow from collaborative learning with all students, while also offering the enrichment needed to push students who reach mastery sooner than others.
“Our growth continues to evolve at Yearling Middle School,” concluded Mr. Krakoff, “and these next steps will help us to develop and strengthen systems that will support our commitment to all of our students. Equity matters at Yearling Middle School and in the world.”