Districts are experiencing an increasing number of diverse students. That diversity encompasses not only race and ethnicity but also socioeconomics, English language learners, and special education. District leaders are working to create a school culture where all students feel a sense of belonging by implementing strategies to ensure Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

PASS hosted a webinar that brought together district leaders from two Pennsylvania districts, Red Lion Area and Northern Lehigh, to share their stories of using data to inform their DEI efforts. Both districts are not historically diverse but have seen a doubling of FRL students and a significant increase in their ELL and special education populations over the last few years. They are also now exposed to multiple languages (7-18) and countries their students represent.

Foundations for DEI Efforts 

Dr. Tania Stoker, assistant superintendent from Northern Lehigh, shared three areas as a foundation for their DEI effort. She stated, “We noticed our staff was not representative of our students. We needed students to see themselves in the adults teaching them.”

First, the district updated its recruiting practices widening the geographic area to find a workforce that reflects the diversity of the students they serve.

The second area was providing teachers with professional development to understand cultures, school climate, and DEI. 

The third area was adopting a shared leadership style in the district where everyone – school board, community, parents, and students – has a voice at the table. Various forums, including student advisory groups promoting voice and choice, served each audience.

Eric Wilson, Chief Instructional Officer at Red Lion Area, discussed their efforts around Collective Teacher Efficacy, the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students. Teachers worked together, acknowledging their differences and celebrating their similarities, seeing how their collective work could make an impact when, as Wilson commented, “The room was the expert.” These practices were implemented in classrooms. 

Elizabeth Stambaugh, Supervising Elementary Principal, added that surveys played a role in Red Lion Area’s efforts, as teachers pushed for more information about connectedness. With PASS, students answered questions that helped measure their attitudes toward building relationships and feeling connected, which are vital to a school’s culture and students’ success. 

 PASS is an online measure that helps districts uncover hidden factors impacting student success. It includes student surveys, multi-level reports and an intervention tool supporting hundreds of districts.

For both districts, PASS was instrumental in being able to see individual students who were struggling. As Dr. Stoker stated, “The data was eye-opening. Students seemed OK, but they were struggling. These struggles might have gone undetected if we didn’t have PASS.”   At the subgroup-level, the data informed school programming. Red Lion Area School District used the data to help build MTSS Frameworks for Tier 1, 2 and 3 and SEL supports. Dr. Stoker added that the data allowed for proactive measures, particularly in the middle school, where her district created programs around appropriate social media use and self-harm. 

Eric Wilson referenced the big takeaway from the subgroup data showing ‘lack of engagement’ as a challenge the district faced as students returned from the pandemic. Katharine Diorio, Supervisor of Pupil Services, spoke about how it guided the formation of small group programs to address issues that impede student learning, like anger management.  She emphasized those groups’ importance by stating, “We think of academics in school, but if students aren’t happy, it makes a big difference in how they learn.” 

Vison for Increasing Inclusivity

The discussion focused on four actions as the districts look to continue and grow their DEI efforts First, both districts agree that adopting “people-first language” is crucial. For example, Spanish-speaking students are students who speak multiple languages. This language informs thoughts and, ultimately, behaviors. All students need to feel dignified and accepted. 

Secondly, Red Lion Area School District noted that they make a point to bring together students across their five elementary schools. Eric Wilson emphasized, “It’s import for the students to meet and understand that we all work together.”

And lastly, students need to learn to be their own advocates. As Elizabeth Stambaugh stated, “Students need to be comfortable using their voice to address when something doesn’t feel right.”

Learn More About PASS

View the recorded webinar or schedule a demo with our PASS team to learn more about how PASS can support your district’s or school’s DEI efforts. We would love to partner with you to discover how to help all students within your district achieve more by overcoming non-academic barriers.