School Highlights: Equity Work Across the District

The district is committed to making equity work a priority within each of our schools. In response to the news in May 2020 about national protests and riots occurring in the wake of horrific events involving the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd who was killed by police in Minneapolis, our schools are offering opportunities for dialogue and engagement for students, their families, and staff:
- Sharing resources and learning experiences with staff and students at every level to address the current news and provide a forum for anti-racist education;
- Hosting a Virtual Town Hall, sponsored by the REAL Coalition, for all staff to join in a conversation about how we can support our staff and students of color as well as address these ongoing issues;
- Providing additional resources for families to access to talk to their children about recent events and to provide support.

There are countless examples of the ways in which we are succeeding and continuing to face challenges as we make progress in carrying out this complex work. Below are a few more examples of our small steps toward equity over the years, and we encourage our community to return to this webpage as it is updated.


Broadmeadow sponsored a PTC/School Council panel discussion with 4 parents (METCO, immigrant family, parent of transgender children, gay parent) who spoke to their joys and heartaches as members of the Broadmeadow community, with an engaging Q&A afterwards.

One part of the Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan focuses on engaging parents in conversations about equity and inclusion. With that in mind, Broadmeadow kicked off a Parent Book Group using The Hate U Give, This is How It Always Is, and Refugee as their book choices.

At a full faculty meeting, Broadmeadow staff explored equity resources for lessons and book suggestions (e.g., Raising Race Conscious Children, Anti-Defamation League, and Teaching Tolerance).


Eliot was awarded a three-year grant to introduce Spatial Temporal Math, a visual math program for grades K-2. The program is designed to engage students with language disabilities and students who are English Language Learners in challenging math lessons.

The Eliot PTC is providing activities free of charge for economically disadvantaged families, and breakfast is now provided during early release and delayed opening days. In prior years, students would not be provided breakfast during these times and many of our kids rely on this meal because they do not get it at home.

Annually with the help of the PTC, Eliot staff organized a school-wide focus on a specific culture that represented their students and enhanced their Multicultural Night events to celebrate their diverse community.


Hillside hosted author Gloria Respress-Churchwell, whose book Follow Chester is a true story about a black football player at Harvard who dared to play at UVA in 1947 during the era of Jim Crow. His white teammates supported him in ways that were considered radical at the time. Hillside 4th and 5th graders prepared for Gloria's visit by doing research on the timeline of Civil Rights in the US.

Hillside staff were introduced to Diverse Bookfinder, a website for identifying and exploring multicultural picture books, in an effort to diversify and balance their school library.


Several Mitchell staff members have participated in a year long "Inclusive Practices Workshop" sponsored by DESE. Inclusive practices are the instructional and behavioral strategies that improve academic and social and emotional outcomes for students with and without disabilities in the general education setting.

Mitchell has begun working with an consultant from IDEAS, Ed Walker, who has been observing in classrooms and meeting monthly with teachers to provide feedback on creating more culturally responsive classrooms and pedagogy.

Staff at Mitchell participated in a Professional Learning session with Adrian Mims, National Director of the Calculus Project, who talked with them about the impact that grouping students by affinity has on their educational achievement. This PD prompted school-based work on student placement practices, informed by the achievement research.


Newman Racial Literacy Parent Workshop was developed and delivered during the FY21 school year.

Students in 4th and 5th grades gathered for a special community meeting about being "upstanders" in fighting hate speech. Following the presentation, classroom teachers held a "closing circle" to discuss how to counter hate speech.

The NEF awarded Newman a grant that will boost efforts with equity. In the fall of 2019, Newman will host a Teaching Tolerance Workshop: Facilitating Critical Conversations. The grant will also provide a basis for school-wide professional development for FY20.

Throughout the FY19 school year, Newman's Principal led professional development that included watching and discussing the eye-opening film "American Promise" as well as the Needham METCO documentary.

Newman's Music teacher arranged transportation from Boston for Newman's Boston-resident students so that they could participate in band for the first time. 

A Newman teacher is working with colleagues and the Needham History Center to make sure the 3rd grade "1850 School House Day" includes the voices and perspectives of Native Americans who have not been represented in that experience for our students.

Newman presented its School Improvement Plan to the School Committee and highlighted the achievement gap as a priority to tackle, particularly for their low income students, English language learners, students of color, and students with disabilities.

To ensure all students have access to higher level math problems, Newman teachers are asking all students to first complete challenge questions that otherwise were completed only if the regular assignment was done first. This switch aids in exposing all students to mathematically challenging material and thinking.


High Rock faculty used all building-based early release time to engage in systematic examination of implicit bias, including micro-aggressions and how we can work to disrupt these systems in our classrooms. The work was facilitated by High Rock's Assistant Principal and METCO Coordinator. Based on group members' needs and desires to dig more deeply into future work, smaller groups are working in teams to: 1) Continue to examine race issues; 2) Come to a better understanding of how equity affects our LGBTQ+ students and faculty and how High Rock can better understand and use best practices for equity in those ares; 3) How to create curriculum that disrupts the cycle of bias in our classrooms.

As part of a Dr. Martin Luther King program, Pollard and NHS students shared a video message with all 6th graders, challenging them to do one small thing to improve the world.

High Rock staff completed their reading of the book Ghost by Jason Reynolds and reflected on their school’s culturally responsive practices. They considered how to respond effectively with students, colleagues, and others when witnessing everyday bias or stereotyping.


Pollard small steps toward equity
Pollard staff engaged in professional development using the "Speak Up At School" resource. Staff also completed a school-wide "Pollard Staff Takes Small Steps toward Equity" as seen in photo above. All staff shared practices and plans for creating equitable classroom environments.

Students, staff and community members participated in a book talk at the Needham Library about Refugee by Alan Gratz.

Pollard 7th grade English and Social Studies teachers are updating a unit to incorporate new learning, including revising their history timeline so that it starts before slavery, examines resources from the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and revises instruction around norms and language to ensure that students know how to have respectful conversations about race.

For several years, Pollard has been offering the Launching Scholars program for students who have been challenged by the traditional approach to math instruction. Launching Scholars aims to narrow the opportunity gap by increasing the participation of the number of students of color, low income, and other marginalized students in advanced math classes from grades 7 through 12.


The Greater Boston Project now includes an assignment for students to read the Needham Public Schools Equity Audit and write a proposal for how to respond. Some of these papers have been sent to the Superintendent because student input is an important component of our equity work.

Castle Scholars is being offered once again at the high school. This is an African-American and Latino/Hispanic scholars program meant to increase representation in educational programming. Castle Scholars are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have shown an interest in challenging themselves in rigorous coursework. Involvement in the program gives students opportunities and resources that will further strengthen their commitment to achieving at the top academic levels.

Needham High School hosts a series of programs called "Join the Conversation" for the purpose of providing opportunities for students and adults to discuss issues related to equity. On January 8, 2019 from 2:45 to 3:45pm, the topic was gender equity. While it is challenging to share personal experiences and discuss challenging topics in a group setting, those who came together found it to be a safe space to share perceptions, hopes, and fears (within and beyond the school); to listen thoughtfully; and to reflect meaningfully.

Back in December 2017, Needham High School students protested incidents of racially charged and homophobic graffiti by walking out of classes. It was not easy to manage the many perspectives, emotions, and anxieties of almost 1,700 adolescents, but staff provided support and encouragement, and had high expectations for students' behavior, including how they were expected to treat one another in a kind, caring, respectful way that acknowledged and honored human differences. The NHS staff developed a protocol to follow when offensive graffiti is reported at school.

HEALTH SERVICES has increased visuals and resources  in each of the health offices to make all students feel welcome. Examples include the availability of different skin tone bandages for students to choose from; visible posters that say "Welcome" in different languages; resource books for students; and each clinic now has a Cultural Health Assessment pocket guide that depicts the health customs, language, and beliefs of populations from more than 170 countries.

K-5, 6-8, AND 9-12 MATH CHAIRS/COORDINATORS met with Boston resident families in Boston to describe the K-12 math program and share options for their children. Families engaged in doing some math as the staff illustrated the connection of math concepts at each level. In addition, the participants reflected on how Needham Public Schools does/does not meet the needs of our Boston-resident students and families.

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