Department of Education Planning Equity Audit for Winthrop Public Schools

By Adam Swift

The Winthrop school district will be undergoing an equity audit by the state’s Department of Education, most likely in the spring, according to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard.

The District Accountability Review by the DOE’s Office of the District Review and Monitoring is a typical, state-mandated review that takes place about every six years, Howard told the School Committee at its meeting last week.

“The review includes looking at how the school district is dealing with equity, racial equity and analyzing things in the school to the extent that our staff provides high expectations for our students, that there is access to our students for everything they are entitled to have access to, and to ensure that we are supporting our students to be well-prepared for college, career, and civic participation,” said Howard. “It is somewhat similar to a coordinated program review in special education or the NEAS&C review. The focus areas are a little bit different and their timeframe is a little bit different.”

The audit will look to see if the classrooms are equitable, as well as the classroom sizes, and if the there are enough teachers and materials.

When the auditors arrive in the district, Howard said they look at the school facilities with a walk through, as well as sit in classrooms to see how the district delivers instruction for short periods of time. They will also determine how the instructional delivery is tied into the district’s strategic and school improvement plans.

“They will also look at our budget and how we develop our budget in Winthrop and how it is tied into our strategic and school improvement plans,” said Howard. “They spend about a week here and they typically observe 30 to 50 classrooms for short periods of 15 to 30 minutes.”

Howard said the auditors will also be interviewing the School Committee to get an idea of the committee’s relationship with the district and how information is shared.

Typically, she said it takes about six months to a year to get the audit report back from the state.

“We look at auditing, we’re very used to it, as helpful to us,” said Howard. “We only see what we see when we look in the mirror, so it’s definitely helpful to have somebody from the outside to come in and take a look at how we do things and give us suggestions for improvement.”

The auditing process is still in the very early stages, Howard said.

“The notification always sends shivers up your spine because it is one more thing that you have to do when you don’t have time to do it, but we have learned that some of these can be quite valuable,” Howard said.

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