Thankfully, many school districts are focusing on equity for students, and while we must continue to advocate for equity at all levels, we all tend to focus the majority of our efforts on the systems within our control. It just so happens that many student information systems can add customized fields and reports, which will afford us the opportunity to accurately report race and gender, without disenfranchising our students.
This very topic arose at our monthly principal meeting this morning, and here’s the crux of the issue: We need to meet our state reporting obligations such as MARSS, by using state-required data elements, yet we need to acknowledge our students’ identities. We are talking about more than just data fields in a database; we’re talking about the livelihood of our students.
Imagine that you are a student who is bi-racial and identifies as a female, yet when you log into your district’s student information system and look at your student profile, you’re listed as “Black” for your race and a “Male” for your gender. Would you feel better if I just explained to you why the system works the way it does? I don’t think so.
We need to customize our student information systems, whenever possible, to reframe how we track data, so we are not continuing to marginalize students and perpetuate systemic inequities. When we continue to use mandatory student information systems that do not possess customization capabilities, we need to advocate for these changes with the vendors on behalf of the students we serve.
The bottom line is that modifying these systems that have been in place for so long will result in extra work for everyone involved, yet it is the right work to do so let’s hunker down and do it.