About Equity Audits and Assessments
Equity assessments, sometimes also called "equity audits" or "climate assessments," involve collecting and analyzing information, usually through multiple data-gathering processes, in order to determine the extent to which a school, college, program, or other entity is equitable to each member of the community. The provide opportunities for deep examinations of all aspects of an educational institution, from curriculum and pedagogy to policy to "climate," to uncover institutional strengths and weaknesses related to equity.
The Equity Literacy Institute team has decades of experience working with schools, districts, colleges, universities, and nonprofits to design and implement equity assessments. These assessments can be extensive and broad, incorporating a wide variety of data-gathering and formal reports, or more limited in scope, focusing on individual programs or initiatives.
Unique Characteristics of Our Assessment Approach
Our approach to equity assessment is unique in several ways:
Our team combines formal training in assessment and evaluation with expertise in equity and justice. The former equips us with the requisite skills to create original and credible instruments for data collection (such as surveys and focus group protocols) and to perform rigorous qualitative and quantitative data analysis. The latter equips us with the requisite knowledge to connect our analyses to pragmatic, research-supported recommendations for putting assessment findings to work strengthening institutional equity.
We never use "canned" assessment instruments. Instead, we work with you to create surveys, focus group protocols, and other data collection instruments that reflect the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in your specific context.
Because we develop original instruments for each context, we can create a variety of instruments even within one particular school or organization. The goal is to make each instrument relevant and accessible to various constituencies, from elementary school students to parents to university administrators.
Many models for equity assessment focus solely on one or two equity concerns such as race or gender. Our assessments are designed to help institutions explore a broader spectrum of equity issues and their intersections, including religion, home language, socioeconomic status, immigrant status, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, gender identity, and race.
We understand the importance of employing varied methods for data collection, both qualitative and quantitative. We have expertise and experience using and combining a broad array of methods (discussed in more detail below).
We focus not only on carrying out an assessment, but also on preparing schools and other organizations to build an on-going assessment process. Once you have hired us to design or implement an assessment, the instruments are yours to keep and reuse.
We imagine "constituencies" broadly. For educational organizations, these might include families, alumni, students who transferred or left school early, and others. For organizations they might include community members and former employees. Decisions on which constituencies we include in an assessment are made in consultation with the hiring institution.
Examples of Our Data Collection Techniques
As mentioned above, we have the expertise and experience to collect data in a variety of ways, both qualitative and quantitative. All decisions about which techniques to use, and with which constituencies to use them, are made in collaboration with the hiring school or organization. They include:
Paper or Online Surveys
We use a variety of close-ended item-types as well as open-ended short-answer items. Surveys are designed for age- and context-appropriateness.
We prefer to conduct focus groups in various identity-specific combinations as well as open focus groups in which any member of a school or community can participate.
We conduct formal interviews as well as informal interviews. We facilitate the latter by spending time at the school or organization, making ourselves visible and available to anybody who would like to share their experiences with us. We find that this is an important way to capture data on the sorts of issues about which we might not have thought to ask during formal data collection processes.
Site Visits (Ethnographic Observations)
During each assessment process we dedicate time to what might be described as "ethnographic" observations, spending time at the school or organization as a way to get a feel for institutional culture, institutional processes, other dynamics that are difficult to capture with more traditional data-gathering initiatives. This also allows us to make ourselves available to various constituencies in order to answer questions about the assessment.
We perform a line-by-line analysis of "official" documents, such as staff and student handbooks, mission and vision statements, and harassment reporting protocols. Often we find examples of bias hidden implicitly in such documents or in processes for enforcing (or not enforcing) them.
When we are facilitating a climate assessment at a school, we can evaluate all matter of curricular materials, from course descriptions and syllabi to student assessment techniques. In addition, we visit classes in order to provide feedback on pedagogy, student engagement, and curricula.