Prince George’s County Public Schools unveiled a new equity dashboard and community-based survey system Thursday to address growing academic inequities in the county that have been exacerbated since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative is a key part of the county’s “Transformation 2026” strategic plan, a roadmap developed in 2021 to close the achievement gap within a five-year period.

The new dashboard, developed by Arlington-based firm Hanover Research, displays various datasets, including state assessment results, student grades and post-secondary enrollment, and breaks down each respective category by demographic, highlighting academic gaps through color encodings. Each dataset can be further examined by sorting by school, year and grade.

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Currently, the dashboard is only available for internal use by the county, but officials are hoping for a public dashboard in the next calendar year.

David Rease, PGCPS’ equity and excellence office director, hopes the new initiative would help illuminate inequities in the school system and better equip the county to develop targeted policies to address the concerns.

“My job … is to push conversations to a place of discomfort, sometimes, so that we can have rich and honest discourse around what our strengths are and what the myriad of opportunities for success are in our school district,” Rease said.

In addition to the dashboard, the school system developed a survey for PGCPS staff, students and community members to understand inequities schools observe on a daily basis.

The survey has been distributed to community members, and more than 3,000 responses are being analyzed by both PGCPS staff members and Hanover Research analysts, according to Rease.

While the dashboard and survey have been in use by the county since 2021, the school system officially announced the plan last week after a request by the county’s board of education for an equity audit during the 2023 budgeting session.

In response to the audit request, PGCPS chief human resources officer Dr. Kristi Murphy Baldwin emphasized that such a request was unnecessary due to the steps taken by the school system.

“We shared that the work had been done and helped us to develop what Prince George’s County is very proud of under Dr. [Monica] Goldson’s leadership … an equity-based strategic plan,” Baldwin said.

But, the nearly two-year delay in informing the school board about the initiative puzzled school board members.

District 4 school board member Shayla Adams-Stafford applauded the school system for the development of the dashboard and community feedback survey to tackle academic inequities. However, Adams-Stafford questioned why the school board did not have access to the dashboard to guide policy decisions.

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“Knowing that this was completed in 2021, I wish that we could have had this session probably a little bit earlier,” Adams-Stafford said. “I’m just hoping that going forward, we can have a more open and transparent opportunity to engage with this great work that you are doing.”

Aside from the concerns over the delay, school board members overwhelmingly supported the initiative itself.

At-large school board member Curtis Valentine highlighted that the dashboard could serve multiple purposes, including being another metric for evaluating principals.

Understanding the academic growth over time at a specific school could help in further incentivizing schools for higher performance, leading to higher morale, Valentine said.

Adams-Stafford also commended the county as a whole for its leadership in challenging academic inequities across the state of Maryland.

“Compared to districts across the nation, PGCPS is really doing an amazing job of really confronting equity challenges,” she said.

Moving forward, school board members and county officials will discuss policy recommendations made by Hanover Research based on the dashboard and survey results at the March 23 school board meeting.