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Why did Texarkana ISD hide collaboration agreement with Equal Opportunity Schools?

Jun 10, 2022

In 2021, Texarkana ISD signed a collaboration agreement with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a Seattle-based, non-profit organization promoting equity and social justice that downplays class grades and test scores. But you won't find any mention of it on the TISD website.

TISD allowed EOS to survey each high school student, and the school district shared identifiable information with EOS on all students, faculty, and staff of Texas High School in Texarkana. In addition, the collaboration agreement required the school district to send EOS all high school student class schedules, test scores, course requests, grades, and photos.

The collaboration does not appear to have been publicly announced anywhere by TISD. Even though the contract was signed a year ago, no evidence could be found on Google or the TISD website that it was publicly announced.

According to the agreement, information about faculty and staff is also required to be sent to Equal Opportunity Schools. This includes staff email addresses. 

No mention of collaboration

TISD did not respond to questions from Texarkana News submitted on June 1 (see questions at the bottom of page). However, we obtained an Equal Opportunity Schools contract signed by an out-of-state school district. 

The agreement from 2021 stated that even if the school district opted out of the collaboration agreement for the next school year, it must provide private student data, including photos, for several more years (probably through 2027) to aid EOS research and the unknown research partners with whom they collaborate.

The only school district mention we could find of EOS was in an article in the April 2022 edition of the high school student newspaper, Tiger Times, which was non-searchable on Google and in the print edition. However, EOS hosted a webinar featuring Texarkana to advertise its services to other school districts - also in April 2022. 

The equity organization also advocates a multi-year equity plan for schools to support diversity, including teaching non-minority students about racial issues. 

One resource suggested for faculty and staff by EOS includes: "Why White Students Need Multicultural and Social Justice Education."

Mindset?

The stated goal of Equal Opportunity Schools is to increase the participation of minority and low-income students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, EOS goes further. It seeks to determine and eventually shift the mindset of students, teachers, and staff towards its equity and diversity goals.

Every student is given a survey that takes less than an hour during the fall semester. EOS says the survey correlates with a "proprietary" program to allegedly find "missing students" who might qualify for AP classes. Faculty and staff are also given surveys.

EOS seems to believe schools across America are still segregated. So when the organization wants to renew a partnership agreement, it asks if the district wants to: "continue the process of desegregation by identifying additional new students."

But the EOS surveys given to students have been alleged to ask students very private questions regarding mental health. A surreptitiously taken photo of an alleged online survey posted on Twitter showed a few questions asking students their level of agreement with the following statements:

  • I have a hard time breaking habits.
  • People would say that I have very strong self-control.
  • I get distracted easily.
  • Even if I know something is wrong I can't stop myself from doing it.

Student with 1.77 GPA qualifies for an AP class?

In the case of Texarkana, a video obtained by Texarkana News showed an Equal Opportunity Schools employee discussing a possible candidate for an AP class with a 1.77 GPA. This is because EOS relies heavily on the "mindset" determined in the survey. The theory seems to be that if students say they want to be rocket scientists, they should be put in the classes to get them there - no matter their previous grades or test scores. 

In an article in the publication Tableau, EOS President Sasha Rabkin explained: "Black and brown students are achieving, but what we realized is that they're often doing so in spite of the system that is still designed to exclude them. Advanced courses in high school are created to be exclusive."

According to the article, Rabkin included affluent, white, and Asian students as "exclusive" students. 

Curiously, Equal Opportunity Schools mix white and Asian data in some published charts. This is unusual because Asian students are classified as a minority group. And it would seem antithetical to an organization representing minorities to lump Asian and white students together.

Equity doesn't mean equal

All TISD high school students spend about an hour answering the EOS survey on a computer, and their private, identifiable details are shared with the equity organization. Because of the collaboration agreement, EOS believes it does not violate student privacy laws and/or FERPA. Texarkana News has also learned that TISD did not seek parent permission for the surveys or data sharing - likely due to the stealthily-signed collaboration agreement.

Even though EOS has all the data needed to help everyone, only minorities and low-income students (apparently based on reduced or free lunch data) will receive attention from EOS and TISD in this program.

However, the mass amounts of data of non-minority students (who are not on free/reduced lunches) are used by EOS to help further its goal of data collection. The social justice organization continually asks collaboration partners to ensure that "ALL" student and faculty data is included. EOS even requires teacher and staff email addresses.

"We are driven by data," proclaims EOS in all capital letters across many documents.

But assisting all students does not seem to be the goal of EOS. In fact, the Senior Director of Strategy of EOS told The Road Map Project in May 2021 that citizens should "drop our obsession with treating all students' equally' and truly commit to 'equity.'"

In the same article, the top strategy official also said: "If I could make one immediate change to our education system, I'd get rid of gerrymandering school assignments, leveled or neighborhood-based funding, and standardized testing."

She would get rid of standardized testing? Really?

Infamous partners

Equal Opportunity Schools attracted the attention of the Chan Zuckerburg initiative, which is the foundation of Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The foundation is most famous for funding approximately $400 million to help "educate voters" and "help" election officials in the 2020 U.S. Election. Headlines from liberal and conservative media sites credit the foundation with the victory of Joe Biden in 2020.

And the foundation seems to love the mission of Equal Opportunity Schools. According to the Chan Zuckerburg foundation website: "Increasing enrollment is important, but... getting underrepresented students into advanced courses is often just the beginning of a school's equity journey. That's why EOS takes schools through a four-phase Action for Equity approach that focuses on boosting student well-being and developing an equity culture focused on continuous improvement."

Of course, the foundation has provided much money to EOS.

Deep integration

Equal Opportunity Schools has integrated deeply into around 700 high schools across America in more than 200 school districts. Another 100 schools are set to come on board this year. Each school district pays and/or receives a grant to fund an EOS employee who travels to the school (physically or virtually) to guide the school through its "equity journey." School districts also pay a yearly fee of $27,000 or less, which apparently pays for half of the annual program. A grant usually pays for the rest, which does not include the EOS liaison and that person's travel costs.

Near the end of the Texarkana webinar from Equal Opportunity Schools, an employee of the non-profit said that every liaison working directly with school districts and high schools is a social justice advocate.

Equal Opportunity Schools also develops relationships with trusted adults in Texas High School - called "advocates." The trusted adults talk to students and are supposed to go back to the EOS portal and report findings - which gives EOS even more private information about students.

This is their reading list?

Equal Opportunity Schools asks Texarkana ISD and its partner schools to include 29 books on its faculty and staff reading lists. The choice of books illustrates a social and political point of view that may be generally well-regarded in Seattle but is quite radical for Texarkana. Here is a list of most of the books EOS says partner schools should consider for faculty and administration reading lists:

  • Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda Lewis and John Diamond
  • How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon
  • Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood by Christopher Emdin
  • Confronting White Nationalism in Schools
  • Click here How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi
  • The Privileged Poor by Anthony Abraham Jack
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Lynn Hammond
  • I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
  • We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Racism without Racists – by Eduardo Bonilla Silva
  • Learning in a Burning House, by Sonya Douglass Horsford
  • Culture and Power in the Classroom, by Antonia Darder

EOS Schools in Texas and Arkansas

Texarkana is not the only school district in Texas (or Arkansas) that has partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools.

However, parents and voters are unaware that students' photos and private data are being sent to the Seattle racial equity organization. Most are also unaware of the pressure put on teachers and staff to conform to the principles of Equal Opportunity Schools.

According to its website, partner districts of Equal Opportunity Schools include:

Arkansas

  • Bentonville School District 
  • Fayetteville School District 
  • Jonesboro Public Schools
  • Searcy Public Schools

Texas

  • Arlington ISD
  • Austin ISD
  • Comal ISD 
  • Crowley ISD 
  • Galveston ISD
  • Lamar CISD 
  • Leander ISD
  • Plano ISD
  • Spring ISD 
  • Texarkana ISD
  • Wylie ISD

Data required by EOS

Equal Opportunity Schools wants lots of private information about students in partner schools. Here is a graphic from the organization showing a list of information EOS intends to use to study students in Texarkana.

No answers from Superintendent and TISD

Texarkana News emailed a list of 15 questions to Superintendent Doug Brubaker and communications director Todd Marshall on June 1 regarding its collaboration partner Equal Opportunity Schools. The next day a call was made to the superintendent's assistant, and questions were re-submitted. At press time on June 10, TISD had not responded to any questions. The 15 questions sent to the school district can be read at the bottom of the page. 

List of questions we submitted to TISD on June 1, 2022 - with no reply

1. Does TISD believe the collaboration is successful?
2. According to a webinar, TISD did not ask parents' permission to conduct the surveys. Is this because of a collaboration agreement? Does TISD believe FERPA and state student privacy laws don't apply?
3. Are students required to take the survey?
4. Are teachers and staff required to take the survey?
5. Under the current collaboration agreement, what is the data-sharing end date? Is it the 2026-27 school year or earlier/later? Was the cost of the collaboration $27,000? Or more/less?
6. There is no mention on Google of the collaboration until the webinar in April. There is also no mention at all on the TISD website about Equal Opportunity Schools that could be found except for one statement in a non-searchable edition of the Tiger Times. Where was this collaboration announced?
7. Did the TISD School Board authorize and/or vote on this collaboration?
8. Do you have a list of questions asked by Equal Opportunity Schools to students? If not, how do you know that state and federal privacy laws do not apply?
9. Does Equal Opportunity Schools regularly email the Advocates/Trusted Adults? 
10. Although data is collected from everyone, which students are being left out of the Trusted Adult program?
11. Are Asian students included as minorities and eligible for Trusted Adults?
12. Are non-minority students eligible for the baseball card and Trusted Adult status?
13. Why does Equal Opportunity Schools seem so interested in receiving photos of every student and staff member?
14. Does TISD support the reading list endorsed by Equal Opportunity Schools? Are these books students and staff should be encouraged to read? 
15. After answering the above questions, did Equal Opportunity Schools help prepare, and/or was the non-profit consulted in any way during the preparation of answers to the above questions.

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