Colorado State University Awarded $1.8 Million Grant to Help Public Schools Provide Equal Service to All Students

Colorado State University has received a $1.8 million federal grant to assist public schools across the West with desegregation efforts and to promote equity in education for all students regardless of race, gender or national origin.

The new Equity Assistance Center, scheduled to open July 1 at the Colorado State University Denver Center, will serve public school districts and tribal education agencies across a six-state region that includes Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. The $1.8 million grant will be used to support the center’s programs over a three-year period. The Denver Center is located at 110 16th St.

One priority for the center will be to assist the Denver schools which were released from court-ordered desegregation plans in 1995 but are working to maintain or advance voluntary desegregation. In addition, plans are ongoing to assist the Jefferson County School District.

"Growing numbers of Latino and Asian students have increased the need for national origin services, particularly here in the West," said Rick Ginsberg, director of the School of Education at Colorado State. "Gender equity and racial issues surface at schools in the region, whether for Native Americans in reservation areas or for African Americans in urban settings. This center will help fill the need for information, staff development, technical assistance and leadership in addressing these issues."

The increase of violence in schools, most recently the tragedy in Littleton, also signal the need for improved equity training, Ginsberg said.

The Colorado State University Equity Assistance Center will assist schools in planning and implementing short- and long-range programs aimed at eliminating barriers and inequalities based on race, gender or national origin. Programs will be tailored to the needs and requests of the school districts and other education agencies. Services are available upon request by school districts, state education agencies or tribal education agencies within the region.

The center will have five core staff members: project director Ramon F. Villarreal; equity specialists Elisha G. Semakula, Kathleen C. Rigsby and Jan Perry Evanstad; and technology coordinator Chance W. Lewis.

The center also will draw on the expertise of 30 to 40 special consultants from the university and communities within the center’s service area. In addition to on-site services, the center will provide satellite conferencing and distance learning via the Internet and satellite, technologies that Colorado State already has in place.

The center hopes to help schools address issues including disparity in standardized testing scores for students of color and females; disproportionate suspension, expulsion and dropout rates; racial and sexual harassment; teaching strategies for a diverse population; multicultural curriculum development; attendance; and community and parent involvement.

To target these issues, the center will provide services that include professional development training for educators, program development, policy analysis and consultation on-site or through satellite conferencing. Programs will incorporate opportunities for students to interact in positive ways with students who are different from themselves, with the goal of overcoming prejudices. The center also will provide information through newsletters, a resource center and referrals.

"Colorado State University has abundant resources across campus that will provide support for the activities of the Equity Assistance Center," said Barb Nelson, associate director of the School of Education at Colorado State. "The university has demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to diversity, and through a collaborative effort of many individuals, groups and programs, we’ve made great strides."

The center will draw expertise and resources from Colorado State University’s programs and groups whose missions encompass equity issues. These include the Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity; the President’s Commission on Ethnic Diversity; the Minority Faculty and Staff Caucus; the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research; the student services offices for Asian/Pacific American students, Latino students, international students and Native American students; the Academic Advancement Center; the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies; the Institute for Women in Leadership; and the Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education.

The Colorado State University Equity Assistance Center is one of the country’s ten regional Educational Equity Assistance Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The centers were originally established to aid in the process of mandatory desegregation under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.