Abington School District operates as a ‘fiscal agent’ for University of Pennsylvania’s equity consortium


Abington School District in Pennsylvania acts as a financial intermediary for the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education’s Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity and several school districts in Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to documents shared with Parents Defending Education by a concerned community member.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education opened its Coalition for Educational Equity in 2004, according to the program’s website. It operates at least two equity consortia out of the graduate school: The Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity (DVCEE) and the New Jersey Consortia for Excellence Through Equity (NJCEE). The NJCEE provides services to 42 school districts in the state, according to the program’s website.   

The DVCEE serves 49 school districts in Delaware and Pennsylvania, according to the most recent revenue document Parents Defending Education received. It also works with the Delaware Department of Education, PSEA Mideastern—a chapter of Pennsylvania’s state teachers union—and two county education service providers that support several school districts. Most districts paid the DVCEE $12,000 for annual membership dues during the 2022-2023 school year. 

Abington School District “is DVCEE’s fiscal agent,” Dayna Muñiz, co-director of the Coalition for Educational Equity at UPenn, said in an email thread Parents Defending Education received. School district membership fees, contractor expenses for conference presentations, and other expenses for DVCEE services are funneled through Abington School District.

It is unclear how Abington School District became responsible for the DVCEE’s finances. Tomea Sippio-Smith, the director of UPenn’s Coalition for Educational Equity, was a member of Abington School District’s Equitable Practices Committee, according to an August 26, 2020, “Superintendent’s Administrative Procedure” memo about equity. Amy Sichel, who served as superintendent of Abington School District from 2004 to 2018, is a graduate of the UPenn Graduate School for Education and served as an adjunct professor for the university as late as 2013. 

DVCEE provides several services to mid-Atlantic region school districts. The group launched an equity review program during the 2018-2019 school year called the “DVCEE Equity through Education Quality Review,” which gives districts “a focused examination of equity in school and district opportunity and practice.” The review program assesses districts on one or more of the “Six Goals of Education Equity,” according to the “Process Overview” document, and writes a report of their findings for the district. 

Dr. Robert Jarvis, who then served as the Director of the UPenn Coalition for Education Equity, outlined goals, objectives and commitments in an August 2020 document titled “Educational Equity In School District Policy and Action.” 

The document states that “[e]ducational equity is based on the principles of fairness and justice in allocation of resources, elimination of institutional barriers to access and opportunity, and creation of the real possibility of equality in positive academic and life outcomes for each student and between diverse groups of students…”

The coalition commits itself to several objectives “To Achieve Educational Equity,” including:

  • “Systematically use disaggregated district-wide, school level and individual student level quantitative and qualitative data to inform district, school and classroom decision and monitor progress, i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, (dis)ability, economics, first language, sexual orientation.” 
  • “Raise the measured achievement of all students while systemically narrowing the gap between our lowest and highest performing student groups.” 

The “Superintendent’s Administrative Procedure” memo Parents Defending Education received described Abington School District’s commitment to equity. The district established “the position of District Equity Officer” in November 2019, and Superintendent Jeffrey Fecher established a “Committee for Equitable Practices” which includes dozens of teachers, students, parents, and administrators in the district, as well as members of the community, the NAACP, and the Abington Township Police Department, according to the document. 

The superintendent asked the committee to “Identify and understand district demographics,” “Define equity and recommend a vision for equity for Abington School District,” “Analyze district policies and practices within an equity lens and establish recommendations for revision as appropriate,” and “Develop and recommend an equity action plan and policy for the school district.” 

To do so, the committee must review “Curriculum,” “Discipline,” “Academic Achievement,” and other factors.