Research Studies Supporting the Need for this Work

Hi Friends,
We have some small group meetings coming up. These meetings are set up for open chats about anything the attendees want to discuss. If you prefer to meet up with me one-on-one, let me know and we’ll get something set up. I have found that verbal, in-person conversations often help us face our biases and assumptions in a way that leads to acceptance and empowerment rather than denial or depression.
I had a few additional resources to share about the gifted program information I shared last week:
(1) “Students in Poverty Less Likely to be Identified as Gifted” by Kenneth Best in UConn Today.
(2) “Is There a Gifted Gap?” by Christopher Yaluma and Adam Tyner in Fordham Institute report.
(3) “Is My Child Gifted?” by Adrienne Wichard-Edds in Arlington Magazine.
You also might have seen an article in the Washington Post this week regarding a report from the Equality of Opportunity Project that stated that white and black children (boys in particular) raised in the same neighborhoods and the same family incomes still end up with significant disparities in their incomes as adults. The work to change our culture, to embrace the truth of systemic racism and discrimination, is what can start to address these awful truths. The perceived threat from black men has driven many of our social problems and the conversations we have with those around us about these issues matters.
One of our members pointed out the cover story in The Washington Post Magazine, “Sharing the Wealth” by Kitson Jazynka about parents raising money for public schools.
I also heard about the death of Arnold Hirsch, an urban historian who wrote about urban segregation in Chicago, housing segregation, and other systemic racism issues. His most popular book “Making the Second Ghetto” may be worth a read.
I came across an article about some research conducted by the Anna E. Casey Foundation (“Disparities Persist for Children of Color, Immigrant Children” in Philanthropy News Digest) and followed up on the Foundation to see what other work they do on these issues. I am so excited about the resources they have been creating since 2006 and before! Check out their Equity and Inclusion work, and the related Race Matters Institute.
I also had the opportunity to read Sonya Douglass Horsford’s 2011 book Learning in a Burning House: Educational Inequality, Ideology, and (Dis)Integration, which is a wonderfully researched resource that includes perspectives of Black superintendents from around the country who also experienced segregated schools in their childhoods. A few highlights: (1) the important difference between desegregation and integration; (2) the failure of desegregation to equitably distribute resources to all schools for all children; (3) the distraction from discussing the realities of race and racism, which are replaced with terms like diversity and inclusion, which avoid meaningful dialogue and change; and, (4) the devastating impact of desegregation on Black educators and Black communities. I really recommend it (and it’s only 107 pages)!
Keep engaging!

Gifted Programs and the Need to Focus on ALL Students, Not Just Yours

Hi Friends!
I hope you all had a good weekend despite the time change (it’s so particularly disruptive on families with young kids!). I’ve been making some new connections and I have some updates to share with you.
I had a chance to meet with the Resource Teacher for the Gifted at my daughter’s school last week. He was eager to chat with me after I asked him about equity within schools, particularly related to gifted programs, which historically have been predominantly white, even in well-integrated or majority-POC school populations. We had a really encouraging conversation. He spoke about how the school district has endorsed a program that seeks to identify students of many different types of “gifted” qualities and that their program is to cluster groups of gifted students together within their normal classrooms, thereby avoiding a “pull-out” situation and allowing all of the students in the classroom to benefit from the additional enrichment provided by the gifted resource teachers. My understanding is that every school now has a dedicated full-time staff person for this purpose.
However, he also acknowledged that this is new and has not been rolled out consistently at all of our district’s schools yet. I’d love to hear about your experiences, whether you want to set up a meeting with this staff person at your school, or whether you want to contact the overall district office. I would also like to hear from those of you who are elsewhere in VA and what your experiences have been. This is one of those areas where we can push for more inclusive policies in a small way that can significantly impact the student body at a school or in an entire district.
I also had the good fortune to be connected to one of our School Board members over the weekend. We had a productive conversation and he had some suggestions of where we might want to focus our efforts as we try to address segregation in our schools. He sees three tools that the School Board can use to make change in our county: (1) buses, (2) boundaries, and (3) options. Given the history and negative associations with busing (and the associated expense), he doesn’t see that one being very productive. There are ways to draw the boundaries to improve integration in our schools (the north-south lines instead of the east-west lines, for example), but that also connects to the busing issue, and can actually impact lower-income communities more negatively than communities with more flexibility and transportation options.
That leaves us with options. The middle schools in the south side of the county all have specialties that attract north side families to them. The elementary schools (except for immersion) are not currently used much as option schools, but that could change depending on how the School Board evaluates the boundaries and purposes of those schools, which is happening right now. We can make our voices heard, to provide a balance and second priority next to the HUGE push for proximity (which is supported by a majority of local families, from all backgrounds), for improving integration by improving the choices and option schools and attracting more north side families to south side schools (without pushing out local students, so this would mean expanding capacity at those schools).
I do realize that this likely means increasing the student body size at schools that are already feeling overcrowded. I’m sure there are other drawbacks I haven’t considered and I would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know if you want to work on this in more detail with me — I’m planning to put something together to present to the School Board soon.
The bottom line for the activism we can each do for our schools is to have conversations with our fellow parents about how better integrated schools are better for EVERY STUDENT. We are not adequately preparing our children for the world they will enter if they are only used to interacting with people who are very similar to them.This is the cultural change we need to encourage and I believe that many many families are open to hearing this message, especially if we can empower them to become active in supporting School Board and County efforts to make the changes necessary to address this.
I really enjoyed reading about a New Orleans chef’s sociology experiment recently in The Washington Post. I thought his observations about the power of social pressure was very interesting — and maybe something we can use to encourage our community members/friends/family to confront privilege and their role in addressing systemic discrimination in a way that engages them.
I came across this article in Medium that describes the connection between today’s gun culture and racism. I thought it would be a nice tie-in for our group since I know many of you are becoming increasingly vocal in the movement for gun control.
One of our members sent a story to me about a school district in Wisconsin that had a very strong reaction to a discussion about white privilege. Finding a way to engage with the truth of privilege and encourage others to do the same is what our group is all about.
Keep pushing yourselves to engage with this material and to push through the negative feelings that arise. It is hard to look privilege and racist bias in the face, but it is necessary if anything is going to change. Use the power you have been given to make the world better for everyone.

Making Connections in the Community

Hi Friends,
Thank you to those of you who were able to attend our large group meeting last week. It was a great success and we heard helpful things from the Chair of our County Board as well as many attendees about efforts taking place in our community around housing, as well as guidance about where our efforts might be particularly helpful. She encouraged us to show up for County meetings (those who come are not representative of our county), send emails (they read every one), and suggested getting involved in our civic associations since this is currently a primary way the County learns about what the community wants/thinks.
I am particularly excited about the connections people were making with each other at our meeting — the essence of the coalition piece our group hopes to encourage!
I was reminded of an Embrace Race conversation on integrating public schools back in September 2017. You can read the transcript or view the recording here. I think it’s particularly interesting because it has clear steps towards integration as well as a very strong push for including students in the movement, which as we have seen in recent weeks, is a very powerful source of energy and passion.
Shaun King shared his new endeavor, which has great insights into how we can direct our effort and what kind of effort he thinks is most effective for addressing these really difficult challenges.
A member shared Coming to the Table with me, which is a national organization that “provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” They have a national convention in Harrisonburg, Virginia this summer from June 14–17 and there’s a NOVA chapter based in Vienna that meets the second Monday of every month. I’ll share more as I get more connected with the group.
I saw a story in the Washington Post about an event on the Mall on April 4 about Christian groups encouraging their members to confront their own racism. I’ll be curious to see how this takes place. Are any of you planning on attending?
To follow up on our housing discussions, I have two relevant articles for you:
(1) “Who Gets to Live Where, and Why? The Answer May Be Settled By Our Narratives.” by Tiffany Manuel in Shelterforce. She examines public narratives around gentrification and how they create backfire in the discourse about housing issues in communities and how to navigate around them. This is a really great resource as we incorporate housing issues into our educational equality conversations and advocacy.
(2) “Black Homeownership and the American Dream: An Expert Dialogue”in How Housing Matters. This touches on many of the issues facing black homeowners and explores in detail some of the nuances and policies that have affected homeownership ability.
I wanted to remind everyone that the school district is taking feedback on its Strategic Plan again until March 12. Please weigh in on their goals. I wrote in emphasizing addressing equity (in implementation and not just words), supporting our teachers, addressing facilities disparities, and engaging families and communities of color intentionally and adequately. They listen to our feedback, so please use your voice to advocate for those who are not always heard.
Our county is currently taking feedback on its Capital Improvement Plan (which includes funding for schools), so please send them your thoughts.
Please keep sharing about our group and keep making connections with community members about these issues. Our impact is growing and every conversation we have about racism and inequity is a step forward. Keep pushing and lean on us when you grow weary.