Event Summary and Takeaways

Hi Friends!
I hope all of you are doing well. We had a great event last weekend with IntegratedSchools.org and I’d like to spend this update discussing some of the things that came up at that meeting. Also, thank you again to the group members who helped me put the event together!
We had a nice mix of families with rising kindergartners who will be new to the school district and some of our existing group members who wanted to be part of the conversation as well. I gave a quick snapshot of some local statistics, which I’m including here for your reference:
  • Arlington has nine Title I schools (40% or more economically disadvantaged (ED) students), eight of which are south of Route 50.
  • Last year’s Elementary School PTA budgets ranged from $20,000 to $190,000; spending ranged from $42 to $304 per student.
  • In our Elementary Schools, at the ten schools located south of Route 50, the average %ED students is 52% (ranging from 25–84%) and white students make up 27.6% of the student body. At the 13 schools located north of Route 50, the average %ED students is 19% (ranging from 2–62%) and white students make up 59.9% of the student body. At all 23 of the elementary schools overall, the average %ED students is 34% and white students make up 47.8% of the student body.
Some other takeaways:
  • I didn’t know previously about the Even Start free family literacy program for Arlington residents with children under age 10, which teaches immigrant families to advocate, and has native and non-native English speaking parents partnering with each other to help immigrant families learn English.
  • APS not taking responsibility for running excellent schools at schools where the student body is predominantly students of color. This was a perspective shared by one of our group members who has been working on issues of educational equity for a long time, but it could also be interpreted to mean “schools with high populations of children of color are not excellent” which I was definitely not intending to perpetuate. Those of us who attend schools with high populations of children of color in Arlington can attest to this. However, I think the original point gets to the fact that inequities in resources and support do exist and that we need to encourage school leadership to own and acknowledge this in order to address it adequately. One of the ways in which choosing integration can make a difference is that privileged (white) families bring with them the benefits of their privilege (whether they want to or not). The focus needs to be on advocating for equitable education for all students.
  • One of the participants noted that the meeting had only white attendees and asked “Do integrated schools matter to families of color?” This was a particularly interesting question and I think it boils down to this — any school will welcome parents who come to participate in the existing community, who do not come to colonize or to “fix” the school, but to use their voices to advocate for addressing inequities and bringing equitable resources to that school to serve all of its students.
  • We asked the group what some of their fears and concerns were about attending an integrating school. One of the questions was about how to connect to the community when there are language barriers, and the response was largely to make yourself available and be open and to keep trying to make a connection.
  • We agreed that our children are a huge motivator to work hard to participate in their school community.
  • There were also concerns expressed around affordable housing and early childhood education.
If you attended, please feel free to add your impressions and observations to the group.
I’m interested in hosting another discussion like this one in late February or early March, to encourage families to visit their neighborhood schools and to create their own criteria about how their school choice can reflect their families’ values. There are multiple opportunities for families to visit the schools they are considering and I’d like to provide more chances to support those who are considering integration and/or choosing their neighborhood schools.
If you attend an integrating school or a school that has a high transfer-out rate in the neighborhood, consider putting yourself out there on your neighborhood email list or other communications about how much you love your school or about your choice to attend it or anything else you want to share. It can be really encouraging and a good counterpoint to some of the messages families will hear about “good schools” and “bad schools” in Arlington. Simply offering another perspective can be the push someone needs — giving each other permission to do this work and to speak up against systems of oppression.
Some upcoming events and resources:
(1) Volunteer Arlington is hosting an MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 21. Of particular interest is the program “Advocacy and Activism Panel and the Legacy of Dr. King” which is hosted by a group member and the panel includes another of our group members.
(2) EmbraceRace presentation on January 22 — “How Children Learn About Race” with Margaret Hagerman (author of White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege) and Erin Winkler (author of Learning Race, Learning Place: Shaping Racial Identities and Ideas in African American Childhoods).
(3) SURJ DC is hosting an Orientation/Welcome Session on January 27.
(4) The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is hosting a presentation on Frederick Douglass on February 15.
(5) Black Lives Matter DC is marching in the annual MLK Parade on Monday, January 21. Even if you aren’t able to attend, click on the link and read about the #ReclaimMLK movement.
Stay warm out there!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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