Inequity Studies and Local School District Disparities

Hi Friends!
I attended the SURJ NoVa meeting on Sunday and it was a good experience. There were people there who were seasoned activists in dismantling white supremacy and there were new people who were just exploring the issues. We had good conversations about the many manifestations of racism in schools (primary and secondary) and brainstormed possible ways to address those issues. I also made some connections with new people, so we’re expanding our network!
One of our members let me know about an event through a local library reading program with Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law” this Thursday, May 3.
Here’s an encouraging choice by Montgomery County, MD. The article references similar activity in Fairfax County — maybe we pressure our county to do something similar, as long as it isn’t just words but translates into action?
Another study was published on discriminatory discipline practices in public schools. One of our members let me know about a new database from the Department of Education on racial disparities in schools. You can search for a school or a district. When reviewing the results for our district, I was struck by how awful the in-school and out-of-school suspension discrepancies are (a national problem, of course). This is another area we can focus on in our schools and another clear example of disparities in our school system.
And in Maryland, teachers are finding that low-income students struggle with computer-based tests.
One of our members let me know about a local news article about the elementary schools that are being considered as option schools. The linked analysis that the school district posted on April 30 is illuminating as well. Of note is this bullet point:

Our community seeks to reduce the proportion of economically disadvantaged students concentrated in some schools, a measure supported by research into student outcomes. Across all school levels, 30% of Arlington students are identified as economically disadvantaged. At the elementary level during the 2017–18 school year, the number of students who receive Free and Reduced Lunch ranges from 2% at Tuckahoe to 83% at Carlin Springs. Staff will work closely with instructional leaders to explore whether moving any option programs to new sites can improve this dynamic.” 
There is also a promising priority to locate Spanish immersion program schools closer to native Spanish speaking communities (and some concern about moving too many option schools to the south side of the county because it might displace students who live there).
There is quite a bit of interesting information about transfer rates by school (surprise! The highest transfer rates are OUT of the schools with higher % economically disadvantaged students, and we’re talking over 40% of the students in that school’s boundaries for some of them). It’s worth a read if you have time.
Related to that, I meant to say in my last update that one of our members had written to the School Board members advocating for a focus on all of our students and ensuring that all of them are provided with the same quality of education. The SB members will be hearing so much from individual school and neighborhood communities advocating for themselves, and I’ve been thinking lately that our best interest, in light of the exponential student enrollment growth and budget shortfalls, will be to work with the community as a whole in mind as we have this opportunity to restructure, reorient, and refocus on making addressing inequities part of all of the changes we face.
Every single household in our community will be affected by the upcoming changes and we will be strongest if we can face these adjustments with the entire community in mind rather than fighting each other for every crumb. If you read the letter sent out by the Superintendent and the Chair of the School Board yesterday, they are concerned about disrespect being shown for some district schools and have encouraged everyone to accept that we are facing a community-wide effort that will change things for everyone. That said, we must also continue to amplify and listen to our disadvantaged communities because their voices will still likely not be heard as loudly as our own (speaking from a white=privileged perspective).
One of our members shared this article about assumptions about students with lower test scores. Embedded in the article is an idea that some schools/districts are trying, which has also been advocated by one or two of our members, which is that the lottery for option schools should set aside 25–30% of the spots for economically disadvantaged children. This would be a step towards ensuring better integration (besides the immersion schools which already function at 50/50 native/non-native Spanish speakers) at those schools. It is worth bringing this up to our school board as they consider elementary school changes.
The Washington Post had an interesting article about diversity and race distributions in major cities recently.
I have added the Poor People’s Campaign to our resource list as another national organization that is working on systemic racism issues. I also wanted to note that Safety Pin Box (which we have recommended as a resource) closed its business as of May 1.
In the interest of accountability, Fairfax NAACP has a great list of their advocacy agenda so you can see the issues that they are prioritizing and think about ways in which you might be able to support these efforts in your community.
Thanks for working on these issues!

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