Integrating Schools and Measuring School Quality

Hi Friends!
I met last week with a County Board member to let him know about our group and our efforts. He was very receptive and agrees that there are better ways for the County and the school district to coordinate. We talked about funding, improving school choice, and possibilities around mixed use of school buildings (like community access after school hours). I found it to be a productive conversation and he’s glad to know that our group exists and is doing this important work!
The school district released the state SOL pass rate results last week and I wanted to share some data they did not explicitly include in their press release. First, here’s the statewide data about test pass rates broken down by race, economic status, and ability status. Second, here’s the link for creating your own reports (although I didn’t quickly find a way to have the data broken down by those same categories in a single district or school). I am curious how our community compares to the state in these scores, particularly for those noted as economically disadvantaged, English learners, disabled, and also by race. If anyone in the group can find this (or crunch the numbers if you want to spend the time), I’d love to see it.
It is also important to note the significant disadvantages to using standardized tests to measure student achievement, outlined well in this article and I’m sure you can find many more, but of particular interest to this group is the fact that tests are skewed towards privileged children (racially, economically, etc.) and that low test scores are often used to label schools as underperforming, which further exacerbates segregation and disparities among schools.
I have updated the resource list (finally!), so if there’s something you saw in one of my emails, they’re all on that list now (plus more). Check it out when you have a chance.
There are some events coming up that I’d like to share with everyone:
(1) Housing Solutions for Arlington’s “Missing” Middle Class, hosted by the League of Women’s Voters of Arlington on Saturday, September 15 from 1–3 pm.
(2) Saturday, September 8th from 1–3 pm for a special viewing of the award-wining documentary, “The Uncomfortable Truth: 400 Years of Racism in America.” The audience will be joined by award winning writer/director Loki Mulholland for discussion after the film.
(3) The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington and the Arlington Historical Society are hosting a conversation called “Desegregating Arlington School Sports” on Thursday, September 13 from 7–9 pm.
(4) Arlington Action Group is hosting an Allyship Workshop facilitated by Service Never Sleeps on Saturday, September 29 from 10 am-3 pm.
I have more resources for you:
(1) The SPLC wrote an important reminder about prison labor over the weekend.
(2) I received a copy of a report from a committee to the school district’s Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Students, which includes the committee’s recommendations from April 2018. It’s worth a read.
(3) The ACLU shared a national report on “Race, Discipline, and Safety at U.S. Public Schools,” which I think is a must read for all of us with school-aged children and/or anyone involved in education in any way. I did a quick search and Virginia is one of the worst five states for Black students in the nation. It is also one of the worst five states for students with disabilities.
(4) The Prison Strike is not being well-publicized. Please read up here.
I listened to the Chris Hayes podcast with Nikole Hannah-Jones all the way through finally (it took me a while because I couldn’t resist taking notes), and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s a lively conversation about the history of segregation in schools and debunks some of the myths around integrating schools. Housing and schools are the third rails of politics because they are inextricably linked and are central to the white supremacist system that our country is based on.
This structure of inequality is largely invisible, which is why it takes both collective political desire AND individual choices to change it. If you feel like your individual effort cannot make a difference, it can. Our faith in public schools needs to rest on the system as a public good, which means that it must serve ALL students. One statement that jumped out at me was that equality to someone with privilege looks like loss, especially before you get to equality (this is what the statement “It’s not pie” tries to address). Everyone wins only after we get past that line, and crossing it is extraordinarily difficult.
But that is why we must try. That is why we must talk to our friends and neighbors. That is why when the school district proposes boundary changes, we should raise our voices in support of integrating schools, even if it means that our child will go what I’m going to call a “less resourced school.” Our voices will do more good supporting all of our community’s children rather than only supporting our own. I know that sounds nuts as a parent. I also think it is true.
Listen, Amplify, Follow

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