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Changes Proposed to APS Boundary Policy

by Katie Pyzyk October 10, 2012 at 11:15 am 5,489 43 Comments

Arlington Public Schools is moving ahead with its boundary change process at a meeting next week. But before new boundaries are drawn up, the overall boundary policy is being revised.

At the School Board meeting last Thursday (October 4), staff presented proposed changes to the boundary policy and a framework for boundary decisions to be made during the 2012-2013 school year. According to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, slight revisions were proposed because the policy hasn’t been examined since June of 2002.

Proposed updates to the policy include identifying when boundary changes may be necessary. Also included are criteria for the School Board and superintendent to consider when proposing boundary changes, such as promoting demographic diversity and minimizing the number of times students are affected by such changes.

Some residents were concerned that the proposed revisions might shut the public out of the process, but the school system says the revisions to the boundary framework simply clarify that the public will be involved in the entire boundary changing endeavor.

“The community is a big part of this and it will have opportunities to participate throughout the entire boundary process,” Bellavia said. “We’re going to allow parents and the community to have input.”

The School Board is expected to take action on the policy revisions at its meeting on Thursday, October 18. A more comprehensive schedule for drawing up boundaries will likely be laid out at that time, according to Bellavia.

New school boundaries are necessary to distribute students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and to additions at Ashlawn and McKinley Elementary schools. The new school and the additions are necessary to ease crowding in elementary schools across the district.

APS says it plans to specifically engage seven neighborhood schools in the boundary revision process: Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe.

  • This should be fun

    With the “success” of prior redistricting efforts at Tuckahoe several years ago and this year’s last minute bus changes, I’m sure that concerns of APS parents will be taken into account.

    Instead of bragging about the “process”, APS should realize that a lot of parents already feel they their concerns are merely “processed” into the trash can.

    I realize they can’t make everyone happy, but it does seem as if APS goes out of ts way to brag about its decision making process in advance that then simply pisses a lot of people off.

    • Never Again

      What do you think that the “p” stands for ??

  • Taylor

    So now “promoting demographic diversity” is the big goal of school redistricting.

    I guess that means that they will bus lower-income kids into higher-income areas, and vice-versa, even though this year’s big policy edict was an obsession to reduce busing costs. Should be interesting to see how this works out.

    • Really?

      i can get behind that. the benefit of diversity > costs of buses.

      • Ashton Heights

        Give me 1 benefit of diversity.

        • Rick

          In the not too distant future this county will be majority non-white. So, I see some benefit to my kids associating with non-whites.

          I can’t answer whether or not the benefits of various diversity programs exceed the associated costs. But, I can tell you that I would prefer to live in a nation that isn’t completely stratified along race and income lines.

          • SteamboatWillie

            Does such a country exist?

          • Never Again

            Lichtenstein ??

          • Cate

            Gorgeous country. Good beer. Unintelligible German dialect.

          • Rick

            Woops – I meant to say “country will be majority non-white”. I agree that Arlington (the county) will be majority white for the foreseeable future.

        • drax

          Without diversity we’d all be a bunch of Romneys. Only not rich.

          • sunflower

            scary concept–romney remins me of the cardboard cutouts you can be photographed with….

          • The Bible

            I’ve seen a full-sized Romney cutout. I liked it better than him!

        • speonjosh

          You’re right Ashton. There are no benefits from diversity. You should probably stay inside your house from now on lest you encounter anyone who is different from you. It’ll be better that way.

          • ydiversity

            You’re righ speonjosh, just saying that there are benefits must mean that there really are benefits to it. If you’re so fond of melting together in a pot, put your money where your mouth is and you and Rick can move. Bussing everyone’s kids to somewhere that the parents don’t want to live doesn’t breed an acceptance for diversity. I can speak for many PG County adults who were bussed around the county to places they would never walk through as an adult. Their goal was to make sure that they wouldn’t have to live amongst the very people they schooled with since it was such an awful experience. People made a decision to not have their children schooled in certain parts of the county for many reasons, including the schools. If you don’t like that there is a majority white school your child attends, move, or ask for a relocation from the county. I’m sure they wouldn’t object.

          • Really?

            in reality when overcrowding becomes a problem rezoning is a sensible and fiscally responsible solution. btw you also have the option of moving if you’re zoned to a school you don’t like, no?

          • ydiversity

            if it’s in the name of overcrowding, then yes, boundaries should be reconsidered. if it’s in the name of a social science diversity project to raise scores of some and arguably at the expense of others, no, it’s not worthwhile.

            and yes, I can move, and likely would if it was in the name of some goofy diversity social engineering project.

            Otherwise, if you find it necessary to be in a more diverse setting, move to one, don’t force it onto everyone and expect them to accept it in the false name of “it’s the right thing to do”.

          • speonjosh

            Gosh. Touchy subject?

            I think we’re a long way from a discussion about bussing people from one part of the county to another so as to serve any sort of racial integration goals.

        • Mitt

          In Buckingham, we now benefit from more crime. Thanks for affordable housing.

          • ACDC

            “In Buckingham, we now benefit from more crime. Thanks for affordable housing.”

            Really, you don’t have to thank us !!!

    • drax

      Not the “big” goal. Doesn’t say that at all.

    • Arlington Cat

      “Promoting demographic diversity” cannot be a “goal” under both the British and American definitions of the word “goal.”

  • Diversity is good

    Diversity is good. I don’t see how Arlington will become majority minority in the future given our housing costs.

  • taraleewaymom

    There is actually a ton of research into the effects of diverse classrooms on student learning. I know I’m asking a lot to assume people might actually consider that research before they comment on a news blog…

    Just for starters, consider Mickelson & Bottia’s work on black students’ math achievement, which is higher in racially integrated classrooms and lower in racially segregated classrooms, or Borman & Dowling’s work on black student’s reading achievement (same results). And yes, they did control for everything you can think of — family income, parents’ level of education, etc. And no, there were no adverse affects on the learning of white students in those classrooms.

    This is a diverse world — and our kids are going to have to work in it someday (with people who may not look like them!) White birth rates were outpaced for the first time by minority birth rates last year. Research (again, I know, with the documentation…) also shows that there is no more effective pedagogical method in promoting racial tolerance and cross-race interaction than putting different kids in the same classroom. “Multicultural curriculum” really doesn’t work. (See studies by Amir.0

    That being said, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in APS to get this process right, and fully involve parents along the way. This new superintendent is a lot of talk…

    • Taylor

      And there are ton of parents who think that such research (and the associated “pedagogical methods”) is complete rubbish.

      Kids are better off at neighborhood schools, rather than trying to engineer some sort of grand societal goal out of school boundaries. I just want my kids to get a good education, not to be part of some pompous experiment in cross-race interaction, or whatever the “researchers” call it. When the school board starts talking like they’re putting something other than education first, it sounds like strictly bad news.

      • NoHighlander

        Agree. Let’s focus on keeping our local communities socioeconomically integrated with a mixed housing stock, rather than trying to engineer our schools in a way that is not reflective of our communities. I would like for my kids to go to school with our neighbors, to be able to walk (not drive) to playdates, and to have that additional opportunity to interact with all the wonderful people near whom we live. This is part of what makes for a strong local community.

      • speonjosh

        Well, you can “think” they are rubbish, but that doesn’t mean that they are. On the other hand, not wanting to participate in some massive (and completely hypothetical) bussing project because of the disruption in involves, etc is a perfectly understandable reason to oppose them.

        • dk (not DK)


          If you have evidence showing that the ton of research taralee mentions is “rubbish,” please provide links or at least explain why you believe it to be rubbish (e.g., “I read a few of those studies and don’t believe they controlled adequately for x.” Or, even, “I personally feel that my own education was ruined because I was forced to interact with purple and green people.”)

          Otherwise, please just acknowledge that you don’t care what the research says.

  • Former Arlingtonian

    When my kids went to kindergarten in Arlington, all of the minorities in their classrooms (and it was about 85% minority and low income) didn’t know their ABC’s at all. At open house, my son was genuinely shocked the other kids couldn’t tell a “B” from a “T.”

    Yes, my kids did go to preschool, and yes, we insisted they watch Sesame Street for a complete year when they were three years old.

    By five years old, these other kids didn’t know the alphabet. Not one. They knew every Spongebob character, they knew Dora, they knew Power Rangers, but not Big Bird, Elmo and their ABC’s. Sesame Street is free, what were these parents thinking?

    So, for Kindergarten, my kids sat there and did practically no thinking or learning for the first half of the year while they taught the alphabet.

    It was really disappointing.

    Mitt Romney is absolutely wrong on Sesame Street. It once was one of the greatest investments the government made. Now, it is mostly utilized by the educated parents

    After four years in Arlington Public Schools, my kids are now in 70% + White schools in a golf course community in the burbs. Right after we moved, and we moved in the middle of the semester, they claimed their new schools were “a lot harder than in Arlington.”

    one year of Sesame Street should be required before entering Kindergarten. Diversity is great, but to claim it does hold certain people back is not believable in today’s day and age.

    • SoArl

      They didn’t break your kids out into groups by ability? I had the same reaction as you when my kid started kindergarten this year – my kid was bored to tears. After the first month, the teachers broke them up into groups. She’s now with other kids who can read, write, add, etc.

  • Former Arlingtonian

    I mean “doesn’t hold certain people back”

  • Alex

    The truth of it all is that “diversity” is just a smoke screen to equalize educational opportunities. White, rich kids are better off at neighborhood schools, that is true. Letting White, rich kids enjoy the accidents of living in a well funded school district and minority, poor enjoy the “advantages” of attending their dilapidated underfunded local schools is also a social experiment which we have tried in the past with rather awful results.

    If we equalize spending and funding on education so ALL citizens have access to quality local schools (yes, that means rich people’s taxes are going to have to be funneled to poorer school districts — after all just because rich people pay more, doesn’t mean they get more tanks, planes, and soldiers in their districts because they can afford more. National defense protects all of society equally), then maybe we can talk about attending local schools.

    If Warren Buffet’s family and his social crowd suddenly settled in South Arlington and their local school was suddenly showered with all kinds of advantages (not least of which is having your child rubbing elbows with and becoming friends with Warren Buffet’s grandchildren [even great grandchildren?]), how many people who now are so enamoured with the “advantages” of local schools would be seeking exceptions? Indeed, if one is so concerned about the detrimental effects of traveling on school performance how come there is no national movement of concerned parents to ban private schools from soliciting students within 1 or 2 miles of their locations?

    I support busing because it puts pressure on people and society to make sure educational opportunities are equalized. The “threat” of being stuck in a “bad” school will make people more willing to accept a system of redistribution to equalize educational spending. And if they pull their kids out of school instead to send them to a private school five miles away, well, then that just shows, it was never about the “advantages” of attending a closeby local school to begin with.

    • Susan W

      What forced busing causes is the “white, rich” families that you seem to deplore to instead chose private schools for their children, and when that happens, they don’t care at all about public schools.

      My sister lives in Raleigh, North Carolina where the county there has forced busing, and the school district eliminated neighborhood schools entirely. The result? Private schools have grown in popularity, and the County Public Schools have become even more segregated, and polarized. Do an Internet search for busing in Wake County NC and you will see what I mean. I CERTAINLY don’t want that for Arlington, and I hope that this talk of forced “diversity” is overblown.

      • Cate

        I went to schools in Raleigh from 5th-12th grade, and this is completely true.

        6th-12th I was lucky enough to go to schools near my home, but in elementary school I was bussed across town to a pretty crappy school, when there were two other schools within blocks of where I lived. Crappy experience.

        Without providing a ton of personal anecdotes I’m not going to go in to exactly how this sort of forced bussing creates an even more segregated and polarized environment, but it does indeed. And I really don’t think it benefits anyone. In schools, it’s kind of artificial social engineering.

        My negative feelings on bussing have surprised a lot of people who are very much for it, but I think that until it’s something you’ve had to deal with, especially being the bussed in party, the negative effects cannot really be comprehended.

      • Cate

        Not to mention they redistrict there every. damn. year. It’s such a broken record at this point. If they spent even half the money they did on all the bussing they could actually improve some of the lower performing schools.

    • Beth M.

      Within Arlington, schools with high populations of minorities are very well funded, much better than comparable schools with no minorities. Funding is not the issue. We went from a majority-minority school to a majority white school and far fewer things are paid for, regardless of personal circumstance.

      I thought that the education at the minority-majority school was actually better. The teachers there really have to WORK to get their kids to pass the SOLs, and there are enough minorities that the individual categories count. Some schools are virtually assured of passing their SOLs because of high socioeconomics and because their minority populations are so small that minority scores aren’t even reported.

  • jonathan

    Class and race are always a factor in this society ( and Arlington is no exception) .Usually these issues are tabu at PTA’s and APS meetings but I guess people feel a bit more “protected” in the internet and disclose more of what they really think . Many Arlington Schools are self-segregated in fact but what you hear is niceties while what goes on perpetuates stereotypes.

  • Skeptic

    I don’t see why they need to change their policy on redistricting. The redistricting that was done a few years ago violated APS policy in a number of ways. The school board simply voted to waive all of the provisions of the policy that the redistricting violated (they did not even bother to list then).

  • TuesdaysChild

    Parents want excellent schools all around. That is what the County should focus on. Not diversity. Stop wasting money on Art centers and dog parks, and build more schools.

  • Beth M.

    The proposed changes take this wording:

    “In comparing and evaluating boundary change options, the Superintendent, working with the identified communities, shall consider, but not be limited to, the following criteria. Affected communities shall be consulted concerning the priority order of the criteria…”

    and they change it to this wording:

    “The Superintendent’s recommended boundary changes and the School Board’s review of these proposed changes shall include, but not be limited to, consideration of the following criteria…”

    It sure looks to me like our autocratic superintendant and his bobblehead followers on the school board are looking to eliminate having to consult with those pesky “affected communities”

    Old: http://www.apsva.us/cms/lib2/VA01000586/Centricity/Shared/School%20Board%20Policies/30-GenAdmin/30-2.2-boundaries.pdf

    New: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/arlington/Board.nsf/files/8YQLEE562ECF/$file/F-1%20Draft%20Revision%20Boundary%20Policy.pdf

    • jonathan

      The autocratic superintendent works for the Board …If he is not doing a proper job you should be talking to the Board that very quietly renewed his contract this summer .

  • Crazy Ideas

    My sister and mom are school teachers another part of the country. One in a poor neighborhood and one in a wealthier neighborhood. Hands down, the most distinguishing feature for a school’s success is the involvement of the parents with their kids and the strength of the PTA – it has little to do with funding. My wife and I both work around 50 hours per week to afford our home and niceties in Arlington, but we still spend time with our kids doing homework, and involved in the PTA. To be politically incorrect, and my 2nd grade teacher sister states that certain minorities (tiger moms exempted) are not as vested in their kids education as white parents – that it is a cultural difference.


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