School Board members clashed Thursday over an attempt to add language encouraging more diversity in Arlington Public Schools.
The revised policies are designed so students could have equal access to an option school with a more specialized curriculum, while also guaranteeing students a place in their neighborhood school.
The new policies will go into effect for the 2018/19 school year, with siblings able to attend the same school at the elementary level if one already attends.
But an effort by Board member Reid Goldstein to add new language that says the policy “will include steps to enhance diversity across our option schools and through our neighborhood transfer practices” got the cold shoulder from his colleagues.
Goldstein said steps that could be taken to enhance diversity could include looking at new options around transportation, to enable a better mix of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
He also said that higher-income families could thus be encouraged to attend schools where there are more lower-income students and families.
But Tannia Talento said Goldstein’s efforts represented “microaggressions,” the casual degradation of those less fortunate than others.
“While I support diversity, I think diversity is a great thing, it’s very hard for me to sit here and listen to some of this, because there are some things in here that I feel are microaggressions that I’m offended by,” Talento said.
Later, Talento added that previously, she has been seen as the “token Latino” and “token woman” in various settings. Any conversation about enhancing diversity should include all affected communities and be part of a robust public engagement process, she said.
Goldstein said his efforts were focused on helping the county and APS improve its diversity, given what he said are major disparities across the system.
“This should be a call to action for a community that so vociferously hails its diversity and proudly proclaims how diverse and inclusive it is,” he said. “And yet, outside of our vision state and our core values, APS’ definable steps to achieve diversity are scarce.”
But James Lander rejected that, and the idea that the income of fellow students’ families could be a determining factor for where people want to send their children to school.
“It’s been my experience that families choose instructional programs, not how much money their neighbors make, to determine what is the best instructional journey for their children,” Lander said. “I want to bring this back to instruction, because that’s important.”
The board voted down Goldstein’s plan, 3-2. Chair Nancy van Doren said that not only did she believe it was making an attempt at “forcing” or “incentivizing” diversity, it was too late in the process to introduce such an amendment. The Board then unanimously approved the new transfer policy, despite opposition from some parents.
The following Letter to the Editor was written by former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and his wife Rohini. The Chopras are Arlington residents and parents of Arlington Public Schools students.
While many Arlingtonians are mobilizing to protect much needed science investments in the wake of proposed Trump administration budget cuts, a more pressing local threat has emerged that needs our immediate attention: the June 1st Arlington School Board vote that, if passed, will unnecessarily weaken our best shot at helping lower-income kids succeed in science and, thus, prepare for the jobs and industries of the future. And it does so without adding a single new seat to handle APS-wide over-crowding challenges.
The School Board notes that the proposed changes to its enrollment and transfer policy are to “make it easier for families to understand the school options available.” However, what the proposal actually does is arbitrarily change those options – re-classifying some schools to eliminate neighborhood access and others to eliminate choice or lottery access. How the Board re-classifies each school appears arbitrary with no published explanation, justification or criteria including whether it is a reflection on school quality, student demand, or any other factor.
Absent School Board transparency, a group of families have “crowd-sourced” as much publicly available data to piece together the net impact and the answer is bad news for families interested in boosting their child’s performance in science, especially for lower-income families. Roughly 20% of Arlington Science Focus enrollment is via choice/lottery, a figure that falls to zero if this passes. Worse, by eliminating the neighborhood zone for Key Elementary, up to 240 students who could lose in the lottery, including native Spanish speakers, will be forced into an already overcrowded ASFS (runing today at 120% capacity).
Why should this matter? For a low-income family wishing for their child to succeed in science, here’s the bad news: unless you live in the Key Zone neighborhood, you will not have access to ASFS, an award-winning school that delivers, for 93% of low income kids, proficiency or higher on the 5th grade science exam, a rate that places ASFS among top 5% of elementary schools statewide.
The School Board COULD have proposed to treat Key Elementary and ASFS similarly to allow that low-income family to apply for enrollment via lottery, but without justification as to why, they are poised to choose to limit access for ASFS while expanding it for Key.
More insidious is the risk to ASFS’ impressive results. Despite a taxpayer-funded evaluation of APS science results in 2014, not a single publicly available evaluation explains why ASFS is so successful. A fellow Obama White House policy maker and neighbor, Ben Harris, notes that children benefit–or suffer–from being in a classroom with children at a different educational level as their own. Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby found that economically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic children in Texas showed marked benefits from being in a classroom with kids who had higher test scores.
In other words, diversity matters. And this policy hits right at the diverse enrollment mix currently at ASFS. Coupled with its award-winning integrated curriculum that embeds science and discovery in all classroom instruction, ASFS results need further study before materially changing its composition, curriculum, or level of parental engagement on account of family choice.
I urge you to call, write, or show up to the June 1st School Board meeting and demand a return to evidence-based policy-making that we have so loudly called for at the federal level when attempting to fight back the Trump Administration’s attacks on science, health, and the social safety net. Such a call will result in a call to expand access via choice/lottery slots to Arlington Science Focus. Anything less would be irresponsible.
(Update: APS just posted this FAQ which includes this depressing quote: “Ensure that no students who live outside of the current Science Focus/Key boundary zone are enrolling in Science Focus for the first time, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.”).
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
Lady Warriors Fall in States — The Wakefield Lady Warriors received a police escort as the team left for the state basketball tournament in Hampton on Wednesday. The team lost to three-time defending state champs Princess Anne by a score of 51-42 yesterday. [Twitter, Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]
APS Statement Affirms Welcoming Environment — Following accusations of discrimination and bullying at Yorktown High School, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has released a statement affirming the school system’s commitment to “a welcoming, safe and caring learning environment for each and every student.” Wrote Murphy: “The hallmark of our work is that ALL students should experience freedom from harassment, judgement or prejudice.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Don’t Forget to Prune Shrubs and Trees — “It’s the ideal time of the season to use your pruning tools to improve the health and growing habits of your woody plants. The effort will make your gardening easier later in the year.” [Arlington County]
Water Main Break Affects DCA Traffic — A water main break closed an access ramp to Reagan National Airport from the southbound GW Parkway this morning. [Fox 5]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
County Board Mulls Exotic Pet Ban — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a ban on “wild and exotic” pets in the county. Animals covered by the proposed ban “range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.” A hearing on the matter will be held March 18, ahead of final approval by the Board. [Arlington County]
Arlington Cultural Diversity Ranking — Arlington ranks No. 33 among “mid-sized cities” in a new list of cities with the most cultural diversity, behind places like Columbia, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. [WalletHub]
Western Rosslyn Plan Moving Forward — The Arlington County Board has taken a series of actions to push its previously approved Western Rosslyn Area Plan forward. The plan includes a new home for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson School, a new fire station, a reconfigured park and the redevelopment of several garden apartment buildings into a larger affordable housing complex. The various projects are expected to be completed by 2021. [Arlington County]
Arlington-Based Org Gets Big Grant — The Crystal City-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is getting a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, announced by U.S. senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), is earmarked for “organizations working to provide unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America with services including temporary shelters and foster care programs.” [Sen. Tim Kaine]
County Extends HQ Lease — Arlington County has extended its lease at 2100 Clarendon Blvd for another 15 years, a move the county says will save $1.6 million annually in rent. “This is a great deal for Arlington taxpayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County will stay in this prime Courthouse location, home to County Government since 1989, at a savings of millions of dollars over the term of the extension.” [Arlington County]
Homeownership Still a Dream for Many Millennials — The Millennial generation is a major force in Arlington’s population and economy, but homeownership remains out of reach for many, including the older portion of the generation that’s getting married and having kids. Contributing to the problem: there is a significant shortage of homes for sale, particularly affordable starter homes, and the new houses that are being built are often higher-end luxury properties. [Washington Post, CNBC]
Photo courtesy Donna Gouse
The controversy over a sign posted by teachers at Yorktown High School has taken an even bigger national stage.
Yorktown senior John Piper was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s prime time show on Fox News last night, discussing why the seemingly innocuous sign was actually “political propaganda.”
Piper says he and his parents talked to to school administrators, the Arlington School Board and local radio station WMAL about why the signs are “obviously” political, especially given the current political climate. But after being told the signs would be coming down, Piper says administrators “changed their minds” and the signs remained.
Tipsters tell ARLnow.com that those inquiring about the decision to keep the signs were sent a letter to the School Board from a Yorktown physics teacher objecting to the removal (posted below, after the jump).
Carlson called the signs “the sneakiest type of propaganda… propaganda passing itself off as obvious observations.” He asked Piper if anyone at the school thinks that science “is not real.”
“No,” Piper replied, adding that he and fellow members of the Yorktown Republican club also believe in diversity despite implications to the contrary given their opposition to the signs.
A similar sign about conservative values — like the Second Amendment right to bear arms — would not be allowed at Yorktown, Piper guessed.
“There’s a serious double standard here,” Piper said. “Conservative values would not be accepted on the walls of the school, especially in the way they’re doing them. They would see through that easily.”
This is not the only sign controversy brewing at Yorktown. A Black Lives Matter banner at the school was removed late last week, according to a tipster. High school principals, we’re told, have been meeting “to set policy for putting signs up in the future.”
Update at 5:50 p.m. — On Tuesday afternoon, Yorktown principal Dr. Ray Pasi sent a letter to students and families regarding the sign issue.
The letter from the teacher regarding the “Patriots Know” signs, after the jump.
‘Pop-Up Hotel’ Opening in January — “WhyHotel” is the new name of a “pop-up hotel” in the Bartlett apartment building in Pentagon City. Starting in January, the hotel will offer 50 unleased, furnished apartments as hotel rooms. Although most of the building is leased, owner Vornado is experimenting with “WhyHotel” as a way to monetize new apartment buildings during the lease-up period. [Washington Business Journal]
School Board Responds to Student’s Letter — Arlington School Board Chair Nancy Van Doren has responded to an open letter published in the Washington-Lee Crossed Sabres student newspaper. The letter, which was widely shared across social media, took the school board to task for approving high school boundary refinements that were seemingly antithetical to APS’ diversity goals. Without addressing the diversity issue, Van Doren defended the process and encouraged students to participate in future high school boundary decisions. [PDF]
County Board Approves Polling Place Changes — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved a number of precinct and polling place changes, to take effect in time for next year’s elections. [Arlington County]
Memorial Bridge Worries — The deteriorating Memorial Bridge can’t handle heavy support traffic for the presidential inauguration next month, officials said in a briefing yesterday, according to reported Tom Sherwood. Such traffic will use the 14th Street Bridge instead. [Twitter]
Wreaths for Every Grave at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “Wreaths Across America announced Wednesday it has reached its goal to place about 245,000 wreaths in the cemetery ‘thanks to an outpouring of support.’ Earlier this week, the organization had said it was about 10,000 wreaths short of its goal.” [WTOP]
High School Boundary Change Petition — Matthew Herrity, the Washington-Lee student who penned a widely-shared open letter to the School Board regarding its recent high school boundary change decision, has now started an online petition. The petition, which calls for increasing diversity at Arlington’s high schools, has more than 1,000 signatures. [Change.org]
Community Center, Gymnastics Contracts Approved — At its meeting on Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a $3.9 million contract to plan and design a new four-story Lubber Run Community Center, with a gymnasium, playgrounds, offices and underground parking. In response to heavy program demand, the Board also approved a $1.7 million addition of a second gymnastics area at the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Ebbin on Trump and Other Topics — “Trump is making me nostalgic for Reagan,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) during a wide-ranging interview on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. Ebbin also discussed casino gambling, with the opening of the new MGM casino in National Harbor, and Confederate monuments in Alexandria, among other topics. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
D.C. Police Misconduct Story Has Arlington Connection — There’s an Arlington connection to one of the misconduct allegations against Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, the head of the D.C. police Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Liaison unit. Hawkins reportedly took two underage summer interns to Freddie’s, the LGBT bar in Crystal City, and laughed about one using a fake ID. She’s now facing possible disciplinary action for that and for allegedly showing the interns a homemade sex tape on her phone. [Fox 5, Fox 5]
Community Garden Fundraiser Fizzles — Arlington County’s attempt to crowdfund a community garden accessible to those with disabilities has not gone so well. As of Sunday the county has only raised $465 out of the $10,000 it sought, with only five days to go in the fundraiser. The failure raises questions about local government use of crowdfunding, the Post suggests. [Washington Post]
Meeting on Career Center Changes — Some major changes could be coming to the Arlington Career Center. Arlington Public Schools will be discussing that and other South Arlington school projects at a meeting Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Career Center, at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive. [Taylor PTA]
More on Notable Tree Planted at Fire House — A Southern Magnolia tree planted outside Fire Station No. 4 in Clarendon was recognized as a “Notable Tree” last week. The tree was planted in 1965 in memory of ACFD Capt. Archie Hughes, who died while responding to a house fire at the age of 33. [NBC Washington]
New Movie’s Arlington Connection — A new indie flick, “Green Room,” follows the travails of a fictional Arlington-based punk band. The film was written and directed by Alexandria-born filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier. [DCist]
Spotluck Launches in Crystal City — Restaurant discovery and discount app Spotluck has launched in Crystal City. Participating restaurants include Crystal City Sports Pub, Kora and Kabob Palace. [Spotluck]
Arlington’s Diversity Highlighted — The world is learning about Arlington’s diversity. The Voice of America notes that Arlington is home to more than 130 ethnic groups, particularly around Columbia Pike. [VOA]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The old guard of the Arlington County Board is out and new leadership is in.
With the election of Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in November, the County Board became younger and more geographically diverse. Cristol and Dorsey, who both live along Columbia Pike, bring a fresh perspective to a Board that has been perceived as being most responsive to affluent, north Arlington homeowners.
So what sort of changes do the new Board members hope to bring to Arlington? And what, specifically, do they plan to do to better serve younger and minority Arlington residents?
The millennial generation comprises nearly 40 percent of Arlington’s population — making Arlington the most millennial-soaked “city” in the U.S. — yet younger residents are under-represented in many aspects of Arlington County civic life. As are minority groups — also about 40 percent of the county’s population.
Join ARLnow.com and host Sarah Fraser as we discuss those and other issues with Cristol and Dorsey at next month’s ARLnow Presents.
The event will take place at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Tickets are on sale for only $6 and are good for one drink at Mad Rose Tavern during the event.
School Board Candidates Not Ruling Parkland Out — Two candidates for Arlington School Board say they aren’t ruling anything out — including use of parkland — for the building of new schools. Independent Green-endorsed candidate Brooklyn Kinlay said it would “be a tragedy” to use parkland. Reid Goldstein, who has the Democratic endorsement, said the school system is “not moving fast enough” to address the school capacity issue. [InsideNova]
Ray’s Company Files for Bankruptcy — A company affiliated with the popular Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger restaurants in Arlington has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The restaurants’ operations are reportedly not affected. [Washington Business Journal]
Marymount Tops Diversity List — Marymount University ranks No. 1 for ethnic diversity among regional universities in the South, according to the new 2016 “Best Colleges” rankings from U.S. News and World Report. “It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to creating a culture of engagement that fosters intellectual curiosity, service to others and a global perspective in our students,” said Marymount President Matthew Shank. [Marymount University]
New Civic Association Forms — Arlington has a new civic association. The Arlington County Civic Federation has added the new Shirlington Civic Association as a member. Also, the Columbia Heights West Civic Association has changed its name to the Arlington Mill Civic Association. [InsideNova]
Newspaper Columnist Denied Lemonade — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark received questionable service after ordering a 50-cent lemonade from a children’s lemonade stand near Virginia Hospital Center last week. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Shirlington Movie Theater to Renovate — The AMC Lowes Shirlington 7 movie theater will be undergoing a “complete renovation” this year, starting as soon as July. The theater will be getting reclining leather seats, like the AMC theater in Courthouse, plus a new concession area with beer and wine and new bathrooms. [Washington Business Journal]
Downed Trees, Wires in Arlington — On Sunday morning a tree fell on Old Dominion Drive, bringing wires down with it, causing power outages and and closing the road for hours. On Sunday night, an accident on Wilson Blvd caused downed wires and the closure of Wilson from N. Illinois to N. Jefferson Street. [WTOP]
Candidates: Lack of Diversity at Top County Ranks — Candidates for Arlington County Board spoke about the lack of diversity among top county staff last week, at a forum sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council of Arlington. The County Board has little direct involvement in the hiring of county staff, save the Board’s hiring of and direction to the County Manager. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman