Dialogue on Race, Montgomery County, Education Issue Group and Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP, Education Committee
Access to free public education is an essential right of all children and an essential requirement for developing “productive and responsible citizens,” the mission of Montgomery County Public Schools.
But access alone, the possibility of going to school, is not enough. According to the Virginia Code, school boards, with input from the community, are required to develop a comprehensive plan with “school division goals, including strategies to improve student achievement first, particularly educational performance of at-risk students, and then maintain high levels of student achievement.
To meet Virginia’s high expectations for success for all students, divisions must provide for more than access; they must plan for equitable access.
Montgomery County students are fortunate to be educated in a division that “[is] is committed to making equity a priority in all of its decisions” and “will intentionally meet the needs of all individuals so that everyone can achieve their maximum potential”. These commitments to equity are explicitly articulated in the MCPS 2021-2026 Strategic Plan developed by a planning team of 151 teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members and unanimously approved by the school board. on December 1, 2020.
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As community organizations working for equity in education, we support the MCPS Strategic Plan and its commitment to equitable outcomes for all students through the implementation of its equity principles:
Impartiality: Ensure equal treatment for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, culture, sex, gender identity and any other protected group status.
Opportunity: Eliminate barriers and obstacles by providing the necessary resources through planned system strategies that focus on the heart of teaching and learning.
To access: Ensure that all individuals have the same rigorous educational standards, quality programs and tiered supports.
Sense of belonging: Promote social and emotional well-being and ensure that individuals have the ability to advocate for themselves and influence decisions that affect them.
We are writing in favor of equity now because equity work is under threat from Governor Glenn Youngkin’s first executive order and 30-day interim report that cancels equity resources from the Department of Education website.
The interim report, written by Secretary of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, interprets fairness as an “intrinsically divisive concept” in violation of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which establishes the “principles of ‘equal protection and non-discrimination’.
A concept in Executive Order 1 implies that equity work discriminates against individuals or causes them to “receive adverse treatment solely or in part because of their race, color, ethnic origin, gender or of their religion”.
As Amy Tillerson-Brown, chair of the Virginia NAACP Education Committee, stated, “None of the resources that Secretary Balow has requested to be rescinded or amended are discriminatory in that they do not promote unfair or prejudicial treatment. based on race or sex. Instead, these recommendations will unravel our Commonwealth’s progress toward racial equity in education.
We affirm our commitment to the success of every student and to Montgomery County Public Schools’ equity work which strives to ensure that learning outcomes are not affected by circumstances beyond students’ control, such as race, gender, zip code, ability, socio-economic status. status and/or languages spoken at home, all students in the population designated as “at risk” in the Virginia Code.
We believe that MCPS equity work is not in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but rather demonstrates strong adherence to the standards of the Act.
Equity in education does not promote unfair or prejudicial treatment, and the pursuit of equitable outcomes for all students does not reduce opportunities for any student or lower educational expectations or outcomes.
Increase opportunities for English language learners, students with special needs, children with trauma or persistent poverty, and students of color who face unconscious bias.
Review policies and procedures to see if they create barriers to student achievement and success and modify them as needed.
Provide administrators, teachers, and staff with professional opportunities to understand how certain policies and practices have had disproportionate negative effects on students.
Provide instructional practices and procedures that are supportive and inclusive.
We write in support of MCPS equity work and in opposition to the explicit actions recommended in the 30-Day Interim Report because we do not want to see equity work in education reduced. Equity enables all students to thrive academically, socially and emotionally, first in classrooms and then in communities and society. It enables all students to become productive and responsible citizens.
The authors of this commentary are all retired educators and residents of Montgomery County.