School Board, Superintendent Strongly Reaffirm Support for Division’s Anti-Racism Programs, Actions & Goals, Describing Commitment as Non-Negotiable

The Albemarle County School Board, joined by Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, said yesterday, “We stand by our endorsement of programs and activities that empower staff to meet the requirements of our anti-racism policy. This expressly includes Henley Middle School’s concluded pilot activity that added racial awareness conversations to its student advisory periods. We applaud the school’s staff and its students for their participation in a program that will allow the school division to learn from this experience.”

Board members also said they valued input from Henley parents that led to revisions in the school’s lesson plans this past spring and said the student advisory discussions it facilitated were faithful to the board’s call for action in its anti-racism policy.

In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that the lesson plans were based upon critical race theory.

In its statement, board members and Superintendent Haas said, “Over the past several weeks, we have received comments from some members of our school community expressing their concerns over the adoption into our middle school curriculum of what has come to be known as Critical Race Theory and referred to nationally as CRT. Adding Critical Race Theory to our curricula has not occurred, nor are there any plans to do so.”

Reports to the contrary are false, the statement said.

Instead, the Henley lesson plans were a direct result of the division’s own anti-racism policy, developed for over a year and formally adopted on February 28, 2019. The policy requires that:

  • Curriculum and instructional materials for all grades shall reflect cultural and racial diversity and include a range of perspectives and experiences, particularly those of historically underrepresented groups of color.
  • All curriculum materials shall be examined for racial bias by the Division’s Department of Student Learning. Where materials reflect racial bias, teachers utilizing the materials will acknowledge the bias and communicate it to students and parents.
  • The Board and Division shall implement an anti-racist curriculum and provide educational resources for students at every grade level.
  • Student in-class and extra-curricular programs and activities shall be designed to provide opportunities for cross-cultural and cross-racial interactions to foster respect for cultural and racial diversity. The Board shall support interschool activities that will allow students to experience the diversity within the Division.

While critical race theory often is referred to nationally by the acronym, CRT, the acronym as used in the school division refers to a different program developed entirely by division staff.

“There is indeed a CRT program in our school division and it dates back to 2015 when our school division became the first in the Commonwealth to offer a professional development program to teachers known as Culturally Responsive Teaching, or CRT,” the statement said.

The division’s CRT program is “focused on the relationships between teachers and students. It is founded on the concept that by better understanding the diverse life experiences and cultures represented by our more than 13,500 students, teachers can enhance their communication with every student in their classroom. They are better able to adapt teaching strategies and practices to build greater trust and confidence with students. This has produced stronger academic performance,” the statement said.

In March, the Virginia State Board of Education revised its teacher performance standards and evaluation criteria to add a standard on culturally responsive teaching and equitable practices. This year, the General Assembly enacted legislation requiring that teacher evaluations include an evaluation of cultural competency. The Albemarle County School Board also approved a requirement that all newly-hired teachers earn, at a minimum, their micro-credential in culturally responsive teaching within three years of their start date.

The division is currently reviewing the now-concluded Henley pilot program as well as other strategies and programs that support the goals of its anti-racism policy. This includes, the joint statement said, the examination, development and improvement of activities that:

  • Correct disparities by race in student access to learning opportunities;
  • Respond to student reports of racial harassment and bullying;
  • Eliminate the unequal demographic impact of policies and programs; and
  • Improve the academic performance of all students by closing long-standing opportunity and achievement gaps among students.

“These are non-negotiables,” the statement concluded, adding, “We are firmly committed to achieving these outcomes and to supporting the inclusive programs and activities that make this possible. We welcome all points of view in how best to strengthen our continuous growth model, and we reject all efforts that would have us resist positive change in favor of the status quo.”

The full text of the joint statement signed by all school board members and the superintendent is attached.

CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049