School Board Statement - July 12, 2021
In 2018, the School Board directed that the school division draft for approval what would become the first anti-racism policy by a public school division in the Commonwealth. This decision was a deliberate and purposeful one, designed to correct disparities by race in student access to learning opportunities; to respond to student reports of racial harassment and bullying; to eliminate the unequal demographic impact of policies and programs; and to improve the academic performance of all students by closing long-standing opportunity and achievement gaps among students.
Students took the lead in drafting the policy, which for more than a year was the subject of public School Board meetings and discussions. The Board voted unanimously on February 28, 2019, to adopt the policy and a statement of belief that held that “The Albemarle County School Board and School Division reject all forms of racism as destructive to their mission, vision, values, and goals.”
Critical Race Theory is not a part of our curriculum.
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 Impact of Culturally Responsive Teaching
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.
It is solely 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.
This, in fact, is documented by the data from our CRT program. It is the basis upon which teachers and administrators earn a CRT micro-credential or certification. It is this demonstrated closing of the equity gap that earned the CRT program the state of Virginia’s highest award this year for Educational Equity, the Mary Peake Award.
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 school division requirement that all newly-hired teachers earn, at a minimum, their micro-credential in culturally responsive teaching within three years of their start date.
Also, as part of the implementation of the school division’s anti-racism policy, schools and departments are increasing their activities creating greater awareness of and support for the commitment expressed in the policy, to establish and sustain an equitable community that achieves the school division’s equity mission and rejects all forms of racism as destructive to our mission, vison, values and goals.
Bringing the Anti-Racism Policy to Life for All
The anti-racism policy, including its principles, goals and requirements, was developed in its entirety by our own school community, including students. It is this policy that is the basis for middle school student advisory discussions.
The policy’s adopted procedures commit the division to the following:
- 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.
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. We value the input from parents that led to revisions in the lesson plans. This was an activity faithful to the call for action in our anti-racism policy.
Further, we support the review now being conducted by the school division, not only of the Henley pilot, but of other strategies and programs that support the goals of our anti-racism policy. This includes 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. 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.
Graham Paige, Chair
|Katrina Callsen, Vice-Chair
Rio Magisterial District
|Dr. Kate Acuff
Jack Jouett Magisterial District
Rivanna Magisterial District
|Ellen Moore Osborne
Scottsville Magisterial District
White Hall Magisterial District
|Dr. Matthew Haas