For months, the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee has addressed the Loudoun County School Board at regular meetings on problems regarding minority students and teachers.
The School Board recently sent a letter to the committee in response.
The letter, written by MSAAC liaison Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), goes through LCPS efforts to address the committee’s concerns on the implicit bias, student discipline disproportionality, hiring minority teachers and the disparity of minority students in the school system’s gifted program.
MSAAC Chairwoman Wendy Caudle-Hodge said that the response is a good first step, and next she’d like to see a more focused attempt to make progress from the board.
She said while some of the strategies and programs LCPS has implemented to address concerns are new and the data on its effectiveness is not in, the problems facing students and staff have been around for decades.
“They’re so deep rooted in the county,” Caudle-Hodge said. She’d like to see “a desire to make real, effective changes in some of the policies and the procedures” from the board.
Through remarks during public comment, committee members cited research reflecting that all students benefit from having teachers of a diverse background, and minority students in particular benefit from having minority teachers because it gives them role models to look up to.
While the student demographics have become increasingly diverse, teacher demographics have not reflected a similar change, making this an area of concern for MSAAC and the Loudoun branch of the NAACP.
LCPS identified a lack of minority teacher recruitment as a problem and has implemented strategies to remedy the problem.
LCPS is in the second year of a diversity recruitment program. The school system has placed an emphasis on increasing its presence at diverse hiring venues such as hiring fairs hosted by minority groups and recruiting at historically black colleges and universities.
The school system has also hired a recruiter focused on hiring diverse candidates, and is making an effort to hire earlier, Turgeon wrote in the letter.
MSAAC has also raised awareness on how black, Hispanic and Native American students are underrepresented in LCPS' gifted programs. LCPS implemented a new program during the 2017-18 school year called the Empowering Diversity in Gifted Education (EDGE) Academy to help identify and support elementary-students who show gifted potential and belong to historically underrepresented groups.
Lastly, LCPS addressed MSAAC’s concerns on unconscious bias and its impact on student discipline. According to national studies, students with disabilities and minority students are disciplined more severely and at higher rates than their neurotypical and white peers.
Turgeon wrote that LCPS teachers and administrators have been undergoing training in student behavioral error correcting, and implicit bias features have been integrated into the training.
LCPS is still collecting data, but thus far results indicate “participants are utilizing behavior specific praise and error correction strategies in their classrooms and that they have seen an increase in positive school climate and a reduction in office referrals since using a new practice learned from the training.”
MSAAC regularly addressing the School Board on concerns from the committee delegation has been a new initiative this year. Caudle-Hodge will continue as MSAAC chairwoman next year, and she said she plans to keep the dialogue with the School Board open.
“We plan to continue this the next school year, and continuing to address issues that are very complex like implicit bias, and like the discipline disproportionality, because obviously these types of issues aren’t a one-time conversation sort of thing,” Caudle-Hodge said. “We will continue to bring up some of the issues that we brought to the School Board’s attention this school year, and possibly some new ones.”