Loudoun Schools’ Equity Statement Comes Down; Local Superintendents Criticize State Report – Loudoun Now

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Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler has removed the former equity statement from the school district’s website.

“The Equity Statement has been removed from the LCPS website. It is not going away. … When I was appointed permanently to this position, that statement was labeled as the ‘Superintendent’s Statement on Equity.’ That’s how it was publicized. We can’t really call it that anymore, because I didn’t write it. I wasn’t here during the development of that statement,” Ziegler told the division’s Equity Committee, as recounted on the school district’s website.

He also said he would write a new one with community input.

“During the coming months we’re going to come to you and many other stakeholder groups and ask for your voice in the Equity Statement. We’re seeking the input of our student, teacher and principal advisory groups, among others, so that we get a wide spectrum of voices in developing this statement. A community statement is something that we, as a community, can get behind. This statement will reflect our values as the LCPS community.”

Meanwhile, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, representing administrators across the commonwealth, have written a letter to Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow criticizing her report on what Gov. Glenn Youngkin has called “inherently divisive topics” in schools.

Balow’s report was prepared without feedback from local superintendents, drawing the rebuke from Virginia educators, signed by Virginia Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Howard B. Kiser.

“Virginia superintendents are the educational leaders who are responsible for legislative compliance, policy implementation, and the assurance of quality educational services delivered to children daily throughout the Commonwealth,” the letter to Balow reads. “School division superintendents, along with their communities, know best their curriculum, personnel, and student services, and they believe that gross assumptions have been made, without evidentiary support, in the development of the 30-day report.”

Among the many criticisms, Kiser wrote that Balow’s “assumption that discriminatory and divisive concepts have become widespread in Virginia school divisions without your having involved educators in formulating that position or without having provided evidence to support that position.” They also point out that Virginia schools are consistently highly ranked among states.

Kiser urged Balow, who resigned a job as the elected Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction to take the job in Virginia, to begin communicating with local superintendents. He encouraged her to “establish a working group soon, which includes superintendent representatives from throughout Virginia and superintendents of color, to discuss the process, objectives, and data that will be incorporated in the 90-day report. As the Executive Director of VASS, I will be happy to assist in the facilitation with division superintendents.”

And he called on the administration to end its “tip line” for parents to complain directly to the state about “divisive concepts” taught in classrooms. Youngkin’s administration has refused Freedom of Information Act requests related to the tip line complaints.

“Parents and educators must collaborate in a positive manner to achieve better outcomes for children,” Kiser wrote. “The administration can be a catalyst for positive stakeholder relationships through messages and actions. A tip line for parents to report divisive content to the Governor impedes positive relationships; therefore, the tip line needs to be terminated.”

Following the letter, Democratic lawmakers issued statements of support for the superintendents’ association.

“The superintendents are right. Many of these actions truly take public education backwards. They rescind years of work and research developed in collaboration with parents, teachers, and school systems, and many of these programs have made a difference for kids and parents,” Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87) stated. “If the Administration truly wants positive changes for our kids, it should improve its public outreach and create a working group rather than continuing to make our schools and kids a political football.”

Youngkin’s first executive order sought to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards.” While administriators say Critical Race Theory is not taught in public schools, school districts including Loudoun have begun to address related topics such as systemic racial inequality.

Loudoun was often the center of Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign on education as local activists sought to curb the school system’s work toward fixing racial inequality in education. It has also been an ongoing topic of controversy in Loudoun, where Black and Hispanic students have historically lagged their white peers in testing, and where their recovery from pandemic learning loss also trails behind white students.

Balow’s work, among other things, includes ending Virginia L.E.A.R.N.S., which outlines remedies for COVID-related learning loss.  The report describes Virginia L.E.A.R.N.S., as a “Substantial focus on building an equitable culture to remedy the learning loss caused by COVID-19 and school closures…” It states, “Education Equity is achieved when we eliminate the predictability of student outcomes based on gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status or language spoken at home.”

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