Arlington Public Schools Advisory Councils Tackle Gaps, Changes

Arlington Public Schools Advisory Councils Tackle Gaps, Changes

From minority student performance to high school boundaries.

Dr. Patrick Murphy, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, and Nancy Van Doren, School Board chair, addressed a meeting of 25 members of Arlington’s Advisory Councils on Instruction (ACI) at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13. Van Dorn reviewed the School Board priorities as drafted, as well as the APS 3-5 year Action Plan. Major issues facing the School Board include high school boundary changes and minority achievement gaps.

Murphy asked the group of interested parents and citizens to think about “how to integrate. We have only so many resources,” he said. “We have only so many volunteers. We have to have the resources in place to allow talents to flourish.”

There are 15 curriculum-based advisory committees and roughly 40-50 ACI members in Arlington. The role of the committees is to look across APS to review related programs and research potential best practices. The ACI encourages the free flow of ideas and opinions between the community and the School Board. The ACI welcomes new members and encourages diversity in its membership to ensure participation of all Arlingtonians in the decision making process. To get involved, visit

Dr. Theresa Adkins, supervisor, Office of Minority Achievement, addressed the group in the context of the Whole Child Working Group. The current statistics show APS having over 26,000 students. Ten years ago, that number was 18,000 students. Of these 26,000 students, 28.3 percent have Limited English Proficiency (LEP), 14.4 percent have a disability, which at a minimum means they have an IEP requiring special instruction.

Adkins expressed concern that the data on SOL pass results was worse for SWD (Students with Disabilities) and LEP students; Math scores were down in 2016 for African Americans and the economically disadvantaged groups. Social studies SOL results flatlined.

The Office of Minority Achievement is working on a variety of programs to improve minority student performance: Cohort and affinity groups, a College Identification Program, separate Middle School Leadership Conferences for boys and girls, a Summer Literacy Academy for boys of color, and culturally responsive instruction — in which sensitivity to minorities plays a large part — are being implemented. Adkins explained the last item: observation during class in schools indicated students who were culturally or racially different were disaffected because the content was not culturally diverse enough and therefore they did not learn as well. She acknowledged that preschool is an important starting point. Adkins said they are looking for programming at a younger level.

ACI said they plan to do breakout groups on minority achievement and high school redesign. APS is responding to the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for high school redesign, emphasizing content knowledge, community engagement, career exploration, and workplace skills. APS wants to expand the use of performance assessments and reduce the number of credits verified by SOL tests; increase internships and work-based learning experiences; increase career exposure, exploration, and planning; and emphasize the ”5 C’s” – Critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship.

For more information on what the “future high school graduate profile” looks like, see

A MAJOR AREA of focus in the coming year will be APS’ need for 1,300 additional high school seats. Expansion of Arlington Tech will be one way to integrate students from Washington & Lee which is currently over-capacity. The proposed schedule for high school boundaries is online at

The School Board will act on boundary recommendations in December prior to High School Information Night on Dec. 12 for rising freshman. The boundary adjustments will take effect in Fall 2017 and will begin with 2016 eighth graders who will be ninth graders in 2017, and will continue with future incoming freshmen. No current high school students will be affected by the proposed boundary refinements.

A brief recap of the changes was offered at the meeting: Wakefield High School will add 300 seats by the start of the 2017-18 school year; Yorktown High School will add 300 seats by the start of the 2018-19 school year; Arlington Tech enrollment will be balanced among the three high schools, with 46 students to come from each high school in the 2017-18 school year and 80 students from each high school in the 2018-19 school year. However, decisions on boundaries may be delayed because of high school redesign, evaluation of policy on enrollment and transfers, middle school boundary changes for the 2017-18 school year, adoption of FY 2017-26 CIP projects, and a projected seat surplus at Yorktown High School by the 2026 school year.