VDOE Does Define Educational Equity as Equal Outcomes

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

An African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council (AASAC) was formed by the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020.

It is charged “to develop policy recommendations to advance African American students’ academic success and social emotional well being to inform VDOE priorities and strategies”.

It has proven extremely influential.

I have yet to find an AASAC recommendation that has not been adopted by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) and VDOE in drafting and approving regulations and standards.

Given that track record, I will present below the recommendations presented by AASAC on March 17, 2021, to the Virginia Board of Education’s (VBOE) Special Committee to Review the Standards of Accreditation.

These actual recommendations will perhaps quell some of the controversy on this site about what the left intends for Virginia schools.

First, it is important to understand the AASAC’s definition of racial equity (from the AASAC slide deck) requires equal outcomes.

“The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity.”

I have seen nothing from the Virginia Board of Education or VDOE that challenges that definition of equity. Indeed, the Superintendent himself writes that his goal, in addition to closing opportunity gaps, is “eliminating disproportionality in student outcome data.” So, when reading the recommendations below, that is the context.

Everyone favors equal opportunity. Fewer work to achieve it.

The AASAC instead wants standards and regulations that force equal outcomes across more than a million students in the public schools. That goal runs counter to thousands of years human experience and science, results in policies that harm all students, and is the single core issue that divides.

AASAC Recommendations 

Academic Achievement & Opportunity Gaps

  1. Revise Instructional and Graduation Requirements to ensure that course progressions provide equal emphasis on career/workforce readiness.
  2. Include discipline disproportionality as an indicator in the state’s accountability system.
  3. Require reporting of demographic data on enrollment in gifted programs/specialty academic centers on Virginia’s School Quality Profiles.
  4. Create an opportunity and access indicator.
  5. Require schools and divisions to report on student enrollment in (advanced) courses as well as report on the details of course offerings by school.
  6. Include a measure of access to academic rigor in accreditation, which could be a composite indicator. 
  7. Require schools offer open enrollment in advanced level academic coursework
  8. Require divisions to evaluate master schedules to ensure equitable student assignment in honors/advanced and AP courses and require reporting on demographic enrollment in these courses.  
  9. Establish Model Guidance on equitable enrollment procedures for Governor’s schools and accelerated programs.

Culturally Responsive & Equitable Schools

  1. Establish a single indicator or composite score related to school climate, which also includes indicators of antiracism and Culturally Responsive and Inclusive school climate.
  2. Require an equity advisory committee at the division level.
  3. Incorporate racism, racial equity, social justice as part of standards of learning.
  4. Establish a single indicator or composite score related to school climate, which also includes indicators of antiracism and Culturally Responsive and Inclusive school climate.
  5. Require an equity advisory committee at the division level.
  6. Incorporate racism, racial equity, social justice as part of standards of learning.
  7. Require each school board to adopt an equity plan that includes the establishment of equity goals.
  8. Establish Model efficacy tools to evaluate Culturally Responsive and Inclusive instructional practice.
  9. Establish Model Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Audit for all approved instructional materials (curriculum and textbooks).
  10. Require Educator Preparation Programs to include programs of study and experiences that prepare teachers to be culturally responsive by revising regulations Governing the Review and Approval of Education Programs in Virginia  8VAC20-543-10 et seq to include guidance on: Diversity, equity, cultural responsiveness and competence; Anti-racism; and Diverse field placements.
  11. Requirement for a Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Practices Coordinator at every division.
  12. Require equitable distribution of teachers to disrupt the disparity of the most experienced teachers being assigned to the lowest poverty schools.
  13. Reconfigure division boundaries and zoning to promote better integration and to advance equitable access for all students by amplifying best practices, issuing model guidance, and advocating for inclusive school division boundaries.

Teacher Diversity

  1. Require reporting on student to teacher racial ratios in the form of a single indicator or composite score related to teacher/student demographics. This should be reported on School Quality Profiles as a Teacher Diversity Index.
  2. Establish Model Guidance for mentoring and coaching program for the retention of Teachers of Color.
  3. Modify licensure regulations to permit alternative pathways, other than the Praxis (such as through micro-credentials) to meet licensure requirements.

So, using the AASAC’s own definition of equity, those recommendations demand not only equal racial outcomes in school boundaries, student discipline, student achievement, teacher acceptance into the profession, and teacher ratios in each school, but also changes to curricula, materials and gifted programs and a huge new bureaucracy to oversee and audit those things.

VBOE/VDOE are granting those demands as fast as they can.

Neither the AASAC nor the VBOE/VDOE acknowledge and indeed may not care that an equal outcomes mandate will result in policies that are both likely to harm the very students they intend to help and certain to generate fierce opposition.

The AASAC would be widely supported if it sought opportunity improvements. Some examples:

  • Demand intense early instruction for disadvantaged students in math and reading and extended school days and year-round instruction in the most disadvantaged schools – not just in Richmond but in every school system with underperforming schools;
  • Ask for a Virginia constitutional amendment to require the state take over school districts or schools that routinely fail to educate their students — including failing schools in Fairfax County;
  • Ask for a law that requires state school funding to follow the kids to whatever schools their parents choose rather than directly to public schools to which they are assigned geographically. This will create the proper incentives for public school performance;
  • Seek a change to Virginia law to ease the path for the introduction in Virginia of charter schools that have proven so successful with minority populations in New York and elsewhere. Ensure that they get the same funding as the other public schools;
  • Seek a law that requires VDOE to recruit and support Success Academy and its high performing counterparts to open campuses in Virginia’s most challenged school locations.

But such opportunity improvements did not make the AASAC list. They do not fall within approved leftist dogma. So they skipped that step and went straight to outcomes.

Without addressing early and intense initial and remedial instruction, for example, how can such a body advocate open enrollment in advanced programs for the same minority students who routinely test as unable to either read or multiply in the fourth grade?

Stark non-sequiturs like that are truly mystifying to the unconverted. They represent social dogma rather than functional policy.

Bottom line, AASAC and VDOE will never gain wide public approval of guaranteed equal outcomes regardless of individual effort or talent. And such policies have the distinct disadvantage of guaranteed failure.

It is a road that ends at a cliff. They need to wake up and realize it.