School Integration in Virginia Briefs

To ameliorate school segregation and foster more of the integrated learning environments that advance Virginia’s goals for P-12 education, Virginia leaders can undertake changes through the following efforts. These recommendations are aligned with three critical challenges highlighted in the following briefs:

  1. School Segregation by Boundary Line in Virginia
  2. Segregation within Schools: Unequal Access to AP Courses by Race and Economic Status in Virginia
  3. Double Segregation by Race and Poverty in Virginia Schools
  4. Early Divisions: Racial and Economic Segregation in Virginia’s Public Pre-Kindergarten

While categorized according to each challenge, these recommendations may impact multiple aspects of segregation and may provide multiple and intersecting benefits.

The recommendations below center on state levers to support local improvements, including policy change, technical assistance, and resource allocation.

To address school segregation and further integration, including by boundary line:

  1. Increase awareness of research and current best practices
    1. Amplify the importance of reducing school segregation and promoting integration for students and communities. Educate the public about the role of attendance and division boundaries in structuring segregation and how to mitigate it. Inform policymakers and community members about the ways targeted pre-K eligibility criteria may limit economic diversity. Include unique challenges for rural versus metropolitan regions.
    2. Issue state guidance, in collaboration with researchers and school boards, outlining evidence-based best practices related to rezoning and integration.
    3. Authorize new state data collection for public use related to school attendance boundaries, with flag for changes to school attendance boundaries, as well as a more detailed collection of school choice data
    4. Establish baseline analysis of school segregation, reported annually, related to attendance boundaries in each division
    5. Create a state rezoning dashboard that offers a transparent system for stakeholder engagement in the technical aspects of rezoning.
    6. Collect publicly available data distinguishing between the school a child attends and the one for which they are zoned (e.g., capturing specialty center enrollment) as well as a flag for open enrollment students.
    7. Define, evaluate and address racial/ethnic and economic school segregation, using flexible ratios (e.g., any school more than 5-10 percentage points above or below combined share of Black and Latinx ED students in a division; any division more than 5-10 percentage points above or below combined share of Black and brown ED students in a region)
    8. Establish a legislative commission or initiate a JLARC study on school segregation in Virginia
    9. Require division and regional annual reporting on school segregation along with a detailed plan to address it either within and/or between divisions; encourage planning with housing and transportation sectors.
    10. Increase real estate industry and public’s awareness of school rezoning and impact on segregation

  1. Allocate resources
    1. Expand focus of grant funding to school divisions to include designing and implementing student assignment plans that reduce segregation and promote integration between and within schools. Add a diversity priority to the scoring system for existing VDOE grants (e.g. high school innovation, year-round schooling). Funding for these efforts also could be part of school improvement, student support and academic enrichment grants, 21st century community learning programs or magnet school grant applications under ESSA.
    2. Include state funding for the Virginia Board of Education/VDOE to provide technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation and administration of new grant programs.
    3. Increase funding for VPK to expand services to families with low incomes while also raising the income eligibility threshold to be inclusive of more working- and middle-class families.

  1. Provide support and accountability
    1. Establish an office or department in VDOE to support voluntary integration and reduce segregation within and between schools through technical assistance, professional development, oversight, monitoring, grant review and related work
    2. Conduct VBOE “review of the adequacy” of existing school divisions for promoting the realization of the prescribed standards of quality, linked to realizing the goals of public schools in the Commonwealth.
    3. Revise Standards of Quality to explicitly define and include segregation as part of the “condition and needs of public education in the Commonwealth” and provide annual reports to that effect
    4. Provide oversight, technical assistance, funding for transportation and magnets
    5. Withhold state funding if divisions are out of compliance and/or offer supplemental funding to help divisions and regions address segregation in a multidimensional way, to include coordination with the housing sector
    6. Expand state and public oversight of new school construction and attendance boundaries
      1. Amend state code requirement for submission of construction plans to the state to require that significant public expenditures for new public schools are reviewed and approved by the state superintendent, subject to criteria relating to reducing segregation and promoting integration.
      2. Prioritize state funding assistance for construction of schools serving diverse communities
    7. Train superintendents, board members and school division to increase school board capacity to address segregation as part of rezoning processes and other student assignment policies.

  1. Collaborate
    1. Collaborate with state housing, transportation, workforce and health and human services departments to address school segregation.
    2. Establish eligibility for school divisions or consortia of school divisions working with one or more agencies governing public housing, zoning, transit, etc. for planning and implementation of student assignment, school choice and/or rezoning plans and processes designed to reduce racial/ethnic and economic segregation.
    3. Learn how community-based pre-K providers have made their programs welcoming and affirming to racially diverse families, and consider how school-based VPK programs can adopt such practices.

  1. Revise or add policy
    1. Establish certification requirements for superintendents, school boards, principals and teachers related to school segregation and integration
    2. Consider revising Virginia code § 22.1-18 to include the impact of choice programs on de facto segregation
    3. Revise § 22.1-253.13:5. Standard 5. Item D to include training focus on school segregation and integration
    4. Revise § 22.1-79. Powers and duties of the school board (proposed additional verbiage in italics) “Provide for the consolidation of schools or redistricting of school boundaries or adopt pupil assignment plans whenever such procedure will contribute to the efficiency and/or reduction of segregation of the school division.”
    5. Prohibit real estate agents from advertising a home for sale based on its school assignment and require home buyers to sign off on a document acknowledging that school boundaries change regularly
    6. Advise local school divisions to include a statement around attendance boundaries being subject to change on division-provided maps or school locator tools

NOTE: Because recent research suggests that higher levels of within-school, or second-generation, segregation tend to accompany progress on reducing between-school, or first generation, segregation, any shifts to student assignment policies that seek to address first-generation segregation must also include a plan to address second-generation segregation.

To address within-school segregation in unequal access to advanced coursework

  1. Collect data and publicize annual reporting of state and local-level AP course offerings, enrollment and exam outcomes by race, economic disadvantage and race and economic disadvantage.
  2. Provide division- and school-level supports to improve AP instructional practices and school/classroom climate and cultures through teacher/staff training, critical reading groups, and active recruitment of under-represented students.
  3. Incentive the elimination of the lowest academic track in secondary schools and enrollment of all students in higher-level coursework. This requires appropriate training for teachers and additional support for students.[1]
  4. Expand access to AP exams by providing financial support to low-income students for exam fees.[2]

To address the challenge of segregation by race and poverty:

  1. Provide state guidance to facilitate school division policy that
    1. Considers race and poverty together and both the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic (SES) demographics of neighborhoods[3]  in drawing attendance boundaries.
    2. Addresses student transfer, open enrollment, specialty programs, and competitive admissions by considering racial/ethnic and SES makeup of student neighborhoods or sending/receiving schools,  granting priority to student moves that increase integration and reduce segregation.
    3. Uses place-based measures of SES that provide a more nuanced definition, including elements like neighborhood income or residence, whether a student attended Head Start, whether families receive income-based governmental assistance, and parental educational attainment, academic achievement, ELL status, and special education students[4]

  1. Allocate resources to address the increase in student and school poverty over the past decade and as a consequence of the pandemic, particularly for school divisions serving students with the highest level of unmet needs. Resources should be accompanied by a systematic approach that provides more students access to racially and economically diverse learning environments.