Arlington Public Schools’ seemingly intractable challenge in breaking the sometimes massive difference in the rates of academic success will focus, this school year, on making improvements one student at a time.
“We have a persistent achievement gap. We’ve got to really double down and think about each and every child,” said Superintendent Francisco Durán at the School Board meeting of Aug. 18, the last before 27,000 students head back to class on Aug. 29-30.
Recently released state Standards of Learning scores showed that Arlington, like the commonwealth as a whole, was making some gains but still had a long trek to claw back the learning lost during the COVID era, when students were effectively shut out of in-person instruction for a year.
And the figures also show the perpetual divide persists between white and Asian students on one side, African-American and Latino students on the other, when it comes to broad-based results.
“We’re digging into the data,” the superintendent said, saying the plan would be to “focus on [students’] strengths and build – push them to reach above and beyond.”
“Every single student counts,” Durán said, promising that teachers and administrators would “have that laser-like focus” to ensure success.
“We’ve got to think positively,” Durán said, although a cynic might reply that he or she was indeed positive they’ve heard this refrain about closing achievement gaps before. Yet they seem to have more staying power than COVID and its variants.
In a back-to-school preview, the superintendent said the school system was now 99-percent staffed up, with about 300 teachers new to the school system on board – including “quite a few” that have come from surrounding jurisdictions, he said without elaboration.