There are many different challenges FCPS must navigate to ensure all schools receive equitable resources. The adoption of the One Fairfax Policy is the vehicle the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board will use to eliminate achievement gaps and ensure equitable opportunities for all students.
The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a planning tool for FCPS capital improvements of school facilities over a five year period. One of the guiding principles of the CIP is to keep students within their zoned pyramids from K-12 grades. Currently, almost 20,000 of FCPS students transfer out of their own pyramid.
Below are issues that contribute to students leaving their pyramids and other existing inequities that need immediate attention under this policy. Use the accordions below to explore these issues. To learn more about the topics listed below, visit our Resource Library.
FCPS organizational structure and policies contribute to inequitable distribution of resources. These inequities inhibit all schools from being able to adequately educate, equip, and prepare students to succeed in the future beyond the classroom.
Read about FCPS’ Portrait of a Graduate here.
- FCPS School Board and FCPS staff are slow to respond and not visibly transparent with timely and appropriate decisions and actions to address rapidly changing demographics in the county.
- As a result, an increasing number of students in FCPS, the second wealthiest county in the United States, are being left behind in regards to academic rigor, curriculum opportunities, and overall community involvement. These results are inequitable.
- Fairfax County’s nine governing magisterial districts overlap with more than one of the FCPS five school regions. Several Magisterial District Supervisors, who ultimately approve the FCPS budget, may represent the same school. This structure dilutes rather than strengthens government accountability within that school’s boundary pyramid.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Structure/Policies’.
Equity issues are not unique to FCPS. Public school districts throughout the country are facing challenges with limited resources and a lack of community engagement structures to eliminate inequitable distribution of resources.
Our Resource Library has a sampling of news articles and data from public school systems around the country.
Poor application of FCPS boundary policies, coupled with School Board inertia, have led to increased inequities along socio-economic lines. Inequitable boundary adjustments lead to loss of curriculum rigor and a drop in teacher and parental volunteer resources within schools experiencing declining enrollment. These practices are inequitable.
- FCPS School Board policies that allow the FCPS Superintendent to make boundary adjustments without adequate public hearings and transparent community input have resulted in boundaries that are divided along social-economic lines.
- The emphasis on, and effect of closing, split-feeder schools has increased the social-economic boundary divide. Split-feeder schools are those where students in the same neighborhood are sent to more than one elementary and/or middle school. Wealthier split-feeder neighborhoods have successfully petitioned to be reassigned to wealthier high schools. These administrative decisions, sanctioned by the FCPS School Board, have occurred when the wealthier schools’ enrollment is overcapacity and enrollment of the school left behind is undercapacity.
- The lack of a comprehensive, county-wide boundary study in over 30 years has contributed to overcrowding in schools with larger percentages of students from higher socio-economic statuses and the draining of students in schools with larger percentages of students from lower socio-economic statuses. This lack of action has led to inequitable distribution of precious school resources.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Boundaries’.
Student Transfer Regulation 2230 – FCPS student transfer regulation 2230 has been manipulated by parents to the effect of moving students from lower to higher socio-economic schools.
- Transfers allowed for siblings adds to the impact of a single student transfer by increasing enrollment at schools already overcrowded. These schools are defined as having a “capacity deficit”.
- Transfers approved for Elementary Language Immersion Programs do not include FCPS bus transportation. Only parents with the time and means to transport their students to these programs can take advantage of these programs. Parents may also use them as an excuse to leave their boundary assigned pyramid school.
- Transfer requests for elementary school level language programs contribute to overcrowding at the schools that house the programs. This means the students who live within the base school boundaries may be moved into trailers unsecured within the building.
- Transfer requests for high school world language programs are being manipulated by parents to bypass lower socio-economic assigned base schools to the benefit of higher socio-economic schools.
- Transfer requests for International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses are being manipulated by parents to bypass lower socio-economic assigned base schools to the benefit of higher socio-economic schools.
- Students might not be returned to their base pyramid even after the original reason for transfer no longer exists. The “renewal” of a student’s original reason for transferring from their base school should be reviewed annually by the student’s receiving principal. Often times, it is not reviewed and the student does not return to their base school.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Student Transfer/Pupil Placement’.
There are 3 issues that need immediate attention:
1.) The uneven FCPS distribution of advanced academic programs (AAP), 2.) the dramatic increase in students qualifying for AAp, and 3.) the application screening process that favors those of higher socio-economic levels and contributes to inequitable distribution of FCPS resources and student academic opportunities.
- Uneven distribution of AAP Centers and Level IV instruction within pyramid structures and across regions and is weakening base elementary schools and, by extension, the middle and high schools in that pyramid. This leads to inequitable instruction opportunities starting at grade 3. Level IV when taught in base schools uses the same curriculum as AAP Centers and the teachers have the same professional development standards as those working in AAP Centers. The lack of Level IV instruction and accompanying Level IV certified teachers in base school leads to inequitable education opportunities for all students. This is particularly evident in Region 3.
- The dramatic increase in students qualifying for AAP/Level IV instruction is contributing to overcrowding at schools with AAP/Level IV centers. The current FCPS solution is to increase building capacity of AAP Centers rather than keeping and/or providing Level IV instruction – and qualified teachers – at each base school.
- Parents of higher socio-economic means use alternate methods, beyond FCPS test screening, to have their students identified for AAP/Level IV instruction. These alternate methods are outside of the FCPS system and require additional time and money, limiting who is able to pursue these screenings. This practice increases demographic inequities in both base schools and AAP/Level IV Centers, which continues into the middle and high schools.
- The absence of FCPS advanced academic programs (AAP) from certain middle schools is an inequity across pyramids and regions. The decisions on where these centers are located should be evaluated through an equity lense to ensure AAP centers are fairly distributed, are not congregated in higher socio-economic neighborhoods, and strengthen school pyramid structures.
- Students who qualify for AAP curriculum in a pyramid without an AAP Center are forced to travel to another pyramid to receive these services.
- Students are separated from their pyramid elementary school classmates and then are reluctant to return to their pyramid high school after completion of middle school.
- FCPS policy regarding a critical number of students necessary for providing an AAP Center within a pyramid are not transparent.
- The ultimate result is a complete weakening of the entire K-12 pyramid. Pyramids without an AAP Center and accompanying AAP/Level IV certified teachers leads to inequitable education opportunities.
- Lee Pyramid
The 2017-2018 FCPS transfer numbers for the Lee HS pyramid indicate there are least 93 AAP students who have left the Lee pyramid. This is over 5% of the current Lee HS population.
- Mount Vernon Pyramid
Riverside ES is an AAP center. Whitman MS does not support AAP, so students are sent to Sandburg MS which then sends them to West Potomac HS instead of Mt. Vernon HS. However, now that West Potomac is closed to transfers, those AAP students are starting to choose to stay in the Whitman/Mt. Vernon HS pyramids, as they end up back in that pyramid by HS anyhow.
Orange Hunt ES offers German Immersion. If your child tests in for AAP, they go to one middle school, but if they carry on with German Immersion, they go to a different middle school.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Elementary and Middle Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Centers’.
Currently, FCPS is doing an injustice to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and the students who can benefit from it due to misinformation and lack of communication surrounding IB programs. A common reason parents use for their children to transfer to schools in different pyramids than their base schools is their preference for Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum over IB curriculum. An IB education should be heralded as a college preparatory approach to success in college, the same as AP programs. FCPS needs to educate parents and students about the IB methodology, how it prepares students in line with the Portrait of a Graduate mission points, and counter the misconception that colleges/universities do not accept IB credits when in fact they do.
- Without FCPS’ clear and adequate support of IB programs, parents will continue to take advantage of this as a reason to relocate their students into other pyramid schools with AP curriculum. Often, IB programs are housed within lower socio-economic schools while AP programs exist in wealthier schools. Allowing misinformation on IB programs to persist and allowing parents to act on these misconceptions will continue to empty seats from IB schools and overcrowd AP schools. This in turn affects the resources and quality of education of the entire school pyramid.
- The impact of these misconceptions and lack of adequate support from FCPS officials and staff on IB programs stems further to include entities beyond the school system. For example, GreatSchools.org, the dominant rating system used by homeowners in Fairfax County, does not include IB programs in their rating systems. This increases inequities by discouraging homeowners from locating to school pyramids with IB curriculum. These schools are predominantly located in lower socio-economic neighborhoods.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘International Baccalaureate vs Advanced Placement’.
One of the guiding principles of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is to offer unique programming made available in all pyramids in order to keep students within their zoned pyramid. FCPS’ Portrait of a Graduate lists the quality of becoming an ethical and global citizen as an important component of student success. World language studies is a major component to becoming a global citizen.
- Currently, FCPS offers language immersion programs at a limited number of elementary schools. There is not a program within every pyramid, contradicting the guidelines listed above.
- If the immersion program is located outside of a student’s assigned pyramid school, transportation must be provided by the student and their family. This requirement limits who is able to participate in the program to those with the time and resources to provide their own transportation. This is inequitable as these students are often those of higher socio-economic status. This practice contributes to dividing schools based on socio-economic demographics, overcrowding some schools, and under-resourcing other schools.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Language Immersion Programs’.
The FCPS approach of adding temporary classrooms (trailers) to schools defined as having a “deficit capacity” (overcrowded), specialized programs to undercapacity schools, and other ad hoc measures have not been effective in providing relief to overcapacity in higher socio-economic schools and undercapacity in lower socio-economic schools.
The solution of building more facilities should be the last resort when schools in close proximity have empty seats. These practices are inequitable and unnecessarily costly to all county taxpayers and do not provide equitable safety to all students.
A long overdue countywide comprehensive boundary realignment would contribute to an equitable and stable solution.
- Overcrowded, higher socio-economic schools face pressure from parents to add building capacity for increasing enrollments, while only a few miles away are lower socio-economic schools with empty seats, and who would benefit from the resources which come with increased enrollment.
- The addition of specialized programs have not been effective in preventing declining enrollment in schools with lower socio-economic status.
- The FCPS aspirational goal for eliminating trailers is 2038. Trailers leave students more vulnerable than inside the more secure permanent building.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Facilities’.
Declining enrollment in lower socio-economic FCPS schools leads to inequitable opportunities for students, fewer parent volunteers, and less revenue.
- Declining enrollment at lower FCPS socio-economic schools results in fewer players for teams in multiple sports. These teams are often unable to field teams at all skill levels, i.e. Freshman, Junior Varsity, and Varsity.
- Athletes on teams with inequitable opportunities do not receive the visibility that attracts college recruiters, resulting in fewer college scholarship offers.
- Well intentioned efforts to realign FCPS district and regional conferences to create more evenly fielded competition resulted in a clustering of lower socio-economic schools. These schools continue to struggle with generating adequate gate receipts necessary to fund an athletic budget deserving of an FCPS high school. This includes athletic equipment, uniforms, and other resources available to those schools with much greater gate receipt revenue.
- Declining enrollment means fewer parent volunteers, lower fundraising revenue, lack of food concession services, limited support for the athletes and coaches, and weaker long-term development for the entire school’s athletic program.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘High School Athletics’.
Information is from the article ‘Does the No. 1 High School in America Practice Discrimination?’
- Despite being in a district that’s 19 percent Asian,10 percent African-American, and a quarter Latino, its student body is nearly two-thirds Asian, 1.5 percent African-American, and only 2.2 percent Latino. That racial inequity has persisted for nearly 20 years. This fall , TJ will unveil a new battery of admission tests that could leave the disparity even more pronounced.
- The gap between the number of black and Latino students at TJ versus the demographics in Fairfax County schools is evidence that, intentionally or not, “the school district is practicing discrimination,” says Donna Ford, an expert on multicultural gifted education at Vanderbilt University. Her assessment is based on the “four-fifths rule,” a formula devised by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the rule, a school’s demographics should be within 20 percent of the district’s. For TJ, that means a student body at least 19 percent Latino and 8 percent African-American.
- The admission test is undeniably a part of the school’s persistent diversity problem. Research shows that black, Latino, and low-income students tend to score worse on standardized tests than their white and Asian counterparts.
- …in the first disqualifying round [of the admissions process], decisions are numbers-driven and gender-, race-, and income-blind.
This disparity in FCPS acceptance rates into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has a long history. It all begins with which students are getting early advanced instruction/nurturing. A large majority of the students attending TJHSST have parents that were able to move them into the districts in the county that are known to produce the most eligible candidates. These parents also have the finances and connections for private ’TJ Prep classes”.
To see the resources on this topic, visit our Resource Library and click the category ‘Acceptance Qualifications for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’.