Julia O’Donoghue, Fairfax (Virginia) Connection, April 2, 2008
At-large School Board member Tina Hone questioned the validity of data that shows a “morality gap” between white students and some minority groups in Fairfax County Public Schools.
At-large school board member Tina Hone walked off the dais during Fairfax County Public Schools’ presentation on student “essential life skills” March 27.
For the first time, the school system provided student achievement data in areas related to character and morality development. Officials used information from elementary school report cards, student surveys and school discipline rates to determine student performance in these areas.
Data showed a significant gap between elementary and middle school students who are white or Asian and those who are black or Hispanic in areas like “demonstrates sound moral character and ethical judgment,” “contributes effectively within a group dynamic,” has “skills to manage and resolved conflicts” and “develop practical life skills.”
White and Asian students performed better in these areas than other minority groups as well as students with limited English, students who are poor, and students receiving special education services.
For example, among third graders, school system graphs show that 95 percent of white and Asian students “demonstrate sound moral character and ethical judgment.” They show only 82 percent of black students, 86 percent of Hispanic students, 84 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, 88 percent of students who are limited English proficient and 83 percent of students who qualify for special education services achieve in the same area.
Hone, one of only two non-white members of the school board, said she was “troubled” by the report, particularly the gap between black and Hispanic students and their peers.
“How are we sure this gap is not an assessment failure? . . . that some of this is not about fixing our staff?” said Hone [one of only two non-white members of the school board] during last week’s school board meeting.
School board member Kathy Smith (Sully) said the data could reflect a need for more teacher training on issues like cultural sensitivity.