Your View: End of transfers will fix Jefferson-Houston demographics

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Your View: End of transfers will fix Jefferson-Houston demographics
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By Wendy Montes de Oca, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
I am a parent of a kindergartener and first grader at Jefferson-Houston School. On December 15, I read a letter to the editor titled “Jefferson-Houston boundaries amount to economic segregation.” I would like to share my perspective.

Like many parents zoned for Jefferson-Houston I was concerned about sending my children there. After careful consideration, our family registered with three requirements in mind: is our child happy, learning and safe?

The answers were clear. We have not only remained, but enrolled our second child as well. My children are very happy at school, are learning above national grade level standards, and safety has never been a concern.

I am confident about sending my children to J-H regardless of its accreditation status because I can cite a large body of research showing that children who come from advantaged households reach the same level of achievement regardless of the racial or socio-economic makeup of the school. Children whose basic needs are well met, are exposed to math and literacy early and often, and have received quality preschool education statistically perform well in any school placement. Research also supports that these students do particularly well in math when attending truly diverse schools.

We should still examine why J-H is under-enrolled, has such a high Free and Reduced Meals rate, and has a more segregated student makeup than nearby schools. It has been suggested that a gerrymandered district is the root of the prob- lem. This fails to acknowledge a far deeper problem: administrative transfers.

Families zoned for Jefferson-Houston could previously request an administrative transfer to another ACPS school. Through the 2015-2016 school year, a full class of students opted out of Jefferson-Houston. These were kids from economically advantaged families that could wade through the process and provide private transportation to and from school. Less affluent families, lacking reliable transportation, were effectively excluded from this policy.

After years of these administrative transfers, schools like Lyles Crouch and Matthew Maury are now over capacity and Jefferson-Houston under. The FARM rate is out of balance. ACPS has realized its mistake and starting in 2016-2017 it has all but stopped administrative transfers.

The striking socio-economic imbalance between J-H and other neighboring elementary schools will correct it- self. ACPS projects that when students districted for J-H at- tend J-H, the FARM rate will stabilize. ACPS also projects that expanding the boundaries would result in overcrowding.

Residents must understand why boundaries did not change for Jefferson-Houston during the redistricting process. The trouble wasn’t the boundaries; it was that they were regularly bypassed.

This is not a “neighborhood without a voice.” We have been heard by Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley, the ACPS central office, and Jefferson-Houston advocate and school board member Veronica Nolan.

Our voices have combined to halt administrative transfers. If you are a parent of a rising kindergartener, your child will enter a Jefferson-Houston that is a representative cross-section of Alexandria thanks to the cooperation of ACPS, our parents and Nolan.

Visit J-H and see teachers guiding students through our International Baccalaureate program, enthusiastic kids interacting and learning alongside friends from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Deep and meaningful learning is happening at Jefferson-Houston.

I invite residents who are doubtful to visit the school, and to take another look at the recent data. There is a new narrative at Jefferson- Houston, and it is important that the truth begins to overpower rumors.

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