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Virginia school district votes to rename Thomas Jefferson, George Mason schools

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The board of a Virginia school district voted on Tuesday in favor of renaming two schools, both named after two United States founding fathers from Virginia, saying, “Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

The Falls Church School Board voted unanimously to change the names of two of its constituent schools, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and George Mason High School.

According to a press release from Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS), the vote followed a six-month-long process, which consisted of hours of public hearings, hundreds of submitted written public comments, and a survey of the community to inform the board’s decision.

“The Board took seriously the viewpoints and concerns raised by many students, parents, staff, and community members,” said School Board Chair Greg Anderson.

“We thank everyone who shared their perspectives with us and will be mindful of your comments as we now begin selecting names that reflect the diversity of opinions in our community,” he added. “Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

The renaming process will follow the guidelines outlined in the FCCPS Regulation FFA-R School Building Names Committee, the press release explains. The superintendent will accept individuals’ nominations to sit on an “Advisory Study Committee” to the school board for each school name. Following which, the committees will recommend five names to the school board.

At an upcoming meeting, the board will announce the timeline for the work.

This move by the school board comes amid a growing movement in recent years to remove statues and public displays honoring certain U.S. historical figures who held racist views or engaged in racist practices, especially those who had owned slaves or fought in the Civil War for the Confederate States.

In a significant example, Princeton University changed the name of one of its schools that had been named after World War I-era President Woodrow Wilson, who held views considered racist by the standards of his time, once hosting a screening of the pro-Ku Klux Klan film Birth of A Nation (1915) at the White House, the first film to ever have been screened at the president’s residence.

It is worth noting that another component of this movement seeks to remove Confederate symbols from public use. This has led to many public statues of Confederate figures being removed and to Mississippi this year changing its state flag to a new one that does not contain the racist Confederate Battle Flag.

Countless schools, institutions, and places have been named after Jefferson over the course of the country’s history, being one of the most popular U.S. historical figures who people name things after. It was the Declaration of Independence’s author who founded the prestigious University of Virginia, where his legacy is still predominates the campus near his Monticello home and plantation.

Notably, Mason is the namesake of the renown George Mason University in Virginia’s Fairfax County.

When it comes to the debate about the legacy of Jefferson and other slave-owning founding fathers, advocates for changing names and public statues argue that slavery should be enough to warrant those changes while those on the other side defending such naming and statues argue that removing history will mean younger generations won’t learn from it.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Remote Learning Lowered Test Scores in Every State; Minority Students Hit the Worst

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Remote Learning

A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows remote learning has had a negative impact on students’ test scores in every state. Not only were students across the country affected, minority students were impacted the most.

According to the publication, remote learning led to declines in test scores for English and math, when compared to scores of students who went to schools with more in-person learning. “Our research shows that test score losses are significantly larger in districts with less in-person learning,” said Emily Oster, professor of economics at Brown University.

“This suggests, yes, that virtual learning was – and is – less effective than in-person learning, at least as measured by school-based testing” added Oster. “Passing rates in math declined by 14.2 percentage points on average; we estimate this decline was 10.1 percentage points smaller for districts fully in-person,” the study found.

The research combined “district-level schooling mode data from the 2020-21 school year,” “district-level test score data from 2015 to 2021” and “demographic data from the NCES,” according to the study.

Data was collected from students in third to eighth grades in 12 states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Score declines showed variations by state, as well. Virginia “which had the most complete virtual learning time, along with Colorado, saw an almost 32% drop on math test scores in the 2020-21 school year when compared to the 2018-19 school year” reports Tampa Free Press.

Wyoming, however, “which had the most in-person learning, along with Florida, saw just a 2.3% drop in English, the study found.”

“Changes in English Language Arts (ELA) were smaller than math scores overall, but drops in scores were greater in districts with larger black and Hispanic populations and students eligible for free and reduced lunch prices” reports Tampa Free Press.

“Districts that have a larger share of black and Hispanic students and less in-person schooling also saw a greater decline in ELA test scores than those with more in-person schooling. “

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