Black Student Admissions Still Lag at Loudoun’s STEM Academies

Black students are not faring any better in the Academies of Loudoun admissions process two years after an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights found that the selection criteria unfairly discriminated against minorities.

The Academies of Loudoun program provides advanced STEM education and career readiness preparation for high school students. 

A complaint by the Loudoun NAACP that students were denied admission to the Academies based on their race led to an investigation by Attorney General Mark Herring in 2019. That investigation found those admissions policies had a discriminatory impact on Black and Hispanic students. The school district committed to expanded outreach efforts to marginalized student groups, including Black and Hispanic communities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The changes included altering testing requirements and allocating the available seats on a geographic basis around the county.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Ashley Ellis shared preliminary information about 2021 admissions data with the school division’s Equity Committee on Thursday night, although the admissions data in its entirety is not yet available and will be presented to the full School Board in October. Administrators are comparing admissions metrics between 2019 and 2021, because COVID-related school closures make 2020’s less telling.

The findings left Loudoun NAACP member Robin Burke dissatisfied.

“It was extremely disappointing that the one group that this effort was supposed to focus on and improve failed miserably … For our African American students to fare the poorest in this effort is beyond belief,” Burke said. 

The data shows that the representation of Black and Asian students among those who applied for, were offered seats, and accepted admission for the Academies of Engineering and Technology and Academies of Science this year was similar to that in 2019, when only one Black student was accepted. While the volume of white applicants was similar between the two years, more white students were admitted in 2021 than in 2019, according to the report. Hispanic applicants made “significant” gains, according to the presentation.

The Academies rolled out a beefed up recruitment effort to middle schoolers in 2019 to increase the applicant pool, which has resulted in students coming from a wider array of middle schools in the district. The outreach also led to significantly more students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds attending the Academies. The outreach involves offering virtual elementary school field trips to the Academies and virtual tours for middle schoolers. Moving forward, there will no longer be a $35 application fee for students. 

“There are some specific outreach activities in support of certain student groups. But overall, we were increasing recruitment and outreach across the board,” Ellis said. 

A report from the Equity Collaborative in 2019 found systemic racism in the school division. The district launched an equity initiative, which Superintendent Scott Ziegler presented to the public during a workshop in May

The district examined racial equity in hiring of teachers and staff, and treatment of students. The district also implemented teacher training to identify how racial inequity can be battled in the classroom, described as Culturally Responsive Framework.

Those efforts, though, were met with resistance. Critics of the district allege that schools are using Critical Race Theory, which is an ideological framework that exams how racial inequity impacts society, and to which those critics object. Over the past 18 months, parents have claimed that the school district’s equity work is indoctrinating students with a liberal political agenda.

The full set of data on admissions to the Academies will be presented to the Equity Committee when it meets on Oct. 7.

3 thoughts on “Black Student Admissions Still Lag at Loudoun’s STEM Academies

  • 2021-09-06 at 7:22 am

    Isn’t the point of this effort to increase the access to qualified students to the advantages provided by the Academy of Science curriculum? There is a greater demand than supply of seats apparently and the mix of students attending is unacceptable to the NAACP. There is nothing in this article that explains why the Academy of Science is special compared to just taking AP courses nor is there an explanation of how the Academy is structured. Here is what is important in my opinion as a former school board member very involved with the development of the Academy and a parent of an attendee. The first two years of the program is a transcript numbered integrated science and math inquiry based course. This course can be taught at ALL LCPS high schools which would greatly increase the supply of seats. The third and fourth years of this program are project research oriented which does tend to need centralized facilities for special equipment. Now why doesn’t the NAACP demand the expansion of the Academy to all high schools and that the admissions be done at least to demographic levels in the county so there is no fairness argument whatsoever to prevent it. Let’s make progress for our students and drop the rhetorical war language that seems more partisan than anything else. Education delayed is education denied. 🙂

    • 2021-09-15 at 6:37 pm

      You want teachers to actually teach the subjects? That’s going to require cutting out some of the indoctrination or extending the school day.

  • 2021-09-06 at 9:19 am

    Stack the deck with affirmative action quotas and you get no takers that is beyond funny. Social engineering egg on your face at what cost to tax payers!

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