Equity and Opportunity
T.C. Williams High School is an incredibly diverse landscape with students from 114 countries who speak 119 languages. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings has made equity and opportunity for student success the underpinning of every decision made at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS).
But equity hasn’t always been a centerpiece, like many other Southern school systems, ACPS, has struggled with racial integration. When the Brown vs. Board decision to integrate schools was rendered, Alexandria’s leadership’s first reaction was to ignore it.
When integration did happen, it did so because of a strategy called the “one-high school solution.” The city integrated the school system from the top-down by creating T.C. Williams — a fully integrated eleventh and twelfth grade school — then worked on balancing the races in the lower grades at Francis C. Hammond and George Washington and eventually, racially integrating the neighborhood elementary schools. Sport rivalries and racial tensions calmed down, as Alexandria united behind T.C. Williams High School.
Today, T.C. Williams is more than black and white, our diversity includes students who speak English as a second language and students who live in poverty — many of whom don’t have parents advocating for their education. While we want to think of integration as a battle won sixty years ago, in reality, there are still vestiges of modern-day segregation in ACPS.
The numbers tell us we aren’t delivering the same opportunities to all our kids: 94 percent of white students graduate, 87 percent pursue higher education and 90 percent of African American students graduate and 71 percent go onto college. But just 69 percent of Hispanic students graduate and only 45 percent go on to higher education. Among economically disadvantaged students, 74 percent graduate, while 60 percent of these students go onto some kind of higher education.
Going forward we need to establish processes and systems that foster equitable opportunities for all our students to learn. ACPS is committed to making sure students are ready for college or a job upon graduation regardless of their zip code, race or life experience.
Equity means kicking down barriers to meet each student where they are then challenging and supporting them to achieve more. Equity for all includes struggling students, students with special needs, students who want more advanced learning options and students who need language support. Our students future is today and it’s our responsibility to prepare them for the world of tomorrow.