Your View (site blog, not mine personally)
Parents of children of color among 7 letter writers challenging view of race, other data
EDITOR'S NOTE, May 23: YourArlington's publisher will add further letters about this subject to this page only if the writer pursues a new angle or argument.
UPDATED, Aug. 2: The following letter was submitted by Mia Kiistala, Jon's Allison-Cardoso and Anastasia Gentry. The writers were asked to revise it, but they declined, so the letter was held. On further reflection, the editor decided to publish it. He apologized for his lapse in judgment on July 26. Although he has apologized previously on social media, the publisher has published an apology Aug. 3 following a recent Facebook discussion.
Meanwhile, Dig Boston, which first published the letter, has added a note to its introduction. That note includes a link to a rebuttal by Paul Schlichtman. The note does not mention that The Arlington Advocate still has not published the parents' letter. The note continues to refer to the Pedrini case, which is not directly relevant to publication of the parents' letter.
We are writing this response to Mr. Schlichtman’s letter “Schlichtman fact-checks debate claims about racial gap,” recently published in Your Arlington., about which Mr. Schlichtman's statistical counter to Lynette Martyn’s (newcomer School Committee candidate) debate statements narrowed in to select aspects of racial equity topics showing APS as, perhaps, further along in eliminating achievement gaps. This tactic is a common reaction because we would all feel better if those gaps did not exist. But this explanation, for some populations in Arlington, just reflects a systemic refusal to see topics that directly affect our students.
As parents and caregivers of children of color in the APS schools, it is not uncommon for us to pause and wonder whether it is a good idea to keep our children in APS. The answer to such a question is derived from the experiences of the children and their families in APS and are highly individual. Ideally, no family would need to confront this decision in the middle of their child’s education. All parents enter APS with the hope of a well-rounded education and a safe community. We enter with the expectation that our children can attend school without the need to seek alternative school placements. However, this is not the reality.
We recognize the hard work and commitment by the School Committee and their statisticians and data analysis, but the numbers do not always reflect the full experience of all of our students. When the needs of students with academic and social-emotional challenges are not met it can leave the families of some students of color feeling like leaving APS is their only choice. This choice is often based on a combination of factors that include being subjected to unaddressed microaggressions and disparities in achievement and discipline. Based on our experiences this transition happens before high school. Mr. Schlichtman's analysis excludes the portion of the population that exited APS before high school.
In his letter, Mr. Schlichtman referenced data that supports the idea that Arlington Public School is adequately serving its economically disadvantaged students, linguistically diverse students, and students of color. In some areas and at some grade levels the idea that Arlington is doing right by their students is true. It is also true that within Arlington Public Schools some sub-groups at different grade levels are not being adequately educated. Mr. Schlichtman’s choice of facts and data selectively point out high points, while ignoring areas in need of growth.
For example, in grades three through eight African American students, students with disabilities, and high-needs students consistently achieve at a lower rate than their white peers and the district as a whole. If a child has not had a successful K-8 experience, it seems more likely that they would leave the system before high school.
Disciplining of African Americans within APS schools provides yet another example where the data speaks to the inequitable education provided within the district. This has been highlighted to School Committee members and school administrators multiple times by many. We are aware of DIG sending this letter to School Committee members, for example. Direct connection of such disparate disciplinary practices can be realized in these students’ academic progress and in their emotional well-being.
There are some recent examples within APS where white students have committed actions and activities that warrant disciplinary actions (e.g., vaping, graffiti, hate speech) and oftentimes in such cases, the school responds with a constructive learning program instead of actions that result in a disciplinary record. This is the desired state as such a record has a lot to do with the future prospects of the students and the youth years are a lot about learning. However, the needs of the African American students are not attended to and when they violate school rules, the preferred action is to consistently assign detentions/suspensions.
Parents have attempted to bring up these disparities in achievement and discipline in the form of conversations with principals and emails to the superintendent’s office and School Committee with little to no response. It is our hope that all School Committee members and candidates attend to all students’ needs and also give voice to parents whose concerns have not been adequately addressed thus far. Mr. Schlichtman’s choice of facts continues to marginalize the needs of certain students and their families.
We, the parents of some of these overlooked students have repeatedly requested topics like this to be discussed openly and transparently with facts at the district level. APS, the School Committee, and related organizations have not attended to these requests, at best acknowledging that there are problems and work that needs to be done districtwide.
What seems to be missing is a strategy for identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions, solution-seeking, and providing a multifaceted plan for implementation. We need School Committee members that are willing to listen to different stakeholders and to all community members in an effort to enhance the educational experience for all students attending APS.
We respectfully ask that Mr. Schlichtman and members of the School Committee consider all of the data and the individual experiences of families before asserting that racial disparities and achievement gaps do not exist within Arlington Public Schools.
Inae Hwang, Coleman Road
Jon’s Cardoso, Quincy Street
Chris DiMeo, Park Ave.
Robert Saoud, Park Ave.
Lisa L. Treadwell
Greg & Lisa Treadwell, Florence Avenue
Katell Guellec, Thomas Street
Ashley Shimabukuro, Wollaston Avenue
Caitlin Sweeney, Grandview Road
Jacqueline Moquin-Vaudo, Oakland Avenue
Paivi Albaiti, Cutter Hill Road
Ahmed Albaiti, Cutter Hill Road
Claire Johnson, Wright Street
Kristin Chalmers, Lorraine Terrace
Rajeev Soneja, Mary Street
Rebecca Persson, Fremont Street
Laura Kiesel, Mass. Ave.
Manisha Sharma, 13 Mary St.
Chandreyee Das, Yerxa Road
Paula Jordan, 40 Windsor St.
Bob Santosuosso, 40 Windsor St.
Suzie Talukdar White, Concord Turnpike
Samaiyah Farid, Brattle Street
Tasia Gentry, Russell Place
Sandra Zuckerman, Daniels Street
Mia Kiistala, Orient Avenue
Kristina Fontanez, Scituate Street
Kathy Le, Park Ave. Ext.
Anni, Orient Avenue
Hannah Bluhm, Orient Avenue
Emily James / Grandview
Tasia Gentry, Russell Place
Raquel Boudreau, Broadway
Laura Gitelson, Bow Street
Heather Phelps Pond Lane
Sheryl Cohn Johnson, Road
Jenny Volkert Park Ave. Extension
Guy Fleurant, 133 Newland Road
Naoka Carey, Scituate Street
Linda Kang, Beacon Street
This letter was published Thursday, May 21, 2020, and its introduction was updated Aug. 2.
Chris DiMeo, a Park Avenue resident, submitted this letter.
Candidate for School Committee, Mr. Paul Schlichtman, has shocked me and the parents and educators I have talked to with his comments in an April 26 article. Mr. Schlichtman was responding to comments made by candidate Ms. Lynette Martyn during a recent ACMi debate. In the debate, Ms. Martyn spoke about the public data on “disparity gaps” for high-needs students in our schools along with solutions for improvement.
Specifically, these are the gaps between the educational performance of the general student population and our high-needs students including those that identify as students of color, our economically disadvantaged students and our English-language learners. In the article, Mr. Schlichtman distorts and misrepresents the data and claims that "the disparity gaps … simply don’t exist."
As the parent of an African American and special-education student (AHS Class of 2018), I am all too familiar with the realities of "widespread disparities" in our schools. While I celebrate his success and the significant progress on these issues in our schools, mostly due to some truly excellent teachers and social workers, I am appalled to see Mr. Schlichtman deny that the disparities exist. According to Deb Savage, PhD, founder of the Arlington Special Education Alliance (TASA), “educational disparity gaps (more commonly referred to as achievement gaps) for vulnerable student populations have been widely documented, acknowledged and discussed at both the federal and state levels, and in the town of Arlington as well.
Publicly available data show that educational achievement gaps exist for somewhere between 26.5 percent to 36 percent of students in Arlington.” In fact, Arlington School Committee and Arlington Schools have formally acknowledged the achievement gap and the five-year budget plan for Arlington Public Schools for 2020-2024 uses the phrase “Close Achievement Gap” to categorize expenditures for that very purpose.
In addition to achievement gaps, other gaps persist such as inequities in discipline. For instance, our minority students (non-white) make up approximately 30 percent of the student population but 50 to 60 percent of our suspensions. And less than 10 percent of our faculty and administration identify as people of color. In some of our schools containing the highest percentage of students of color, those teacher percentages are closer to 5 percent.
While it’s important to recognize that data never tells the whole story and we must always consider mitigating factors in these discussions, it is absolutely imperative that the data be used as a vital tool to inform programs, initiatives, budget, policy and staffing decisions to address and close these gaps for our marginalized students. Much of this difficult equity work has been done and it must continue.
I urge voters to vote on June 6 for the candidates who are taking these facts seriously-- Mr. Bill Hayner, Ms. Liz Exton and Ms. Lynette Martyn.
This letter was published Monday, May 11, 2020.
Deborah Savage, PhD, submitted this letter to the editor. In addition to race data, this letter addresses special-education students, economically disadvantaged students, and English language learners.
I am the founder and director of the Arlington Special Education Alliance (TASA), a networking and advocacy group of parents of Arlington children with special-educational needs. Current parent members represent more than 200 students in town.
I was completely floored when I read the April 26 article that Paul Schlichtman wrote in response to comments made by Ms. Lynette Martyn during a recent debate among School Committee candidates. Mr. Schlichtman wrote that, during the debate, Ms. Martyn spoke about the state’s data on “disparity gaps” for high-needs students in town, i.e., the gaps between the educational performance of high-needs students and the educational performance of the student population as a whole. Mr. Schlichtman then wrote that “The widespread disparity gaps that are the centerpiece of Ms. Martyn’s campaign simply don’t exist.”
I am at a loss to know what Mr. Schlichtman was thinking when he wrote that sentence. Educational disparity gaps (more commonly referred to as achievement gaps) for vulnerable student populations have been widely documented, acknowledged and discussed at both the federal and state levels, and in the town of Arlington as well. Publicly available data show that educational achievement gaps exist for somewhere between 26.5 percent to 36 percent of students in Arlington.
An educational achievement gap in a school district is a consistent, worrying gap between the educational performance of a particular, defined group of students and the academic performance of other students in the district. In Massachusetts, the most common measures of academic performance are MCAS scores. So, if you look at MCAS data for Arlington (or most other districts), you will see that some student groups typically score lower than others on MCAS tests. The following charts illustrate achievement gaps in Arlington as measured by MCAS ELA scores for Grades 3-8. The data for math are similar. Source >>
As illustrated in the charts above, student groups such as Economically Disadvantaged Students, English Language Leaners (ELL), and Special Education students often have achievement gaps. These three categories of students, in fact, are often combined into a single larger group called “high-needs” students. High-needs students represent about 26.5 percent of the students in Arlington.
In Arlington, there is also an achievement gap for African American and Hispanic students, when their MCAS performance is compared to that of white, Asian, and multirace students in town. African American and Hispanic student make up about 9.5 percent of the students in town.
There is potential overlap between the high-needs students and the Hispanic/African American students in Arlington. For example, a Hispanic student might also be a SPED student. So, we can not add the percentages to generate an exact number of the students in town for whom there is an achievement gap, but we know that the range is 26.5 percent to 36 percent of Arlington students.
The academic achievement of students can be measured in many ways. I presented MCAS data above because they are readily available and easy to understand. But the state of Massachusetts also looks at other data such as annual growth in MCAS scores, chronic absenteeism, advanced coursework completion, progress towards attaining proficiency in English (when relevant), and several indicators of high school completion, including the four-year cohort graduation rate. Parents certainly look beyond MCAS scores to indicators such as class grades and student discipline rates.
Many of these indicators are troubling for the same student groups who are vulnerable to achievement gaps on MCAS. For example, an average of almost 94 percent of APS ninth graders passed all their ninth-grade classes for school years 2017-18 and 2018-19. In contrast, an average of only 83 percent of high-needs ninth graders passed all their classes in those two school years. Not surprisingly, the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates for high-needs students were about 8-percent to 10-percent lower than for the student population as a whole. Source >>
Looking beyond the issue of academic performance to the issue of discipline, approximately 42 percent of the students disciplined in 2018-19 in Arlington were students of color (nonwhite), whereas they represent only 29.5 percent of the student body overall. High-needs students were also disproportionately disciplined. This is not an academic achievement gap it is certainly an undesirable gap in disciplinary outcomes for vulnerable students. Source >>
The Arlington Public School administration and the School Committee have formally acknowledged the achievement gap in Arlington. In fact, the five-year budget plan for APS for 2020-2024 uses the phrase “Close Achievement Gap” to categorize expenditures for that very purpose. Source >>
So, while one can certainly argue about a particular data point or the interpretation thereof, the relative value of different types of metrics, or the root causes of achievement gaps -- the existence of achievement gaps for a substantial portion of the APS student body -- is undeniable. Mr. Schlichtman’s statement that they “simply don’t exist” is incomprehensible to me, to the other parents who have signed below, and to the other SPED parents to whom we have spoken.
Wyndham Langston Ayares
Stephanie Bellinger, PhD
Aurora Burds Connor
Audrey Laganas Jenkins
Tara O’Leary PhD
Mira Claire Whiting
This letter was published Monday, May 4, 2020.
John T. Crawford of Arlington submitted this letter.
I am writing in response to Paul Schlichtman's commentary in YourArlington concerning the recently held Arlington School Committee candidate debate. He claims to "fact-check" the debate, and specifically the comments of a rival candidate, Lynette Martyn.
Instead, he presents distortions designed to discredit Ms. Martyn unfairly. Since Mr. Schlichtman stresses his own statistical training and that of other School Committee members, let me mention that I hold a master of science degree in applied mathematics from Brown University. Also, in the interests of transparency, let me add that I am Lynette Martyn's husband, but that does not change any of the statistical facts presented below.
Differing data revealing
No candidate can be expected to address every single data point in an hourlong debate, of course, nor even on a campaign website, but the differences in which data each candidate chooses to highlight are very revealing. As detailed below, Ms. Martyn seeks to find disparities that indicate real problems that we as a town, and as a society, need to continue to work on, while Mr. Schlichtman seeks to obscure such disparities and highlight only those parts of the data that seem to indicate that we have no such problems.
Mr. Schlichtman directs the reader to his campaign website and its "detailed Fact Check" page, including a "lesson in significance," which quotes a Harvard Business Review article:
"Statistical significance helps quantify whether a result is likely due to chance or to some factor of interest," says [Tom] Redman. When a finding is significant, it simply means you can feel confident that’s it [sic] real, not that you just got lucky (or unlucky) in choosing the sample.
This quote is absolutely correct when applied to statistical samples, but there are no statistical samples involved here. The data published by the State of Massachusetts and referenced by Ms. Martyn does not use a sample of data from a larger population; it uses data on every single Arlington High School (AHS) and Arlington Public School (APS) student. Therefore, the concept of “statistical significance” simply does not apply. One can of course discuss whether portions of this data are "significant" or not, in the ordinary sense of that word; that is, “important” or “having or expressing a meaning,” as long as we understand that this is a subjective question, not a statistical one.
Mr. Schlichtman’s critique of Ms. Martyn focuses mainly on a response she made beginning at 40:20 in the debate. Here is that response in full:
"I believe our decisions have to be data-driven, and I believe no one is talking about the problem because we as a society have been conditioned to avoid these difficult conversations. Our graduation rates, MCAS scores and student discipline data show a significant disparity for our students of color, our English language learners, our economically disadvantaged students and our kids with disabilities.
"Last year’s state accountability survey for special education, we scored only 51 percent. That was second to last to our comparable schools. Our students of color make up 30 percent of the student population but 50 to 60 percent of our suspensions. Our Asian kids might be doing better on our MCAS scores [as Mr. Schlichtman had said in his previous response], but they are being disciplined at five times the rate of our white kids. Arlington prides itself on a 96 percent graduation rate, but they are significantly lower and as low as 79 percent for our economically disadvantaged kids.
"We don’t know how to talk about these uncomfortable truths. If we aren’t willing to lean into these difficult conversations, then we’re not going to be able to tackle the systemic issues, and as Liz [candidate Elizabeth R. Exton] says, we have to come up with solutions, and they need to be based on the data."
The introductory and concluding sentences are subjective statements; while I agree with them, they are not easily subject to fact-checking or statistical analysis. The rest, with one small exception, are objectively true, as you can see if you follow these links to state data: for graduation rates (discussed further below); for MCAS data, showing marked racial, economic and other disparities; for student discipline (discussed further below); and for state accountability survey results, which indeed show a 51-percent score for “Students with disabilities” (i.e., special education), just as Ms. Martyn said, despite a higher overall score.
The data linked to above for student suspensions is for AHS in the 2017-2018 school year. Here, Ms. Martyn, without notes, overstated the (out-of-school) suspension rate for Asian high school students: it was 4.7 percent, which is over three times the rate of 1.5 percent for white students (still pretty bad!), but not five times, as she said, so that is the one small mistake in her remarks. (Here I am using the state data rather than that of AHS Principal Matt Janger in the next paragraph; they differ only slightly.)
Thanks to advocacy
Incidentally, the data for the subsequent 2018-2019 school year is somewhat better (for Asians and others) -- though sadly still not equal -- thanks to the advocacy of Ms. Martyn and other Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG) leaders. These disparities were brought to light in a presentation to the School Committee by Janger last year. The data provided on the prereleased slides for that meeting were misleading, emphasizing that the highest number of suspended students were white, which is not surprising given that almost 75 percent of AHS students are white, but omitting the percentages of suspended students of each race. DIG leadership, including Ms. Martyn, responded to this oversight in an email trail and developed a slide that presented the data more fully. At the meeting, School Committee members expressed their concerns over the original slide provided by APS, which obscured rather than illuminated racial disparities.
Mr. Schlichtman's focus on Asian students, during (and after) the debate, to which Ms. Martyn was responding, similarly obscures the much worse suspension rates (again, in 2017-2018) for Hispanic/Latino students (6.3 percent, 4.2 times whites), Economically disadvantaged students (8.5 percent, 5.7 times whites), and African American/black students (16.7 percent, 11.1 times whites), among others. This is a shocking rate of 1 in 6 black students suspended -- again, compared to 1.5 percent of white students.
Mr. Schlichtman is similarly selective in discussing graduation rates. He correctly points out that the differences between 2019 AHS graduation rates of Asian (100 percent), white (96.1 percent), and African American/black (92.3 percent) students seem very small, especially given that the 92.3 percent rate for black students represents only one student failing to graduate, who transferred to AHS after the start of ninth grade. This point seems very convincing until you look at the exact same page he gets this data from, and find that he omitted the somewhat lower Hispanic/Latino graduation rate (87.5 percent), and the even lower ones for “high-needs” students (84.7 percent), “EL” (English learners, 81.8 percent), and “Students with disabilities” (80.7 percent). He also omits the even lower graduation rate of 79.1 percent for “low-income” students, which Ms. Martyn specifically mentioned in the debate.
I encourage everyone to watch the debate in full at ElectLynette.com/debate, and see for yourself how hard Lynette is working for ALL of Arlington's students, and especially for students who are disadvantaged, whether economically, by special needs, or by systemic racism. And remember to vote on June 6.
This letter was published Friday, May 1, 2020.
Doralee Heurtelou, Arlington High School Black Student Union cochair and an AHS graduating senior, submitted this letter.
I’m writing in response to the letter recently published by School Committee member, Paul Schlichtman where he states that student disparities in Arlington Public Schools “don’t exist” dismissing concerns by newcomer candidate Lynette Martyn for equity in our schools. As a cochair of Arlington High School’s Black Student Union (BSU), I find this statement and other assertions by Mr. Schlichtman, troubling. [Read Schlichtman's commentary here >>]
Not everything can be seen within statistics. The disparities go beyond numbers. Many things go unreported. It is hard to accurately measure stats when the population of white students to the population of black students is so widely different, but that does not mean the disparities do not exist. We need to look at the lives of the students and understand their experience at AHS. Black students may be graduating, but that’s based on lots of student initiative and pushing against a system that often feels to be working against us. White students receive more aid from the administration and have the privilege of being able to see themselves reflected in the teachers they reach out to for help. Representation matters.
Mr. Schlichtman completely disregards the data on black students being disciplined at Arlington Public Schools. Not only do black students, especially male black students, experience harsher punishments than our white peers, but we feel the stigma of being singled out and punished attached to us throughout our years at Arlington Public Schools. There are many instances where teachers view black students as troublemakers, unable to escape. Many students are tracked, arriving from Ottoson already labeled as the “bad kids.”
I recall one experience when some black students labeled as “bad,” were horsing around in the hallways and received in-school suspensions. The teacher expressed a fear for her life over these two young boys. Although many AHS teachers are fabulous, there is still a need for racial-bias training; otherwise, these unnecessary suspensions will continue to happen.
Being black in a school that is so predominantly white presents many challenges. I often feel I don’t belong in a class and there is a fear in raising my hand, in participating. A fear that if I mess up, it will be reflective of the color of my skin; it will reflect and make it harder on all the other black students who are struggling to “represent.” If all of us are afraid to raise our hand in class, hesitant to reach out to a teacher for help, every time one of us hesitates to perform at our fullest, we are one step farther from reaching our full potential.
It’s a systemic problem. There is the disparity Ms Martyn is touching on. If the almost 2,000 Arlington Public School students of color all feel the same way I do, all hesitate to raise their hands, because they know the kids that look like them make up a disproportionate percentage of the kids in detention and a smaller percentage of the kids showing up for AP classes, then we do fail thousands of kids.
Disparity can’t be measured in just stats. Each of us are not statistically insignificant. We are here. See us; don’t track us. Support us, don’t label us. If one black student goes missing from a class of three hundred no one notices, but if one black student is horsing around in a class of twelve other white students, who are all acting the same ... we suddenly get noticed. Everyone notices. We’re suddenly significant. Statistics or not.
Please vote for change on June 6.
This letter was published Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Melanie Brown of Skyline Drive submitted this letter as a private citizen of the town.
After the recent School Committee debate on ACMi, I am taking issue with several of the counterpoints offered by longtime incumbent Paul Schlichtman when challenged by fellow candidate Lynette Martyn regarding Massachusetts Department of Education data suggesting that marginalized students face more challenges in our public school system than the general population.
In response, Schlichtman referenced the hiring of a black assistant superintendent as though that in itself would solve the problem. As we well know, simply hiring or electing representatives of a certain demographic is not enough to help curtail inequities experienced by that demographic. Addressing and overcoming inequities requires the acknowledgment and collaborative effort from everyone involved at all levels of a system – including those of relative racial and economic privilege.
Additionally, I was concerned by Mr. Schlichtman's repeated use of the "model minority" myth in how he continually focused on the high performance scores of Asian and Asian American students in our schools to deflect from criticisms of the disproportionate disciplinary rates that high-needs and economically disadvantaged students face as noted by Martyn.
As cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance curriculum, the model minority myth “suggests that Asian Americans are doing well and that if other groups would only work harder, have stronger family bonds and get over their histories of oppression, they too would succeed …. [It] is used as evidence to deny or downplay the impact of racism and discrimination on people of color in the United States. Given the history of that impact on African Americans particularly, the myth is ultimately a means to perpetuate anti-blackness." The disparities and biases faced by some students of color – such as our black students – are not absolved by the relative success of other students of color. The myth likewise overlooks challenges faced by Asians and Asian Americans as well, obscuring their needs.
Finally, Schlichtman seemed to be conflating low-income and high-needs students with students of color, which also implied he was relying on dated stereotypes. While there are likely to be overlaps of the different groups, not all students of color are low income and vice versa. I would ask Mr. Schlichtman to be more conscientious about the language he uses, and his assumptions about different demographics, if he plans to continue representing our diverse town.<
This letter was published Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Katell Guellec of Thomas Street submitted this letter.
As a parent of a child in the Arlington Public School, I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for Lynette Martyn's candidacy to be a member of the School Committee.
I've served with Martyn on the town's Diversity Taskforce Group (DTG) and have found her to be tenacious, driven, and compassionate – all admirable and necessary qualities for the role. She is laser-focused on advancing justice and equity at all levels of our town's institutions, including our school systems, which I'd argue should be a priority considering recent evidence.
Last year, several members of DTG brought up data released by the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Division that indicated that black and Latinx students were facing highly disproportionate rates of suspensions at the Arlington Public Schools. In particular, pie charts published on their site showed that while blacks made up only 4.1 percent and Hispanic students only 4.9 percent of the student body in 2015 at Ottoson Middle School, each demographic comprised nearly 30 percent of in-school suspensions, respectively, and 21.1 percent of out-of-school suspensions, respectively.
At the high school that same year, black students made up nearly 20 percent of in-school suspensions and close to a quarter (22.7 percent) of out-of-school suspensions, while making up less than 5 percent of the student body. These racial disparities for suspensions were higher than many other municipalities in the Boston metro area and are a cause for concern.
It's not enough to make sure we have more people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds present in our schools -- we need to work together to ensure they are being treated fairly and justly. This is why I support Lynette Martyn, as we need her kind of candid willingness to push past racial fragility and come up with solutions to disparity issues in our schools.
This letter was published Wednesday, April 29, 2020, and updated Friday, May 1.
The letter writers are still misstating my assertion. I was not denying the existence of disparities; I was disputing specific assertions made by Ms. Martyn regarding the discipline rates of Asian students and of graduation rates, all in the context of proclaiming extreme disparities that hurt thousands of students.
Ms. Martyn's initial claim of Asians being disciplined at five times the rate of whites is wrong, as is her revision to bring the number down to 2.6 times the rate for white students.
Ms. Martyn's claim that children of color are victims of disparities in graduation rates is also refuted by the fact that 100% of Asian students, and 12/13 African-American students graduated in four years. The one student who did not graduate transferred into Arlington High after ninth grade, and was still enrolled the following October.
The claims by key members of Ms. Martyn's campaign that I deny the existence of disparities, or I am choosing data to convey that impression, is wrong. I am merely commenting on the veracity of Ms. Martyn's statements. I will repeat what I said in my original letter in which I fact-checked some of Ms. Martyn's statements:
Racism is evil, and it has been a toxin infused in the American experience from the first day Europeans landed on this continent. Our schools are a better place today than in the past because of the diligence and hard work of our staff and our community. Along with the rest of the world around us, we have not reached a race-blind panacea, which is why we strive for a culture of continuous improvement in everything we do.
This work requires precise, thoughtful analysis in an environment where it is safe to examine our reality and talk openly about the next steps forward. The norms required for this difficult work are violated when false or misleading data is dumped into the center of our public discourse.
Promoting blanket outrage over shortchanging “thousands of students,” when the thousands don’t exist, blinds us to the important work of fighting racism. It blinds us to examining and evaluating the interpersonal relationships that are the foundation of our work. It is toxic. It is hurtful and defamatory to members of our school community, and counterproductive to our efforts to create a better world for all our students.
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