Jim Dyke Argues for Accountability to Reduce Racial Disparities in Virginia Schools

May 6, 2021

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A May 5, 2021 Virginia Mercury article detailed the latest actions taken by advocates and education leaders in Virginia to address racial disparities in K-12 schools. State data shows Black students are two to three times more likely to be suspended than their peers, in addition to persistent racial academic achievement gaps, including scoring 10 percentage points lower in all five subject areas on state standardized tests and underrepresentation in Advanced Placement courses.

Jim Dyke, senior advisor at McGuireWoods Consulting, is a member of the African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council, a group working to address acute equity issues in Virginia schools. In March, the members presented the State Board of Education with several recommendations for reforming racial inequalities in public education, with more than a third aimed at establishing new measures for holding schools accountable. The recommendations included public reporting on student-teacher racial ratios, demographic enrollment in gifted programs and individual school scores on discipline disproportionality.

“The underlying thing through all of this is accountability,” said Dyke. “In other words, looking at this data and figuring out how we use it to make real changes.”

Specific policy outcomes have come from similar recommendations, including newly enacted legislation requiring Virginia teachers to be trained and assessed in cultural competency, after a recommendation from the Commission on African American History Education.

As schools struggle with academic growth, the state watchdog agency JLARC has also identified broader systemic problems within Virginia’s Department of Education, including an underfunded Office of School Quality that’s largely been unable to help local school divisions make meaningful changes.  

“One of the things we’ve talked about is that the department has got to have that tool in place,” Dyke said. “They’ve got to be able to monitor what these districts are doing and make sure that when they adopt these correctional plans, they are in fact held accountable.”