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Friday, July 21, 2023

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We’ve got three topics from our education desk for you this summer Friday, to help keep you up to date with timely information while getting deeper into local issues.

First, many people in central Virginia were watching news about the United States Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, and how that might affect enrollment in places that have not had diversity commensurate with the demographics of their state — like the University of Virginia. (See the Cavalier Daily’s coverage of the decision and UVA’s response.)

The Rotunda, a brick building with columns and a round top, shown on a sunny day with students congregating in front.
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

When we talk about access to higher education, though, there was another report that underscored the problems at UVA. Earlier this month, The New York Times visualized data from a new study about access to elite university education. These numbers also tell us about who our public institutions are serving — and not serving. A coalition of researchers looked at tax filings and tuition records and found that at 38 institutions, there were more students from families in the top 1% of the income spectrum than the bottom 60%. The Upshot newsletter highlighted UVA’s record; “The University of Virginia, one of the country’s top public universities, enrolls a strikingly affluent group of students: Less than 15 percent of recent undergraduates at UVA have come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for Pell Grants, the largest federal financial aid program.”

Heads up: those New York Times links do require a subscription.

Want even more data about higher education, and how access provides economic mobility? Here’s the research group’s reports on its own findings on a range of issues, no paywall.

Next, we’ve got an update on new facilities to serve students in Albemarle County Public Schools. Students say Center I, a modern workspace where high schoolers can go to explore career pathways like computer programming and media relations in nontraditional classrooms, gives them room to pursue their passions and be creative. It was created to supplement students’ education in their high schools.

Now, we have more information about Center II, a new facility that can accommodate more of the county’s growing high school classes. Construction of Center II, planned for completion by the 2026-2027 school year, is expected to cost the county $36 million.

A colorful architectural rendering showcasing the first floor design of Albemarle County Public School's Center II. Labels on the drawing include learning studios, outdoor collaboration spaces, a cafeteria, with images showing indoor and outdoor seating and an administration suite.
Credit: Courtesy of Albemarle County Public Schools

As high school enrollment increases, Albemarle County schools are expanding access to learning outside traditional classrooms

And finally, many of you might have already read the news that Gov. Glenn Youngkin has finalized a model policy for public schools that changes course on the rights of transgender students.

The policy says that public schools should use the names and pronouns that are on a student’s official record, which can only be changed by parents or guardians. It defers to the “rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated,” and says that schools must inform parents about important issues, such as any “health, social or psychological development.”

Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools are among Virginia school divisions — just 10%, according to Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group — to have adopted then-Gov. Ralph Northam model policy in 2021 that required schools to fully accommodate transgender students and allow teachers and administrators to decide whether or not to inform parents. Both school systems said they will comment further on the new model policy in the coming weeks.

We’ll do our best to keep you informed.

Youngkin prioritizes parents’ choices in newly finalized transgender student policies

Thanks for taking a dive into education with us today. See you in your inbox next week, 

Angilee Shah, CEO and Editor-in-Chief

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