A disturbing Instagram video from Jean Mike Remy alleges that he was asked not to dig too deeply into racial disparity data in Arlington Public Schools (APS). While APS Superintendent Bodie is quoted denying that claim over on Your Arlington, there’s a lot to unpack here. How can you go about researching these statements and the bigger picture about bias or disparities in our schools? Yes, this is an incredibly serious allegation, but the bigger question is: how can you be effective at making systemic change, and improving both the policies and the behavior in our schools to ensure fairness for all?

Preview: it’s hard. Not only is the School department and administration the largest part of town governance, but the elected School Committee - who oversee the Superintendent and the district as a whole - have numerous subcommittees and a book-sized policy manual for their work. To say nothing of the many state and federal programs and laws about school data, especially data around diversity and discipline. But it behooves anyone interested in protesting or working for change to at least try to see where to apply your energy.

Learning About The School Committee

The School Committee oversees the school district, including hiring and evaluating the district’s Superintendent. As an elected board, School Committee agendas and records are posted publicly (after a delay), are subject to open meeting laws, and are recorded on ACMi. Day to day work - both managing the district as a whole, as well as work in the schools, is done by APS school department employees. The School Committee and much of the APS department operate under a comprehensive school policy document, which is created in conjunction with the state-wide Massachusetts Association of School Committees. The entire policy manual is… giant. Heck, the official copies are printed on separate colors of paper (white, yellow, and green)!

The school department is by far the largest in our town government (over 900 employees), and reports to the School Committee, not to the Town Manager or Select Board. School committee expenses account for over 43% of the town’s entire budget, more than half of that salaries. A small portion of school expenses is effectively paid for by Chapter 70 state aid. The APS website is also exensive, with separate websites for each of the various schools in town. APS also works with the Minuteman Regional High School and the LABB Educational Collaborative, both of which provide services to some of our students.

Where To Find Data On The APS

The ClearGov overall APS district dashboard provides a high-level view of the numbers for the APS like enrollment, budgets, basic performance, and comparisons to neighboring districts.

Federal Data About APS

US Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) about APS (CRDC search page)

Local Group Data Or Posts On APS Issues

The Arlington Special Education Alliance is a networking and advocacy group for parents of children with special educational needs, and includes both advocacy and some data on past APS issues.

Got More Ideas? Let Me Know!

If you’ve got more data links or source documents about management or operations of the School Commitee or the APS, please email me your suggestions. This post is all about collecting the data and information in an easier to find format, so people can have more useful discussions about the positive changes we need to make in our schools.

In particular, I was hoping to get a comprehensive list of data sources about the APS, as a start at helping people understand the data. It turns out it’s far more complicated than I thought, if you want to have an insight into all APS operations and statistics!