Maggie Walker Still Struggles to Admit Blacks 

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A year after the June 2009 release of a report by the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education concluding that recruitment procedures at Maggie L. Walker Governors School were “limiting the identification of students from diverse populations,” the school's latest admission numbers show little progress.

Of the 1,137 pupils who applied for admission for next year, 54 percent were white, 25 percent were black, 14 percent were Asian, 2 percent were Hispanic and 5 percent were multiethnic or unspecified. Of the 164 who gained admission, 74 percent are white, 5 percent are black, 2 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are multiethnic or unspecified.

The 2010 application and admission rates for these demographic groups are within 2 percentage points for the same groups last year, according to data provided by Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, a doctoral candidate in education policy at the University of California at Los Angeles who's gathered admissions statistics since the 2001-'02 year.

Siegel-Hawley, who went to a governor's school, calls for changes to admissions create a more diverse student body from the school's 12 feeder districts. Admissions decisions are made by a planning committee made up of representatives from each of those districts.

In addition to problem areas identified with admissions — such as recruiting that starts too late in pupils' middle-school careers and the recommendation that Maggie Walker remove its algebra I prerequisite — the report identified achievements that the school has made toward improving diversity, such as targeted minority recruitment and a percentage of black applicants higher than the identified gifted black populations in feeder schools.

According to Siegel-Hawley's analysis, 53 percent of pupils applying to Maggie Walker from the Richmond Public Schools this year were black, with 10 percent accepted. In Henrico County, 22 percent of applicants were black with 6 percent accepted. In Chesterfield County, 15 percent of applicants were black with 2 percent accepted.

“The numbers from this past year show a continuing and significant trend of underenrollment for black students at Maggie Walker,” Siegel-Hawley says.

“The notion is to create a sense of fairness for all students who are being assessed. That's ongoing work,” says Fred S. Morton IV, Maggie Walker's director, who points to school reports showing steps taken to address some of the issues laid out in U.Va.'s report.

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