Abstract: Examining the Effects of Redistricting Policy in Williamsburg-James City County Middle Schools

This year, the Williamsburg-James City County school board passed a plan to redraw the districts that correspond to the county’s four middle schools in an effort to equalize socio-economic status across the districts. The vote on this issue was contentious for parents and school officials alike. As someone who works with WJCC students on a weekly basis, I have directly witnessed some of the inequities in the school system that were discussed as policy was drafted, and this change has the potential to alleviate some of those injustices in the middle schools. Thus, through this research I seek to answer one question: Will the redistricting efforts by the WJCC school board achieve the project’s stated goals of reducing overcrowding and balancing out socio-economic status across the four middle schools, and how will these changes affect all stakeholders in the system? To answer this question, I will observe classrooms and teachers in WJCC schools to better understand the schools’ environments under the current districts and also interview principals, parents, and school board members to gauge how effective they believe the new redistricting plan will be. After conducting some background research on public school systems as a whole, I will also conduct a quantitative review of publicly available data for WJCC, mainly WJCC school report cards from the Virginia Department of Education website. This historical data from previous redistricting efforts will serve as background and allow me to predict, given the statistics on how student performance changed across sub-groups previously, what the results of the 2018 changes will be and whether the school board should have chosen a different district proposal to better suit their stated goals. By the end of seven weeks, I hope to be able to anticipate how this policy will affect the students I work with every week, for better or for worse.