ACDS believes that a student’s educational experience is strengthened when it occurs within a diverse community that fosters respect and understanding, values difference, nurtures empathy, promotes equity, and encourages personal reflection. To that end, ACDS seeks to develop a community that is both diverse and inclusive; where all members are fully included, as their full selves, in the life and work of the school.
At ACDS, we value every student, family, and employee for the diverse perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds that they add to our community. Through strong social-emotional programs, serious reflection on issues of diversity and inclusivity, and an abiding commitment to community, we nurture in our students empathy, community-mindedness, respect, and self-awareness.
We encourage our students to be critical thinkers, independent learners, and caring individuals, skills that contribute to social equity and inclusivity. Our emphasis on effective communication skills helps students with widely differing backgrounds and views engage in civil discourse around difficult and complex issues. They learn to listen to one another, assess their own biases, engage in respectful and informed debate, and seek to expand their understanding rather than simply to win an argument or assert their point of view. In these ways we help our students increase their awareness of different perspectives and build their cultural competence.
In 2017, a Diversity and Inclusivity Strategic Planning Committee was formed to identify key action steps to address our strategic initiative to “Strengthen our school community through efforts that promote inclusivity and diversity.” This work is ongoing. We seek to build cultural competence continuously; ensure that our curriculum and instruction includes multiple perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds; reflect on where bias and lack of awareness may be adversely affecting our efforts; and engage in open, honest, and respectful dialog.
While long-term strategic thinking is underway, faculty and staff continue to explore ways to strengthen our program on a day-to-day basis. This group facilitates dialog among teachers and staff, organizes professional development activities, and facilitates student D&I activities and presentations.
This Middle School student group works to enhance awareness of diversity and inclusivity issues at the student level. The group attends student diversity conferences, identifies diversity issues at school, develops programming for students, and promotes cultural awareness.
Our robust and extensive service learning program provides rich opportunities for students to interact with populations they wouldn’t otherwise engage, learn about the needs of communities outside their own, and take effective action to strengthen the broader community in which they live.
Our programs emphasize making a personal connection to the service our students undertake. Kindergarteners actually deliver bags for Blessings in a Backpack, middle schoolers sort food at the Community Food Bank warehouse, third-graders run the blood drive and learn about those who benefit from their work, and all faculty, staff, and students work together side-by-side to package 20,000 shelf-stable meals every year for those in need.
ACDS seeks to hire a diverse teaching and administrative staff that reflects the community in which we live and provides students with the mentors and role models they need. We cast a broad net when seeking candidates, and we strive to maintain a hiring process that mitigates bias and increases the likelihood of hiring diverse candidates. In the past year we have posted positions in the following locations:
• Craig’s List
• National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
• Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS)
• Howard University
• Trinity Washington University
• Potomac Diversity Hiring Fair
• Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)
• Enrollment Management Association
31% of employees and 29% of teaching staff are people of color.
Teaching staff are 23% male and 77% female
Administrative staff is 45% male and 55% female
ACDS has a strong commitment to professional growth and development, and this includes topics of diversity and inclusivity. Faculty and staff have engaged in training, discussion, and activities related to unconscious bias, inclusive classroom practices, inventorying curriculum for cultural representation, and understanding the differences between girls and boys in the classroom, to name a few. Faculty and staff have also attended the NAIS People of Color Conference, the NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute, and other diversity-centered workshops and conferences. Work in this area is an ongoing component of annual professional development activities.
Alexandria Country Day School was a founding member of Emerging Scholars, a program that identifies underserved but high-potential students in fourth grade and prepares them for admission to independent schools in sixth grade. Our Head of School serves on the board of this organization and the school maintains a commitment to admitting Emerging Scholars students.
29% of ACDS families receive some form of tuition assistance ranging from $5,000 to $27,000, and the school provides over $800,000 in financial aid. The school strives to minimize additional fees and to ensure that all students can participate in all core program activities.