Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Bacon Bits, Your Tasty Morning Info Treat

More hidden deficit spending. Virginia devoted 33% less to capital spending on K-12 schools (inflation-adjusted) in 2016 than in 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That compared to a 26% reduction nationally. The cuts, say CBPP, “mean less money to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies, further diminishing the environment in which teachers educate and children learn.”

The CBPP made no effort to correlate the capital spending with K-12 enrollment, which has increased only modestly nationally since 2008 after years of strong growth. Presumably, stable enrollment limits the need to build new schools. However, it should surprise no one if school systems were engaging in hidden deficit spending by deferring maintenance and repairs.

Best colleges for the money. From Money magazine, which considered graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points to rate educational value: University of Virginia, 10th best in the country; Washington & Lee University, 24th; Virginia Tech, 29th; James Madison University, 39th. Four Virginia colleges in the top 50. Not bad.

What if there aren’t any fascists to fight? When there weren’t any fascists to be found at weekend rallies in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Antifa, the so-called anti-fascists, found someone else to fight. Yesterday, I noted how they turned on the police. Today, the Washington Post’s Avi Selk details how they turned on the media. “Videos show Antifa members accosting reporters specifically because they’re reporters.” Antifa uses the cause of anti-racism to shield the fact that they are enemies of a free society.

Coal mines and methane. Three hundred active and 200 inactive coal mines identified by Climate Home News account for one-tenth of all U.S. methane emissions into the atmosphere. Methane has 34 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have criticized natural gas as an electric power source. Although natural gas combustion produces less CO2 than coal combustion, the argument goes, when methane leakage from gas pipes and wells is taken into account, the natural gas supply chain is just as bad for global warming. I responded that the argument failed to take into account the massive outpouring of gas from coal mines, but I had no hard data. Now I do. Thanks Climate Home News!

Manipulating SOL Scores in Norfolk

If you ever entertained suspicions that statewide gains in Standards of Learning test scores were illusory, news from Norfolk provides more confirmation of your cynicism: In the first year since the district said it stopped pulling struggling students out of classes, reports the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk has seen a drop in math test scores.

Norfolk administrators told the School Board last week that preliminary results indicate the district’s overall passing rates in high school math fell between 3 and 12 points. In two courses, the passing rates fell below the state’s minimum standards. …

Two years ago, The Pilot’s investigation found staff at all five of the city’s high schools were removing students from courses mid-year if it looked like they would perform poorly on the state tests required for those classes – a practice commonly known as “recycling.” In other cases, students with failing grades were incorrectly marked absent to excuse them from testing.

The practice was common during the 2014-15 school year and continued to a lesser extent into the 2015-16 school year, a state Department of Education investigation found.

This development follows news that the remarkably high pass rates of Richmond’s star elementary school, George W. Carver Elementary, was the result of systematic cheating by teachers administering the tests. Last year, the Virginia Department of Education discovered cheating scandals in Petersburg and Alexandria.

VDOE deserves credit for compelling Norfolk schools to enforce the integrity of the SOL testing regime. But it needs to re-examine previous assertions, based upon statewide aggregation of test scores, that show incremental-but-steady improvement in SOL performance. A  slew of scandals in inner-city school systems calls into question claims that African-American students are making small but consistent gains compared to other racial/ethnic groups.

While the system of public education appears to work reasonably well for whites and Asians, it has failed spectacularly for inner-city African-Americans. Admittedly, educating students drawn disproportionately from low-income families afflicted by absent fathers, chronic financial instability, and child abuse and neglect is a special challenge. The question is: Are these school systems reformable? Or should Virginia be more proactive about  providing alternatives — charter schools and vouchers — that allow African-Americans an escape hatch?

If you’re looking for real institutional racism (as opposed to fabricated racism), it’s staring you in the face.

Can’t Get Enough of Them Bacon Bits…

Wages of the teaching scandal. Every 5th-grade student at Richmond’s George W. Carver Elementary School passed the Standards of Learning (SOL) reading test in 2016. Next year, when they took the reading proficiency test at Albert Hill Elementary School, only 37% passed. Math scored plunged nearly as badly.

A state investigation has found that a five-teacher cheating ring at Carver had inflated SOL scores by giving pupils “inappropriate” assistance during the tests. The school and its principal had garnered recognition for the high achievements of its poor, inner-city pupil population.

Public education in Virginia is massively failing lower-income kids, especially in inner-city African-American communities. Meanwhile, the usual suspects continue to peddle the “racism” narrative for the abysmal educational achievement.

The rich (regions) get richer, the poor get poorer. One of the largest employers in Bristol, Bristol Compressors, is closing — and eliminating 470 jobs along with it. The Herald-Courier has the grim story here. Meanwhile, packaged food giant Nestle is relocating its American headquarters from California to Arlington, bringing 750 jobs. Read that story in Arlington Now. Both developments will have multiplier effects, negative for Bristol and positive for Arlington.

In a truly free market economy, workers in Southwest Virginia would move to Northern Virginia to take advantage of job opportunities there. Although laid-off Bristol Compressor employees don’t have the jobs skills required by Nestle, plenty of blue-collar jobs are going being in NoVa. Trouble is, blue-collar workers can’t afford the real estate. Zoning codes and comprehensive plans in NoVa are rigged in favor of incumbent homeowners and against anyone wanting to move into the region, be they inner-city blacks or Appalachian whites.

Immigrants seem not to have a problem finding places to live. My pet theory: They tolerate overcrowded living conditions — sometimes in violation of local codes — that native-born Americans would not.

Christmas banned from Metro buses. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington wanted to run an ad on Metro buses depicting with three shepherds, sheep and a bright star, reports the Washington Times. The words “Find the Perfect Gift” were displayed on the ad, along with a website address and social media hashtag. The website promoted the Catholic Church with a link to “Parish Resources,” prayer cards and daily reflections.

The Metro refused to run the ad on the grounds that it was religious. The Archdiocese retorted that Metro runs ads for yoga, which has links to Buddhism and Hinduism. Metro didn’t buy the argument. And neither did the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Wrote Judge Judith W. Rogers: “City buses … enjoy no historical tradition like parks and sidewalks because transit was a private enterprise in most American cities until the second half of the twentieth century.”

And people wonder why cultural conservatives say there is a war against Christmas. I find the Metro policy incomprehensible. As far as I’m concerned, any faith — Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or, gasp, any of the dozens of offshoots of Christianity — should be allowed to advertise. Question: Does atheism (my personal belief) count as a religion?

Tasty Bacon Morsels of the Day…

Lots of updates to stories we have been following here on Bacon’s Rebellion:

How to lose in a landslide. The media was all over the story about racist posts by a Corey Stewart campaign consultant. Here’s the lead from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart has paid more than $100,000 to a campaign consultant who has called the NAACP a “more violent” version of the KKK and said only a “fool” would start a business in a black neighborhood.”

John Whitbeck, the immediate past chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, had the following reaction: “The Democrats’ only message against us right now is we’re racists, because they don’t have any agenda and they don’t have any message. If you make despicable tweets like that, all you’re doing is feeding the narrative that the Democrats are trying to use against us.”

From every sign I see, Stewart is going down in political career-ending flames. The only interesting question at this point is whether he will drag down the Republican Party with him. Meanwhile, Libertarian Party candidate Matt Waters, where are you? There are thousands of homeless Republicans right now who might want to vote for you — if only they knew you were out there.

Cheaters never prosper. A state investigation has found that a five-teacher cheating ring at Richmond’s Carver Elementary School gave pupils “inappropriate” assistance during Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Some teachers helped students if they raised their hand or indicated whether items were correct or incorrect, reports the Times-Dispatch. The school had garnered recognition for the high achievements of its poor, inner-city pupil population.

School principal Kiwana Yates, who had received the R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership, has been replaced, but remains in the employ of the Richmond school system.

Will they strike or won’t they? In continued negotiations with its labor unions, Washington Metro management has agreed to raise wages for office employees and to stop outsourcing 31 of 271 janitorial jobs. In exchange, AFL-CIO Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2 agreed to let Metro raise the health care insurance contributions of its members, creating a savings for the money-losing mass transit organization of $2.3 million. Said General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld: “We didn’t get everything we hoped for and neither did Local 2; however, this agreement fairly compensates employees while reducing Metro’s costs.”

Standing up for intolerance. Two historians have resigned from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center to protest the appointment of Marc Short, former legislative affairs director for the Trump administration. Melvyn P. Leffler and William I. Hitchcock said the appointment runs “counter to the Center’s fundamental values of nonpartisanship, transparency, openness, a passion for truth and objectivity, and civility.”

“Democracy today in the United States is in peril,” they wrote, according to the Washington Post. “… We must not normalize or rationalize hateful, cruel and demeaning behavior. When we see things to be wrong, we must speak out and take a stand.”

So, the solution to Trump’s partisanship is to trump it with ever greater partisanship? The response to Trump’s intolerance is to demonstrate even greater intolerance to those associated with him?

A Calamitously Misplaced Emphasis in School Safety

Virginia, a General Assembly committee on school violence was told yesterday, is a national leader in school safety but it still could do more to prevent violence, bullying and harassment. Among the options explored were hiring more counselors and providing more training. Judging by the reporting of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, much of the discussion focused on how to prevent or respond to school shootings.

As best I recollect, no Virginia K-12 school has experienced a Columbine-scale mass shooting. Yet the threat of rare but spasmodic violence dominated the session. Remarkably, the matter of routine violence in schools didn’t animate any discussion — even though, according to state statistics, Virginia schools reported 2,897 assaults against students (no weapons), 48 assaults with firearms or other weapons, and 34 sexual batteries in the 2015-16 school year.

If I were a social justice warrior, I might criticize the contrasting attitudes — high anxiety about the remote threat of violence in the kind of affluent, white-dominated schools where mass shootings typically take place and indifference toward routine violence at predominantly black schools — as a classic example of institutional racism. I must confess to being mystified by the silence. One might be tempted to conclude — unfairly, I’m sure — that SJWs living in affluent, white-dominated school districts place greater importance on the safety of their own children.

We do know that SJWs are extremely concerned about the injustices — arrests, suspensions, other punishments — perpetrated upon school students committing the violent offenses, mainly on the grounds that the offenders are disproportionately African-American. I have blogged in the past that the victims of violent and disorderly behavior, also disproportionately African-American, don’t warrant much sympathy presumably because they don’t advance the Narrative of Institutional Oppression.

In perusing Virginia’s school safety data, I came across a remarkable finding that no one is touting. If we believe the official statistics, Virginia schools are much, much safer today than they were a decade ago. Physical and verbal intimidation is down 24% for students, 40% for teachers. Bullying is down almost 80%. Assaults on students are down 56% for students and 30% for teachers. Those are astonishing numbers. Surely this is one of the great public policy victories of our time. Surely this is cause for widespread celebration!

Or perhaps the numbers are worthless — another case of truth being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and bureaucratic butt-covering.

What has changed in the past 10 years? The most obvious difference between now and then has been the crusade initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Justice against school disciplinary policies that disproportionately impacted minority and disabled students. DOJ has compelled numerous Virginia school districts to revamp their disciplinary procedures with the explicit goal of reducing the racial disparity in punishments. Those school districts have adopted a less punitive, more therapeutic approach to dealing with student misbehavior.

Here’s the critical question: What is driving the decline in reported school infractions and violence: new-and-improved disciplinary policies that are changing student behavior for the better… or teachers and administrators giving the DOJ and ACLU the numbers they want to see?

I suspect the latter. Anecdotal information I hear about a school in eastern Henrico County suggests to me that teachers and administrators are losing control of the school. Teacher burn-out is ferocious, and more than the usual number of teachers submitted resignations this year. 

How might we get a better handle on the facts on the ground? We could survey teachers and ask them if they believe discipline has improved or worsened. Absent such a survey, we could measure teacher turnover. Teacher churn is an objective measure, the number is readily compiled and not easily gamed.

Meanwhile, in la-la land — er, I mean the General Assembly — people are talking about better training for crisis response, better coordination with emergency responders, increased mental health services, and more “social-emotional learning,” whatever that is. Virginia is well prepared to deal with crises that may never happen. How well is the Commonwealth doing in dealing with routine anarchy? We won’t know unless we gather the data to find out — but it doesn’t appear that anyone is interested in finding out.

Quincy Patterson – Welcome to Virginia (Tech)!

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

Windy City Blues. The City of Chicago has been much maligned of late, mostly for its high murder rate but also (I suspect) for its loudly liberal mayor – Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel is a favorite target of conservatives. The per capita rate of murder in Chicago is high but far from the highest in the nation. That dishonor belongs to St Louis. Some find it easy to dismiss Chicago as a place of hopelessness, losing its population (true),  in a state teetering on the verge of bankruptcy (maybe). I know a different Chicago. The City that Works. From Oak Street Beach to the Shedd Aquarium, from Rush Street to the Miracle Mile, Chicago is a fine American city full of fine Americans. Hell, the Cubs even won the World Series. But this is not the story of Chicago but of one remarkable Chicagoan, Quincy Patterson, who will soon be coming to The Old Dominion.

The City of Broad Shoulders. Quincy Patterson certainly has broad shoulders. At age 17 he’s 6’4” tall and weighs 230 pounds. He can reputedly throw a football almost 80 yards. All of this made him a four-star quarterback recruit wooed by colleges and universities across the nation. But he chose us, or more precisely, he chose Virginia Tech. So what? Good high school quarterbacks are not all that noteworthy and Virginia Tech has a long tradition of playing top tier college football. Why is this young man’s story worth telling? The answer: Four point four from an Academy school.

Four point four. That’s not his 40 yard dash time (although it might be close), it’s Quincy Patterson’s Grade Point Average (GPA) on a 4 point scale. He achieved that stratospheric GPA by taking a slew of AP courses at Eric Solorio Academy High School, a public high school located in the Gage Park area of Chicago. During one noteworthy semester of his junior year Quincy achieved the staggering GPA of 4.7. He also scored an impressive 680 on his math SAT. While I assume Mr. Patterson has aspirations to lead the Hokies to gridiron glory or to play in the NFL that’s not what he was talking about last February. He was talking about his passion for engineering, the major he will pursue at Virginia Tech.

I’d like to thank the academy. The Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) is a Chicago non-profit school management organization founded 17 years ago. It manages 32 public schools in Chicago including Quincy Patterson’s alma mater. Beyond educating fine young people like Mr. Patterson the AUSL also operates the Chicago Teacher Residency Program, a yearlong urban teacher-training program. The paid training program provides the teacher-to-be with preparation, a teacher’s license and a master’s degree. In return, the teacher commits to teach in one of the AUSL managed schools for at least four years. Since its inception over 850 teachers have graduated from the program.

Observations and Implications. First, Virginia Tech will probably be an even better football team over the next few years. Second, Virginia Tech should be congratulated for staying focused on academics and engineering along with football while recruiting Quincy Patterson. Patterson had a number of fine schools on his final list including UNC, NC State and Illinois. Patterson says it was the focus on engineering and academics that made the difference for him. Third, the public-private alliance that spawned the AUSL in Chicago bears further study for possible applicability in Virginia. A future column will deal with the details of that program along with commentary from supporters and critics.

Nobody’s perfect. In an interview with the Pilot Online Quincy Patterson said, “I went on a road trip and got to see Virginia and Virginia Tech in the one day.” Ugh! And he chose Tech?!? Quincy, Quincy, Quincy … transfers are always available. Mr Patterson, if you happen to read this drop me a line. I know a great place for an authentic Chicago dog, let’s talk about Virginia universities! Until then, welcome and good luck.

— Don Rippert

More “Potential Irregularities” for SOL Testing

George W. Carver Elementary

Students at Richmond’s George W. Carver Elementary School will have to take the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests this year after the discovery of “potential irregularities” with testing procedures, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Carver, which has the third highest SOL scores in the Richmond school district (and the highest for any school dominated by students from poor households), had been touted as a success story. However, writes the T-D:

In an email to the Richmond Public Schools community, Superintendent Jason Kamras said Tuesday afternoon that division officials consulted with the state Department of Education after learning of possible problems at the Leigh Street school, which earned National Blue Ribbon Award honors in each of the past two years from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Based on their initial exploration, it is clear that, in some instances, standardized procedures for testing were not followed,” Kamras stated. …

School system spokeswoman Kenita Bowers said “this matter is still being investigated” and declined further comment. Bowers did not say how far back the irregularities go, but did say that the issue impacts all SOL tests taken at Carver this school year rather than just some.

Bacon’s bottom line: This news is sad, sad, sad, and profoundly dispiriting. Carver Elementary offered a glimmer of hope for a school district that otherwise has performed dismally. The school seemingly proved that a dedicated administration and teaching staff could achieve success despite the overwhelming challenges of teaching kids from the poorest neighborhoods. In the 2015-16 school year, 98% of Carver students achieved advanced or proficient in their English SOLs. That compared to 59% for Richmond students as a whole and 79% for the state, according to the Virginia Department of Education school quality profile.

The stellar SOL scores tumbled back to earth in the 2016-17 school year, matching statewide averages, but still outperformed other Richmond schools by a wide margin.

Hopefully, we’ll find that our high estimation of the school does not change. Hopefully, students will re-take their SOLs — without “irregularities” — and perform as admirably as they did last year. But given the reputational blow-ups of inner-city school success stories in Petersburg and Alexandria, one is justifying in fearing that the high test scores were the result of cheating and/or manipulation.

Data made available through the Virginia Department of Education school quality profile for Carver does not inspire confidence. First, as alluded to above, test scores fell significantly between the 2015-16 school year and the 2016-17 school year — far too much to be attributable to a sudden decline in teaching quality. One can conjecture that something changed in the way the SOL tests were administered to make manipulation more difficult.

Another reason to question the results is the extraordinary performance of Carver Elementary students with disabilities.

While Carver students as a whole out-performed their peers in Richmond schools and state schools, those classified as disabled out-performed their peers by mind-blowing margins. Either Carver has cracked the code on teaching disabled students or… it has been aggressively manipulating test results.

If irregularity-free SOL tests result in a second round of plummeting student scores, we will have an undeniable scandal on our hands. Someone will have to be held accountable. This will prove to be an acid test for the new school superintendent, Jason Kamras. The new test scores will be public, and we should find out soon enough.

Faculties, Not Donors, Drive University Hires

Steven Pearlstein

Steven Pearlstein, a Washington Post business and economics columnist, teaches economics at George Mason University. While he applauds making visible contractual terms between the libertarian, loathed-by-the-left Koch Brothers and GMU’s Mercatus Center, he doesn’t see a big threat to academic freedom. (Get the background to this controversy here.)

Any time a philanthropist makes a donation to a university, writes Pearlstein, he or she influences the priorities of that institution.

When someone gives $10 million to an engineering school rather than the college of humanities, it changes the university’s priorities. When someone endows a center to study the causes and consequences of climate change, it affects who is hired and what is taught and researched. When someone gives enough to name a school after a public figure, it shapes a school’s ideological profile. It would be great if all donations were unrestricted, but they aren’t. Many donors have agendas; the Kochs are just an extreme example.

In the case of Mason’s economics department, the faculty have driven the donor relationships. In most instances, it was the faculty who approached and solicited Koch and other donors with specific projects in mind, not the other way around. Faculty also recruited and hired for the newly funded professors’ positions, decided which courses would be taught, chose which topics to research and selected the students who would attend its graduate programs. Our economics department is not libertarian and conservative because it is funded by Koch and his friends; they fund our economics department because its faculty is — and always has been — overwhelmingly conservative and libertarian.

The underlying problem, suggests Pearlstein, is that “the rules and norms of university governance give faculty the power to hire people who think like they do. … There is ample evidence that feminists prefer to hire other feminists, behaviorists like to hire other behaviorists, ‘crit lit’ scholars hire other ‘crit lit’ scholars. Sorting by political or academic ideology is a naturally occurring phenomenon at universities.”

Pearlstein is absolutely right, but he doesn’t quite complete the loop. The phenomenon he describes is overwhelmingly a left-wing one — progressives systematically purging liberals and conservatives from among their ranks. GMU’s economics department and law school are oases of alternative thinking in a vast, desiccated Sahara of the nation’s overwhelmingly left-leaning schools, centers, institutes and academic departments.

The demand for Koch Brothers transparency, while justified at one level (I totally believe that higher ed should be more transparent), is not uniformly applied. At Virginia Commonwealth University a few years ago, Philip Morris USA contracts with university researchers created a huge controversy that ended with the retirement of President Eugene Trani. The controversy was justified. But no one is holding other donors to comparable levels of public scrutiny. When philanthropist Jane Batten donates $10 million to the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, as was announced yesterday, does anyone ask if strings are attached? Does anyone demand to see the contract? No. No one asks because, I’ll wager, there are few high-profile libertarians or conservatives in the faculty to trigger progressives’ ire. (If I’m wrong, please let me know. I’d love to think that there is still some philosophical diversity at UVa.)

This controversy is all about power. Principles such as transparency and academic freedom are employed selectively and tactically to de-legitimize and expunge conservatives, libertarians and other bogeymen of the left like tobacco companies. Progressives never apply the principles against their own. It’s all about enforcing leftist ideological conformity.

(Hat tip: Steve Haner)

How to Degrade the Value of a High School Diploma in a Few Easy Steps

The Richmond Public School System reported an enrollment of 27,221 students this past fall. Of those, 7,234 had seven or more unexcused absences. Earlier this month, as I blogged here, the School Board suspended the absenteeism policy while the administration studied what to do. Now comes John Butcher with background and statistics showing how extraordinarily negligent the school system has been in policing its absenteeism policy.

First, let us pause to consider how endemic the problem is. Look at the chart above, which John compiled with data provided by the Clerk of the School Board. (See his presentation on Cranky’s blog.) The mind-bending statistic is not that more than 26% of the city’s students had seven or more unexcused absences — it’s that 2,125, or almost 8% had 20 or more unexcused absences, and 469 had 50 or more!

Now, let us consider how Code of Virginia requires districts to deal with absences:

  • Any absence: Notify parents; obtain explanation;
  • 5 absences: Attendance plan;
  • 6 absences: Conference with parents; and
  • 7 absences: Prosecute parents or file Child in Need of Services Supervision (CHINS) petition.

According to John’s data, the city undertook only 173 prosecutions and filed only 60 CHINS petitions in 2017. “That’s a 3.22% compliance with the law,” he writes. “Viewed otherwise, it’s a 96.8% rate of violation by our School Board.”

The 2017 data, by the way, is no aberration. It’s consistent with the record of non-compliance since 2012. As far as Butcher can tell, the state Board of Education has done nothing to enforce the law.

Perhaps the reality on the ground — absenteeism is so endemic — that school authorities feel too overwhelmed to grapple with the problem anything. If that’s the case, perhaps we should stop pretending that a Richmond high school degree is worth the paper it’s printed on. Richmond schools purport to graduate 76.6% of its students on time. Educators may think they are helping kids on the margin by keeping them in school, but diploma inflation erodes the value of the degree, thus hurting students who attended classes, completed the work and deserved to graduate. Compassion for one group victimizes the other.

Chesterfield School Adopts Year-Round Schedule

Bellwood Elementary School in Chesterfield County is switching to a year-round schedule — nine weeks on, three weeks off — for the 2018-19 school year. The new schedule will eliminate the long summer break during which students forget much of what they learned the previous school year.

“Research demonstrates that summer learning loss is a critical issue, especially for economically disadvantaged students,” wrote Superintendent James Lane in addressing the Chesterfield School Board. “One study found that low income students made similar achievement gains … during the school year, but the widening of the achievement gap between the two groups occurred over the summer… One way to combat these issues is year-round schools.”

But the change has gotten some push back from parents, reports WTVR Television.

“I’ve got five students in three different schools in the Chesterfield district and right now 65 of those days are conflicted schedules so it’s going to be very hard,” said Bellwood parent Elizabeth Young. “If it were county-wide it may be a little easier to step into, but doing it with just this one school, it’s going to be hard for a lot of families in this area that depend on their older kids for child care.”

The pilot project will cost $125,000 per year, mainly for staffing and transportation.

Bacon’s bottom line: Wake County, N.C. has a year-round school schedule, and my sister-in-law’s family seemed to like it. I don’t know whether or not the shorter breaks improved my nephews’ academic retention, but they seem no worse for the wear. The key to a worthwhile pilot program, of course, is to set it up as much as possible like a scientific experiment — measuring key attributes before, during, and after the school year to see if the putative benefits meet expectations. Conducting a pilot without putting proper measurements in place is worse than useless, it’s a waste of money.

As long as school districts design their pilot programs to learn from them, they should not be afraid to experiment and should not be afraid to fail. If you never fail, one learns little and never progresses.