Arlington Schools Curb Learning in the Name of “Equity”

by Hans Bader

The schools in Arlington County are refusing to teach children anything new out of a concern for “equity.” Although the schools are physically closed due to coronavirus, students have been doing their assignments from home using school-issued electronic devices. Now school officials fear students will learn differently if they come from different home environments or have different abilities.

In an April 9 email, Arlington’s schools notified parents that their kids won’t be taught any new “concepts” during the remainder of this academic year. Instead, during the school closures, students’ “learning plans” will “focus on previously introduced learning from” the prior academic quarters when they were physically in school. They will be taught the same things all over again.

So, until the end of this academic year, students will receive only a repetitive, low-quality education. That violates kids’ right to be given a quality education, on a continual basis, under the Virginia Constitution. Article I, § 15 of the state constitution mandates a “system of free public … schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth,” to ensure that “an educational program of high quality is …. continually maintained.”

Coronavirus is a good reason for physically closing the schools — but not for preventing students from learning at home. Especially not when teachers are still being paid to assign students work and correct it, and federal education dollars are still flowing to the state of Virginia to enable its education system to function.

The Arlington schools admit that “students in grades 3-12 have their own devices, which allows us to deliver learning opportunities to them in a streamlined and efficient manner.” Despite that, the schools say they won’t teach students any concepts they haven’t already been taught before: “As part of our commitment to ensuring equity of access to new learning for all students, concepts that students would have normally learned during the fourth quarter will be introduced in September, at the start of the 2020-21 school year.”

This restriction on learning is terribly misguided. “Equity” is no reason to deprive kids of an education. The fact that a few students may not be able to learn at home because of a bad home environment is not an excuse to deprive other students — the vast majority of students — of the opportunity to learn new things. In other school systems, students continue to be taught — and graded on — new concepts, such as my nephew’s school in the Midwest.

It is conceivable that the school system’s reference to “equity” is an allusion to federal laws about civil rights or disabled rights. But the Education Department says nothing in federal law prevents distance learning or learning at home — not the federal civil-rights laws, and not the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which some misguided activists have sought to use to prevent distance learning. It makes that clear in guidance you can find at this link.

Moreover, the Education Secretary has explicitly told school officials that they should teach new material, not just subjects they previously covered. According to Education Week:

Despite the challenges that the coronavirus has placed on schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believes that schools must try to ensure students don’t just go over old coursework if they’re forced to stay home.

As schools quickly shifted to online learning, some have encouraged teachers to largely review material they had previously covered, due to concerns that students with barriers like inadequate internet access might miss a chance to master new concepts.

The Education Department’s guidance about the permissibility of distance learning is right, as the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson notes. But even if it is wrong, the proper response by Virginia school officials would be to seek a waiver of any federal requirements interfering with distance learning — not to just give up and stop educating their students.

The coronavirus relief law signed by President Trump on March 27 expands states’ ability to seek waivers of federal requirements. As Education Week reports,

The massive economic aid package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in response to the coronavirus pandemic directs billions in federal funding to shore up K-12 education budgets, and also gives states and schools new avenues to seek waivers from federal mandates from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

This expanded ability to seek waivers is not limitless. For example, it does not allow the Education Department to waive “civil rights laws.”

But the coronavirus law does show Congress’s potential willingness to relax such laws on a temporary basis. It instructs the Education Secretary to report to Congress on any “additional waivers the Secretary believes are necessary to be enacted into law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” and other disabled-rights laws to provide “flexibility to States and local educational agencies” in educating “students with disabilities.”

So if Arlington school officials worry that the IDEA statute prevents distance learning, they should tell the Education Secretary, so the Secretary can either explain to them why it doesn’t, or ask Congress to waive any requirements in the IDEA that do.

What local school officials should not do is passively cite “equity” as an excuse not to educate their students. It is their duty under the Virginia constitution to try to provide a “high quality” education on a continuing basis.

This duty is not trumped by the IDEA. It just says that if state and local governments want federal education money, then they have to provide an appropriate education for disabled students. It imposes additional requirements on school systems, but it does not relieve them of their obligations to their students under state law.

Hans Bader, an attorney, lives in Northern Virginia. A version of this column was published originally in Liberty Unyielding.

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52 responses to “Arlington Schools Curb Learning in the Name of “Equity”

  1. following………

  2. johnrandolphofroanoke

    Ditto, same exact thing in Loudoun County. Equity appears to be the largest roadblock. I cannot teach new material until Monday. I can assign work, I can grade work, I am not permitted to record the grade to factor in the report card outcome. All new material is centralized and uniform. Content is watered down to the point where you can see through it. A circus elephant and a trainee could perform what I providing from now until June.

  3. We’re hearing similar concerns down in the Fredericksburg area except they have decided to go forward and try to figure out how to help the other kids who also do not have laptops or internet access. Some teachers lack internet access also.

    I’m not in favor of holding kids back but will point out that these other kids left behind are going to cost all of us more money downstream. It’s very much a “pay me now or pay me later” proposition and it does bother me when someone weighs in against the “equity” thing but has nothing more to say about the impacts of doing that. It’s almost as if it’s not fair to hold some kids back… and whatever happens to the others… oh well, not my problem.

  4. “Now school officials fear students will learn differently if they come from different home environments or have different abilities.”
    True now and has always been.
    Seems a disingenuous excuse to limit new material. If school officials are really worried about learning disparities, why not keep the on-line learning going through the summer months as a review?

    • I totally agree. How about remedial summer classes for those who fall behind? How about recruiting volunteer tutors? How about mobilizing the nonprofit sector to provide laptops and Internet access for the kids who need it?

      The reaction of Arlington school officials is pathetic.

      • summer school does not “work”in most school systems. The schools do not provide teaching resources that are skilled in dealing with at-risk kids. It’s basically whoever volunteers to do summer school – usually teachers who want extra money.

        • johnrandolphofroanoke

          Summer school is awesome. I had to repeat Geometry. Wonderful summer school teacher. I still remember some of that stuff. There were 29 students and only one girl in that class. I was the winner! And she went on to be Miss Prince William County at the Fair in August. Summer School rules! Too bad her German Shepard took a bite out of my brand new Levis 501 button fly blue jeans.

          • we have different experiences. I have spent most of my adult life hanging out with educators – and what they say is that summer school is not staffed by highly skilled teachers – the kind you see helping at-risk kids during the regular school year.

            It’s basically an opportunity for “volunteer” teachers who want to earn some extra cash … often new ones who start with low salaries.

            Kids from different grade levels are often lumped together depending on how many kids and how many teachers.

            They do not hold summer school in the neighborhood schools where the kids live – they consolidate to fewer schools –

            For a kid who is actually behind – it’s problematical..

  5. Arlington progressives are so worried about inequity that they are willing to sacrifice the educations of children from families affluent enough to own laptops and pay for high-speed Internet access — in other words, most families.

    This is proof — not mere evidence, but proof — that many progressives are willing to hold people down to maintain “equity.” Too bad they couldn’t be more creative in figuring out how to lift the poor kids up — by getting them laptops and Internet access.

    As it happens, Arlingtonians have among the highest education levels in the country. They place a very high value on the education of their children. How many will decide to yank their kids from Arlington Public Schools in order to avoid a repeat of this travesty? In my observation, people become a lot less “progressive” when progressive policies boomerang on their own kids.

    • on the merits , I tend to agree except I think we’re back to name-calling when we use the word “progressives” – you’re once again impugning people and you encourage others in the commenting to follow. Can’t you be critical about what is being done without impugning entire groups of people ? Not all “progressives”, for instance agree with this – but you put them all in that category.

      The “equity” argument is advancing… it does have to do with the idea that some kids do not have the resources and opportunity that others have and that – that shortfall continues as they get older, they fall further and further behind and yet a lot of attitude is ” I didn’t cause this so it’s not my problem”.

      • How on earth is it “name calling” to refer to someone as a progressive?

        Would it be name calling to call someone a liberal, or a Democrat?

        People call themselves progressives. How would you propose that I refer to people with strong left-wing views of a Bernie/AOC persuasion?

        • Because you’re implying that all “progressives” – all people who are progressive support the thing you are criticizing.

          You’re putting them all into one group – and that’s just not the case.

          SOME, not all, may or may not support Arlington’s equity thing but you’re calling them all “progressives”.

          yes. “social justice warriors”, right?

          • When I see you being as punctilious in your references to Republicans, conservatives and right-wing whackos, I’ll take you more seriously. Perhaps you can be a shining example of how to refer to groups one disagrees. I am happy to learn from your positive example.

          • You set the tone Jim when you start it in your blog posts. You are encouraging an us vs them type of discussion and anyone who
            weighs in on Arlington side – is a “progressive”.

            I share some guilt but often I am responding to the labels that you do set the tone for.

            I do not think all of this can go away, it’s just the way folks are sometimes but the last couple of days, we saw how it progresses.

            I have been called a tar baby and yesterday an ass_ole… as were some others.

            when you start off in the blog post labeling a whole group as “progressives” – you are encouraging others here to follow that example and then when the favor is returned… oh well.

            The blog posts set the tone.

          • re: ” Maybe Democratic Socialist is a better term. I believe anyone from the “Red for Ed” wing would agree. AOC and Bernie are Democratic Socialists.”

            not unless you want to pre-set the terms of the comments and everyone who is not with Jim is automatically a “democratic socialist”. You cannot categorize entire classes of people that way to start with but when you in a blog post and you put yourself on one side and the “others” on the other side – then invite comments.. guess what happens?

            Jim says he doesn’t like the name-calling. All I can say is that he had a lot of tolerance for it before – engaged in it himself and was fine with others weighing in with name calling when they were on his side.

            It’s HIS blog – and he can set the terms – all I ask is that he recognize one way that name calling starts and that he apply the rules equally to both sides – which I feel has not been done and we really have seen that in the last few days.. and then this morning – again – labeling people whom he opposes on viewpoint as all being “progressives”. That sets the tone – and commenters follow that as “okay” because it was in the blog post.

            When I first came to this blog – there was almost none of that. Almost every post laid out a position and folks could weigh in on either side of it … and every now and then a commenter got out of order but the main blog posts were fairly civil.

            In the last year, I cannot count the times – we’ve seen terms like “leftists” and ‘social justice warriors” , “virtue signaling” and many more – embedded in the main blog post.

            And of late, it’s gotten personal… just over the top – personal.

            Again, it’s Jim’s blog and he can/should run it the way he wants. I only ask that we be honest about it… and if name-calling is allowed then so be it – let both sides do it…. don’t be calling out one side for it.

          • re: ” Sorry if that label was offensive Mr. Larry. I had a pot of white bean soup last night. It was good too. Used some salt pork for the seasoning.”

            Is was NOT – primarily because you did not intend it as a pejorative!

            I’m quite envious of your bean soup and fat back/salt pork… nothing better but need “alone” time for the digestion part.

        • johnrandolphofroanoke

          Maybe Democratic Socialist is a better term. I believe anyone from the “Red for Ed” wing would agree. AOC and Bernie are Democratic Socialists.

          • johnrandolphofroanoke

            Sorry if that label was offensive Mr. Larry. I had a pot of white bean soup last night. It was good too. Used some salt pork for the seasoning.

  6. We need to do the best we can to help all students. But there is help out there. Well over a decade ago, I served on a committee in Fairfax County that worked with Cox to develop a pilot program to provide students from a low-income apartment community with access to low-priced Internet access and to free or low-cost computer equipment. Indeed, some of the older kids in the neighbor worked with a nonprofit to refurbish computers.

    Cox, which doesn’t operate in Arlington (Comcast does), offers qualifying low-income families in Fairfax County (except in Reston ) and elsewhere with $9.95 a month broadband access to one location in a home. To Qualify: Families with K-12 children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, SNAP, and/or TANF; who receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA); and/or who live in Public Housing. Pretty broad. I think qualifying families can get refurbished computers for about $150.

    I believe that both Verizon (which operates throughout Fairfax County) and Comcast (which operates in Reston) have similar programs.

    Will this guarantee every kid will make it? No. But Schools can and must educate the bulk of the kids from both genders, native or foreign born and ethnic background. School board should, but won’t, fire every second staff person.

    • I have sometimes asked exactly what a teacher does – that cannot be replaced by computers, internet and software.

      For some kid of well-educated, higher income parents – those kids can excel in a lot of different places, public school, private school, home schooling, and self-learning through a plethora of internet-accessible stuff.

      It’s not just the laptop and the internet but those are tools for those who are already advancing through language, science and math.

      For those that are behind – those tools are not as useful – because they really do need a tutor/teacher – someone who knows the content and has teaching skills – not a parent – who works at a minimum wage job and graduated from high school barely literate.

      These are realities and we get frustrated with it when the quick, easy suggestions won’t really get the job done… we get mad and just bail saying it’s not our problem.

      I don’t know what an “acceptable” failure rate is – but I do accept the fact that there is and to some extent no matter our best efforts… etc… 1 or 2%?
      5 or 10% ?, 20? … I lean to the lower not the higher.

      • Larry, you need to accept that not every kid makes it in life and taxpayers don’t have an unlimited obligation to spend unlimited amounts of money. We already make lots and lots of extra resources available to low-income kids and to kids with disabilities to the point where we cut back on resources for kids in the middle.

        Low-income kids in Fairfax County get federal Title I money, comparable state aid and extra local tax dollars. In early grades, they are in classes that average in the high teens, while kids down the road in in classes in the mid-20s. And not all of those kids come from homes with two degreed parents. Further, there are schools in Fairfax County where middle grades have class sizes in the 30s, while low income schools are still in the high teens. How much more must be done?

        Some kids have shitty parents or no parents. But that’s not the fault of society. F-up in life and the world owes you a living and your kids too. The only thing we can hold people to is paying more and more taxes. Accountability is racist.

        And your experience with segregated schools isn’t universal. I went to the same schools as black kids. We used the same bathrooms. We played on the same kids sports teams. I blocked just as hard when the black kid ran the ball as I did when the white kid did.

        Low-income kids’ families in Fairfax County can get Internet access for $10 a month. They can get a computer for $150. Some of us worked hard to help make this possible. Why isn’t it good enough? What are their cellphone bills each month?

        Holding back any kid should cause an educator or two-bit bureaucrat to be fired.

        • I actually do accept that TMT – and as long as they fail at the same rate for the given demographic – so be it.

          But I will not accept huge disparities of 20% on a demographic basis.

          Kids are innocent. Not a one of them is born “bad” and few of them are born “dumb”. It matters a lot what kind of life they are born into. Each one of them deserves an opportunity to achieve their potential and it should not be according to whether they were born into poverty.

          This is actually the promise of America. Opportunity. It’s what brings folks here from all over the world – legally and illegally and our own kids born here in this country ought to be entitled to the same opportunity.

          And, I don’t care how they get it – public schools or other schools – as long as ALL of the schools have to have the same academic standards and accountability.

          • TooManyTaxes

            Give me a break. As JFK said “Life isn’t fair.” My grandfather, who was gassed in WWI, died in a dentist’s chair during the Depression. Everything was in his wife’s name. That left my grandmother with no income and four kids 10 and under. She lost the house. Through the kindness of a stranger, she got an 800 sq.ft. house with no indoor plumbing for back taxes. She was able to get a veteran’s pension of $68 a month. And with my grandfather buried and the kids small, relatives moved in with her. My dad and his brothers were innocent too. They slept in a uninsulated bedroom in the attic and this was in Minnesota. (And yes, I did know the bedroom.)

            All but my youngest uncle had to quit school to put food on the table. They all got their GEDs and one got a masters degree on the GI Bill. BTW, he was a Marine, wounded twice and died with a Japanese bullet next to his spine.

            Open borders. Everyone gets to come here and taxpayers can pick up the tab. My kids were adopted from Korea. So were a niece and a nephew. One of my good friends from childhood has two sons from Korea. Her brother has a daughter from Korea. And, guess what, we all followed the rules. We all had to provide all sorts of financial records and tax returns to prove we could support the kids and that they wouldn’t need government support. But that cannot apply to people who sponsor immigrants or illegal immigrants. That’s why we have taxpayers. Only people who follow the rules have to follow the rules.

            Put your money where your mouth is: Give up your trips across the country and give the proceeds to the local school district. No, it’s easier to tell the rest of us to shut up, ignore violations of the law and just pay higher taxes.

          • Yep, totally true that LIFE in the wild, is not fair.

            But when the govt provides something/opportunity to everyone – a “public education” – they have to provide it on an equitable basis.

            When you get your “education” and someone else does not because they did not have access to the same opportunities provided to you – we have a responsibility to fix that if we see disparities in demographics that show that entire groups of people are affected – not just “individuals”.

            re: ” And, I don’t care how they get it – public schools or other schools – as long as ALL of the schools have to have the same academic standards and accountability.”

            They don’t all offer the same programs. Neighborhood schools in poorer neighborhoods often don’t have the same academic offerings as neighborhood schools in higher income locations.

            Right now, this minute, in the place I live, the schools are providing computers and support to kids who have internet and NOT to the rural kids who do not. When those kids return to school someday, many of them are going to have to repeat …while others advance.

            It’s no one’s “fault” but it IS the job of those who do public education to address the equity issues.

            In Arlington’s case – it’s not about laptops and internet – it’s about which parents are highly educated and can and will help their kids learn how to use the laptop and internet as a learning tool – and which kids parents will not be able to do that.

            If there were no public education – that would be “life” but when there is public education, how do you fix that?

          • TooManyTaxes

            I guess what gets under my skin is your reluctance to say “Yeah, that looks pretty good. Let’s move on to another problem.”

            Between Cox, Comcast and Verizon, any qualified kid can get Internet access installed in her/his family home in Fairfax County for about $10 a month. And a refurbished computer for about $150. (How much do cellphones cost? How many cellphones in household?) That enables the kid or kids in the family to plug into instruction from Fairfax County Public Schools beginning on April 14. Why isn’t that enough? Why cannot society expect all kids in FCPS to log in to the web portal (with instructions) and follow their classes? Will some refuse to do so? Will some parents or guardians not push the kids to attend online school? Yes, but then why isn’t the remedy for the County to threaten to put the kids in a guardianship? If a parent is so neglectful that they may no effort to see that their kids take advantage of low-cost Internet access to FCPS, why isn’t that child abuse? Bye-bye food stamps, rental assistance and Medicaid for the parent(s). Maybe just the threat alone would motivate the parent and the student. Why isn’t that the job of the school and social services staff instead of withholding instruction?

            It sounds like Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg are doing the same thing but not in rural areas. So, instead of looking for more everywhere, why not focus on kids who live in rural areas?

            Course offerings. It’s my understanding that any qualified kid at any FCPS high school can take AP or IB courses, depending on which type the school offers. And I believe that there is some flexibility to go from an AP to an IB and vice versa under certain circumstances.

          • re: ” I guess what gets under my skin is your reluctance to say “Yeah, that looks pretty good. Let’s move on to another problem.””

            I’ll make a deal with you. When you tell me what equity is – what it actually means – whether you agree with it or not – we can then agree to disagree.

            We cannot save all kids – that’s true – but that’s NOT “equity”.

            If Public Education believes it’s mission is to provide each child with equal ACCESS to opportunity then just saying you TRIED to provide everyone but at the end of the day, an entire demographic still demonstrates disparities – you are left with two choices:

            1. – that demographic has a genetic failing and that’s the reason why that demographic will never achieve the same as other demographics.

            2. – something else is going on and it may be how Public Education “works” and are there things that can be done to address the shortfalls?

            Now, when we blame their efforts on “progressives”, we’re headed in the opposite direction – in my humble view… I recognize there are others of course but I advocate for my view.

            re:; ” (How much do cellphones cost? How many cellphones in household?) That enables the kid or kids in the family to plug into instruction from Fairfax County Public Schools beginning on April 14. Why isn’t that enough? ”

            who is paying for the cellphone data ? If you were online for hours in a day on your cellphone, what would your bill look like?

            Would you address this as part of your effort to improve access?

          • TooManyTaxes

            Fair enough, Larry. Equity gives a motivated/cooperating child a reasonable chance to master basic subjects and to explore other to develop a knowledgeable and functioning person. Some kids will need additional resources to have that opportunity. For example, a child who does not speak English needs added help to learn the language. A child who struggles with math needs additional instruction. A child who is deaf needs instruction that does not require sound.

            The U.S. Supreme Court, in interpreting the federal IDEA Act, provides some guidance. Endrew v. Douglas Co. School Dist. (2017). I don’t have citation.

            Some of the key holdings are:

            “The Act guarantees a substantively adequate program of education to all eligible children, and that this requirement is satisfied if the child’s IEP sets out an educational program that is ‘reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.”’

            “For children fully integrated in the regular classroom, this would typically require an IEP ‘reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.'” Passing marks is the standard.

            “To meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. ”

            For a child not integrated into the classroom, “A child’s IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement if that is not a reasonable prospect. But that child’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” A right to be challenged by instruction while taking into account the child’s specific circumstances.

            The Court specifically rejected the parent’s argument that the law required “States to provide children with disabilities educational opportunities that are ‘substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities.'” The SCOTUS decision was 9-0. I don’t think your proposed standard is required.

            Any plan approved by a school, after following the process for developing an IEP, must not be overturned by a court so long as the school “offer[s] a cogent and responsive explanation for their decisions that shows the IEP is reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.”

            Does this seem fair and reasonable for kids needing special education?

            I’ll try to find some Title 1 requirements.

          • @TMT – I’m happy that you and I can converse without it degenerating into name-calling … I respect you for that.

            In our back and forth here .. and reading what you have provided, let me ask you another question.

            If the mission of the public schools is to assure that each child can reach their academic potential – but it takes different amounts of resources for each child to achieve that – is that a better approach than to try to provide equal resources to all – and if somekids come up short – too bad?

          • TooManyTaxes

            “If the mission of the public schools is to assure that each child can reach their academic potential – but it takes different amounts of resources for each child to achieve that – is that a better approach than to try to provide equal resources to all – and if some kids come up short – too bad?”

            As a practical matter, the answer is “yes.” At some level, schools can afford to give more resources to individual students, be it a special project to challenge a brighter student or individual attention to a student who doesn’t quite grasp long division. And, of course, the law requires things like Special Ed and ESOL.

            But, at the very same time, it’s extremely unfair and unreasonable to expect all of the vast majority of kids in the middle to suffer because of the unlimited demands of students with more needs. They deserve an education too. I think it’s wrong to decide that some kids get fewer resources because some bureaucrat thinks their parents are too well educated, worked to hard to be successful or make a lot of money. Public Schools should endeavor and be forced to treat every student reasonably equal. If not, let’s shut down the public schools and give every parent a voucher.

            And some kids will not make it. That’s part of human history. Some won’t make it because of the choices their parents made or their own decisions. Some because of bad luck. But we cannot drag the bulk of kids down because of an impossible quest to see that everyone lands in the same spot.

        • re: ” But, at the very same time, it’s extremely unfair and unreasonable to expect all of the vast majority of kids in the middle to suffer because of the unlimited demands of students with more needs.”

          Even some of the kids in the middle need extra help on some subjects. It’s the nature of the beast in k-12 and thats the primary job of the teacher to get ALL of the kids in her/his class to the required standard.

          For the kids that need even more help AND for the kids that are far advanced, he/she can only stretch so far and it then boils down to whether there is other resources outside of that classroom for those kids. Reading/math help for the at-risk low-income demographic kids and higher level classes for the more talented kids.

          Not all k-12 schools have all of these resources – especially if there are not enough kids to justify a separate teacher. It’s a money and staffing problem.

          When we come to a time like now – those low income kids – even if they have access to computer/internet, they do not have access to the separate classes to help them catch up and stay caught up.

          “They deserve an education too. I think it’s wrong to decide that some kids get fewer resources because some bureaucrat thinks their parents are too well educated, worked to hard to be successful or make a lot of money. Public Schools should endeavor and be forced to treat every student reasonably equal. If not, let’s shut down the public schools and give every parent a voucher.”

          The “equity” goal that is now being promoted is to get every child up to their potential – by providing the resources that can do that.

          Vouchers are not going to fix this but I’m actually in favor of vouchers IF these other schools have to meet the same standards as public schools. In other words, they have to take the at-risk kids and provide them with the resources needed for them to achieve their academic potential. They have to meet the SOL standards for all kids and they have to provide that as transparently as we demand from public schools.

          You’re using public money for that – and it has to meet the same standards. We’re not going back to “separate but equal” schools.

  7. Jim – when you characterize entire groups as “progressives”, you’re setting up conflict here in BR because anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint automatically becomes a “progressive”…and that pretty much takes the
    discussion to pejoratives about “progressives” and subsequent name-calling, … i.e. “leftists”, “liberals”, “social justice warriors”, etc…

    Debate on the issues –

    • But Larry would find fault with the Democratic Socialist label, even if more accurate, because not ALL Democratic Socialists believe ____________etc. etc. You can’t win

      “anyone who disagrees with your [JB’s ]viewpoint automatically becomes a “progressive”

      That is just demonstrably not true Larry. C’mon, man. Exaggeration gets you nowhere.

      • I do find fault when anyone labels some one else or labels an entire group as the start of a conversation / blog post.

        Nope. Not an exaggeration. When he makes an argument then says that everyone on the other side are progressives – then if one does not agree with him, no matter the reason, he is a “progressive”.

        works that way all the time here in BR – and other comments get on board with it – and it directly leads to name-calling, it encourages it.

        no exaggeration at all – Jim tees it up and the others come running to scrum…

        There is no middle ground – you either agree with what Jim is saying or you are who he is targetting.

  8. My time in high school. 2002-2006, was more No Child Get Ahead and than No Child Left Behind. We were definitely even then catering to the slower students. There will always be students with disabilities, or bad home lives, or whatever other personal situation. My own mother was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer when I was in 7th grade. That’s no reason to hold others back just because I might have been struggling. That’s life. Spend the extra time working with the at risk kids like we already do, and the let the ones capable of moving on do so.

    • johnrandolphofroanoke

      In your era of high school education the emphasis was passing scores and closing gaps between subgroups. To achieve this standards and rigor were reduced. Students were dealt a bad check. They did not ever realize the check bounced until years later.

      • In my era – blacks were systematically denied a decent education – and they grew up poor and uneducated and they had kids – and the cycle continued.

  9. This has been an issue for a long time. If you go to a rural school – many kids will be “behind” and that sets the tempo for that class – and kids that are gifted often fall by the wayside because such schools may not have advanced placement classes for the more talented kids.

    It works the other way in schools with a lot of higher income, better educated parents, their kids move ahead quickly – and in a class where there are a lot of them – the others down a notch can get literally left behind – their parents are not well educated, higher income…

    The equity issue has come about because schools are aligned with neighborhood demographics. If a neighborhood is low income and low education – the school caters to that demographic and kids who have talent – are trapped in those lower classes – those neighborhood schools in low income, do not have the same level of resources for talented kids because they are a much smaller group than the main demographic.

    It’s a tough problem – not easily solved – and yes – it pits educators against the public and parents of kids who who do deserve to progress and not be held back.

  10. Arlington is not the only school system dealing with the “equity” issue. Loudoun is and many other larger school systems like Wake County in NC (Raleigh) – one of the largest school systems in the country – has been
    engaging in a de-facto busing type policy where kids from low-income neighborhoods are being bused to higher-performing schools outside of those neighborhoods on the premise that some/many kids are being held back in those lower income schools that are trying to educate the lowest level kids and in doing so – is holding back other kids who could do better if they were in classes closer to their academic potential.

    This is the curse of “public” education where there is, in theory, a responsibility that each child should have equity – which is not opportunity but access to opportunity. If they do not have equal access to opportunity – there is not equity.

    There is a pervasive sentiment that we “can’t save all of them” and it’s not our fault that their parents are poor and under-educated.

    But it’s also true that if we do nothing about this – the cycle will continue – these kids will grow up – the same as their parents – low income and poor educations and they will have kids.. and so forth and so on.

    And the thing is – this affects us all – we do pay the costs of this when these kids grow up and end up depending on entitlements for much of their lives.

    Right now – today- One half of all births are Medicaid and one-half of all kids get their health insurance from medic-aid.

    We pay for this – far more than just Medicaid.

  11. This is much ado over a little. Things may have changed, but it was not that long ago that teachers spent the last few weeks of school preparing students to take standardized tests, which means going over prior material. After those tests were completed, students did not do much in school. The wife of a friend of mine teaches in the Henrico school system. The distance learning consists of each student completing three projects before the end of the year, plus catching up on whatever assignments they were behind on. She is supposed to check in with each student at least three times a week.

    I have a lot of sympathy with teachers at all times, but especially so now. It takes time to prepare a curriculum and not all curricula are geared toward distance learning. Thus, teachers had to devise lesson plans for distance learning on short notice. Likewise, not all students are used to distance learning. That takes self-discipline and getting used to. For all those reasons, I don’t see any major problem in telling teachers to concentrate on the material that has been presented and not try to introduce any new concepts in these last few weeks of school. Reviewing the material already presented and making sure students understand that material is not such a bad idea.

  12. Few teachers want to teach kids that are “at-risk” or “behind” unless they are getting paid more to do it because it takes a Masters Degree in that kind of education and those kids are not easy to teach – and when the numbers don’t come up roses, Principles and others higher in the food chain look for sacrificial lamb types to blame the problem on while they scramble to do something about it.

    That type of teaching, save for a very few very talented and committed folks is not for the faint of heart career-wise.

    For every kid they actually do help and succeeds, there are always others that do not – and some folks characterize that as a FAIL. You get three to pass, one fails.. and the public school system FAILS!

  13. While I agree it is a shame that some divisions don’t move ahead, we must remember that they have been trained for years by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to act just as they are. While there have no doubt been real examples of civil rights abuses that should have been addressed, there’s also some individuals in this organization who may be a little overzealous and can certainly find civil rights abuses when none exist, as has certainly also been the case. Therefore, I can understand why school divisions may not wish to become embroiled with this agency.

  14. Ugh! How disappointing.

    Five years ago I was appalled that Fairfax County would offer a computerized curricula but not supply all students with computers and internet access. The explanation was that kids who couldn’t afford computers were issues textbooks. I found that unacceptable. So did two members of the General Assembly who went to the same FXCO public high school I attended (although some years after I graduated). State Senator Scott Surovell and Delegate Paul Krizek joined forces with me to raise money and buy computers and internet access for poor students in Fairfax County. And yes … there are plenty of poor students in Fairfax County. For example, Bucknell Elementary School in my old neighborhood has 63% free and discounted lunches.

    I provided seed money, Paul Krizek found charities to match my contribution and Scott Surovell coordinated among the school, Cox Communications, technology providers etc. We bought the computers for as many kids as we could afford. We also publicized, as broadly as we could, the injustice of Fairfax County’s policies. A few years later the county admitted the error of their ways and bought all students the necessary technology.

    Now come the progressives in Arlington. In Arlington County, each student starting third grade is issued an iPad or MacBook. But they don’t want to teach new material despite children having the needed equipment? Because of … equity? Wasn’t it equity that prompted the school district to get every student outfitted with a computer? At taxpayers’ expense. But now that isn’t good enough because some kids have different home environments than other kids?

    The problem with education in America is the management of education in America. Virginia needs more charter schools and more school choice. Our students should not be held hostage to the virtue signaling of people like those running the Arlington school system.

  15. In terms of “progressives” – look at the latest newsletter from the Virginia Department of Education… hint – Arlington is following the State on Equity:

    Welcome back to the #EdEquityVA Monthly Newsletter, a repository of resources that you can add to your equity tool kit! Keep reading for more information about our #EdEquityVA initiatives, best practices in the field, and professional learning opportunities.

    This month’s issue focuses on COVID-19 and Continuity of Learning

    When Governor Northam announced the closure of schools for the remainder of the academic year, VDOE quickly formed a Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force to develop guidance for educators to meet the immediate needs of supporting learning outside our brick and mortar classrooms.

    C4L’s document provides guidance on how schools can prevent further widening of achievement gaps and meet the social and emotional needs of students while schools are closed.

    More than 120 teachers, administrators and specialists from school divisions across the commonwealth, as well as representatives of educational organizations and the Virginia Department of Education came together to create the document, which has a focus on ensuring equity in decision making around COVID-19 school closures.

  16. As a well known blogger likes to say:


    Larry, you sure do have a lot of time on your hands today. An old girl friend used to call me, “Runner!” when I got diarrhea of the mouth. As in, “Runner into the Ground”

    • not sure what your point is guy… it seems almost irrelevant… got time on your hands or this a another part of you I’m not familiar with?


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