Author Archives: sherlockj

Implement “Joyful Learning” in Virginia’s Poorest Performing Elementary Schools

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote in a previous post of the astonishing record of New York City’s Success Academies in achieving the highest scores in the state of New York on that state’s standardized tests with some of the most economically disadvantaged students.  

I write this time with the great news that there is absolutely no impediment to implementing the Success Academy model in Virginia schools.

I will also offer a very straightforward way to get there.

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Joyful Learning

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

Many of our readers have expressed dismay about the future of Virginia’s schools, some coming to the conclusion that there is no hope. Some others contend that because poor kids haven’t learned over the past three decades, that they can’t learn. Or that some poor kids can learn, just not poor black kids. Or whatever.

Education “leaders” in Virginia contend we must lower the standards to meet the kids, not raise those kids to meet the standards.

Virginia’s Secretary of Education’s stated position is that we must do away with achievement tests to mask deficiency in actual learning and rely instead on aptitude tests, which he admits are not available, to find talented children of color.

Secretary Atif Qarni then insists we put them in advanced classes and schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology regardless of their inability to demonstrate that they have mastered the preparation necessary to succeed there.

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The Philosophical Tug of War in K-12 Education – 1988 to Present

E.D. Hirsch. Image: BARBARA KELLEY Wall Street Journal

by James C. Sherlock

Others in this space and I have been asking readers to confront what we oppose: critical theory in education, a Marxist-based philosophy that in its execution is designed to tear down the American culture and start over. We see that philosophy today personified in critical race theory and state-directed intrusions in its favor.

To try to provide historical perspective to some of those discussions, I will offer a brief survey of proponents of a more constructive path for K-12 education, directed specifically to improve the performance of poor minority children.  

The ones I have selected feature the work of, Richard Rorty,  E. D. Hirsch Jr. and Naomi Schaefer Riley. Drs. Rorty and Hirsch were professors at the University of Virginia. 

Dr. Hirsch and Ms. Riley are not exactly what you expect.    

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Anti-Racism Training and Whiteness – Equal Time

by James C. Sherlock

The movement should be allowed to speak for itself. It will do so here.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in its online portal called “Talking About Race,” provided what may qualify as the official list of the characteristics of whiteness. 

The graphic linked below was published by the museum sometime before July 16. The part you may have trouble reading says:

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes, and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States, and since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture—including people of color.”  

It was accompanied by a chart to show what whiteness is.  Click on the link to see a readable version.  

characteristics of whiteness

In one of the six stages of loss that antiracism training features, participants may wish to confess their parts in the listed aggressions.

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Major Impacts of Northam’s War against Teachers

Federal school funding threatened; Democrats and unions in a bind; Lawsuits coming

Timing is Everything

by James C. Sherlock

Ralph Northam declared on August 30 of this year that Virginia’s schools are systemically racist and that teachers are presumptively racist and must be treated and monitored.

In addition to threatening to create turmoil in the schools and damage to the very students he apparently meant to help, the Governor has potentially kicked over a hornets’ nest worse than he stirred up with his infamous infanticide interview that resulted in the release of his blackface yearbook photo. 

And he may have set Virginia up for federal demands for repayments of Department of Education funds and related fines. At stake is a breathtaking amount of money that includes CARES Act funding, all of which has been contingent on compliance with the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The documented facts may also have put Democrats and their allies (in that word’s traditional and critical race theory definitions) in a large political bind.

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Northam Labels Virginia’s Teachers Racists

No word on teacher Pam Northam’s status

by James C. Sherlock

Trouble at the dinner table?

Governor Northam on August 24, 2020 declared Virginia’s schools guilty of systemic (structural) racism and declared his intention to “build antiracist school communities.”  

He was addressing the #EdEquity VA Virtual SummitCourage, Equity and Antiracism hosted by Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

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In the Naming Rights Sweepstakes at UVa’s Ed School, A Sophie’s Choice for the Woke

Mao Zedong

by James C. Sherlock

“Sophie’s Choice” is centered on a scene in Auschwitz where Sophie has just arrived with her ten-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. She loves them both equally. A sadistic doctor tells her that she can only bring one of her children; one will be allowed to live while the other is to be killed.

A reader of an earlier post suggested with tongue in cheek that UVa’s School of Education and Human Development be renamed the Marx School of Re-education.

Three currents have reached “intersectionality” (see Wikipedia’s anti-racism glossary) in renaming Virginia’s Ed School: the theorists – Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory –  and the practitioners – the new Cultural Revolution.

It would insult the leadership of the Ed School to call them theorists.

Accused accurately and publicly of “shoddy scholarship” by the Rector of the University, those worthies may consider them elves street fighters leading a cultural revolution, not academics. If so, they will wear the label proudly. The T-shirts write themselves.

If given only two choices similar to those that faced Sophie, UVA’s Committee for Naming must let Marx go and put Mao’s name on the door.

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The School Soon to be Formerly Known as Curry

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, 1901 – cancelled

by James C. Sherlock
University of Virginia
College of Arts and Sciences 1966

Robert Pianta is Dean of the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia.  He has a great CV.

Dean Pianta on March 20, 2020 sent a lengthy letter to the University of Virginia Committee on Names (UVACON) – (no comment).  

That letter provided an executive summary of a monumental effort by lists of “stakeholders” on the Ad Hoc Committee on Naming (also no comment), he convened to study the characters of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, after whom the school is named, and William Henry Ruffner, the namesake of the Curry School’s Ruffner Hall.  

To satisfy the curiosity of readers on the edge of their seats, the Dean’s letter preliminarily cancelled Mr. Curry and Mr. Ruffner.

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A Crisis in Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Virginia

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni – Why is this man smiling”?

by James C. Sherlock

I urge those readers with experience as teachers and anyone else with expertise in education to review  a March 2020 presentation by Patty S. Pitts, Assistant Superintendent Teacher Education and Licensure Virginia Department of Education March 9, 2020. She discusses both reasons for teachers leaving Virginia public schools and the shortfalls in recruitment of their replacements. Her data  did not include the retirements and resignations since COVID.

Consider these data in light of the new expectations of teachers as reflected in the State Board of Education and the School Boards of Virginia Beach and Albemarle County policies written about in this space earlier.

The specific recommendations of the Commission on African American History Education in Virginia relative to professional development of teachers will be reviewed by the Virginia Board of Education on September 17th.

Click on and download those recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education in Virginia.

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Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy – Part 2

Dr. Matthew S. Haas
Superintendent of Schools, Albemarle County

by James C. Sherlock

After I posted yesterday on Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy, I wrote each of the members of that school board.  Still troubled, I wrote them again this morning.  That board is a very distinguished group .   I thus have reason to hope the messages have some effect before the vote on the policy on September 24.  We’ll see.  

Here are the messages.

Yesterday

The Daily Progress reported that you “didn’t ask many questions” on September 10 concerning the pending Draft Grading Policy.   

I have experience in Virginia schools as both a public school teacher and, once retired, as a volunteer tutor in remedial mathematics.  

I read the draft policy closely.  I found considerable cognitive dissonance and large gaps both in the newspaper interviews and in the draft policy.  

This grading policy as written will present teachers with a major challenge to their integrity.   Continue reading

The Albemarle County School Board “Didn’t Ask Many Questions.”

Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education, is pleased

by James C. Sherlock

As sure as the sun rises in the east, the coming woke fix for achievement gaps in schools will be modified grading standards as part of antiracism policies.

Albemarle County is already there. The School Board is poised to approve a new grading policy at its meeting September 24. “During the meeting, board members were pleased with the policy and didn’t ask many questions.”

Readers can be for that or against it, and it may prove a good thing, or not. Proof will be in the execution.

There is no word how college admission offices will perceive and evaluate the grades of applicants from Albemarle County high schools.  Also none on how students transferring from Albemarle County schools to another district or state will be evaluated for proper class placement in their new schools and their grades translated for transcript purposes.

Details to be worked out.

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Teaching African American History in Virginia

Frederick Douglass

By James C. Sherlock

I fully support integrating African American history into the broad sweep of history taught in the nation’s primary and secondary schools.  

On September 17, there will be a Virginia Board of Education meeting with an agenda item titled “Report from the Governor’s African American History Education Commission, August 2020”  (the Report). 

I will offer here a positive, optimistic approach.

But first, the fiercely negative approach to the teaching of African American history offered by the Governor’s Commission.

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Systemic Inequity on the Virginia Beach Schools Equity Council

by James C. Sherlock

The Superintendent of Virginia Beach Schools has some work to do now that the Equity Policy he signed off on has been approved. The policy was developed with the assistance of the Virginia Beach Schools Equity Council.

I have recommended today to the School Board and the Superintendent that they make the first order of business changing the membership of the Equity Council to make it more equitable in compliance with the new policy. It will need either to be expanded into uselessness or reconstructed with new membership.

The current leadership of the Council consists of two members of the school board and the Virginia Beach Schools Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Each is black, as are the majority of the members.  I frankly don’t care about that, but now Virginia Beach Schools officially does.

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The Virginia Beach School Board Throws a Fit

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia Beach boasts the fourth largest school district in the state with 87 schools and 69,000 students. Those kids, their teachers and their parents deserve better than what happened last night.

Horror and embarrassment were the most common reactions of the public to last night’s televised meeting of the Virginia Beach School Board (the board).  The subject of those concerns was a public, very prolonged and clearly very personal squabble among board members before the agenda was ever considered.  

For viewers who tuned in to see the discussions of public policy, not to mention those cooling their heels in the lobby waiting to be called in to speak on the highly controversial school system Equity Policy, it was a spectacle they will never forget. Continue reading

Educational Equity in Virginia Beach Public Schools

George Orwell

by James C. Sherlock

I publish below the Educational Equity Policy to be voted on by the Virginia Beach School Board at a 4 p.m. meeting today.

My overarching comment is that the policy, as written in draft, defines equity to include both equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. Teachers are specifically charged to ensure equality of outcomes.

The former is exactly what must happen, the latter demands quotas. It demands equity by sex as well as race and a lengthy list of other human characteristics. One wonders how much attention will be given to the outperformance by girls over boys in standardized tests.

The parenthetical notes below are mine.

The Equity Policy to be voted on tonight states that:

Strict equality of opportunity and resources between students may not result in educational equity.”  …

Equity gaps means the disparity in a metric in achievement, opportunity, or treatment that can be reasonably be correlated to racial or social inequity practice.” (Reasonably?) (The metrics of achievement include primarily SOLs and SATs. Online teaching will render those questionable for years. ) 

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