Author Archives: sherlockj

Small and Medium Businesses in Virginia Cited Among Best Healthcare Workplaces Nationally

by James C. Sherlock

There are a lot of problems in Virginia healthcare starting with staff shortages, especially nurses, and our COPN incumbent protection system.

So, it is not an easy thing to compete and grow in the healthcare space.

But two Virginia companies are doing so and succeeding in ways such businesses must, by being great places to work and avoiding the COPN grinder.

In 2022, no Virginia organization earned a place in Fortune’s 30 Best Large Workplaces in Health Care.  

But we did have two companies in its best small and medium healthcare companies list:

One key to success: neither competes directly with a core business of a COPN-protected monopoly. Continue reading

Use of Cross-Gender Hormones for Gender Transitions in Minors

by James C. Sherlock

In the sometimes murky world of diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria in children and adolescents, the following steps generally but not always occur in order, with each potentially serving as an off-ramp:

  1. Diagnosis;
  2. Mental heath support;
  3. Social transition;
  4. Puberty blockers;
  5. Cross-gender hormones; and,
  6. Surgery; often but not always waiting for surgery until a child reaches the age of majority.

That list gets dangerous when it gets to step 4.

What UVa Children’s Hospital requires is the diagnosis before it can proceed. It cites a list of “gender affirming” medical professionals to whom it will refer patients for that diagnosis. Many of them are on staff  I hope they are not as forward-leaning on this diagnosis as their advertising suggests.

The home page of the clinic lists the following services in order:

  1. Puberty blockers that delay sex-related physical changes;
  2. Cross-sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen;
  3. Referrals for gender-affirming surgeries and voice therapy;
  4. Education about sex and contraception;
  5. Referrals for therapy to help manage anxiety, depression, and ongoing emotional issues;
  6. Help finding resources in the community.

I think those are presented in the wrong order. Therapy should be first. More on that later. Yesterday we discussed puberty blockers.

Today we will focus on cross-gender hormones. Continue reading

“Puberty Blockers Are Wonderful” – UVa Children’s Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

How do people communicate?

Generally by words and visuals and, in person, with body language. The art and science of marketing and sales is one of the bulwarks of any economy — and any political system.

My article on the hard selling of hormone treatments — puberty blockers and cross-gender use of estrogen and testosterone — by UVa Children’s Hospital Transgender Youth Health Services has drawn a lot of attention.

Two of the most famous lines from the video and its transcript are:

Puberty blockers are wonderful. They provide sort of a break.

Well. What child and parent wouldn’t want a break? Is there ice cream?

That enthusiastic endorsement caused me to check out the FDA warnings on puberty blockers.

Wonderful is not the first word that comes to mind. Continue reading

Slick Selling of Child Gender Transitions at UVa Children’s Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Virginia Children’s Hospital offers a Madison Avenue-quality sales pitch for child gender transition.

As written and smoothly delivered, it deflects any reservation parents may have in supporting such transitions by telling them they have been misled or are being selfish or both.

It helps parents decide by blaming their reservations on myths.

I offer below both a video and a transcript of that sales presentation.

The presenter uses a variation on the closing technique called the “question close.” In this one she both asks the questions — identified as myths — and answers them. The presentation carefully avoids mention of the word sterilization.

I expect that, given the sensitivity of the subject, it is very likely the best technique for closing the sale. Brilliant even.

If that is your goal.

The reputation of UVa hospital likely will be damaged by this exposure of how it sells this particular product. They have earned it. Continue reading

The Social Emotional Learning Establishment Seeks Progressive Reordering of Society

by James C. Sherlock

Social emotional learning is based on a good idea. The underlying concept is to train adults (teachers and staff) in child psychology with a goal of shaping learning environments that optimize development of children to societal standards of behavior.

To teach them how to act.

The rub: who decides on the target societal standards of behavior?

Virginia’s vision for SEL is published as:

intended to center equity in this work, which is key to VDOE’s vision and mission.

The vision of social emotional learning in Virginia is to maximize the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring and reflective members of our diverse society by advancing equity, uplifting student voice, and infusing SEL into every part of the school experience.

You can figure out where the educational establishment is going with that. But if you cannot, they have told us in no uncertain terms.

They intend to integrate issues of race, class and culture into academic content with a primary goal of making social justice warriors out of America’s children; to bring down capitalism, individualism, and what they call neoliberal democracy.

To lead our children to help redistribute power in America.

Not my words, theirs. Continue reading

Some School Divisions Successfully Mitigated COVID Learning Losses in Math

by James C. Sherlock

Congratulations are in order.

Some school divisions, spread around the state, did a terrific job in mitigating mathematics learning losses during COVID.

I picked math for its baseline importance in school and in life and the relative inability for students to advance in that subject without instruction, compared to reading and writing.

In trying to measure those losses with available data, I have compared division math SOL pass rates in 2021-22 to those in the last pre-pandemic year of 2018-19.

I believe it to be a good measure of successful teacher instruction, the learning environments at home, and in school and student effort.

That standard produced an eclectic and in some ways surprising list of divisions with the lowest learning losses.

Continue reading

Prioritize Joyful Teaching and Learning in Virginia Public Schools

Courtesy Success Academies

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes things are so right in front of you that you look past them.

I have been studying public education in Virginia for more than 15 years.

The policy face of the teaching and learning is — there is no other word for it — depressing, at least to the degree that those policies as written can be decoded into English.

Especially when our schools’ processes are constantly re-engineered at the behest of the education establishment. Teachers and students struggle to adjust to policies that are said to “work” in small, targeted studies but prove after enormous effort and expense not to scale as predicted. Or they work in the best schools and not in the worst.

At the federal level, the VDOE level, the ed school level and the local school division level, policies are frenetically changed to clean up problems real or perceived.

Virtually no solution I have seen focuses on enhancing the joys of teaching and learning.

The best individual schools in Virginia can and many certainly do focus on joy. But that is not what they are told to do. And clearly many don’t do it.

It is no wonder SOL scores in many schools continue to be dismal, teachers and students quit and students are chronically absent in droves.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Continue reading

School Climate Surveys Better Indicators of Learning Climate than Current School Quality Profiles

by James C. Sherlock

I spent some time yesterday discussing the Virginia Department of Education’s revisions to school climate surveys. If VDOE returns to the valid, older survey, results could be applied profitably to updating the Learning Climate section of the department’s School Quality Profiles.

Right now, that section contains only historical artifacts of the learning climate, not predictive ones. Learning Climate data include chronic absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, free-and-reduced meal eligibility, and, for some unknown reason, five-year-old Civil Rights Data Collection data.

The Authoritative School Climate Survey (ASCS), that I have urged VDOE to resume using, has multi-question scales that describe the views of students and staff towards the school.

The data collected from ASCS are more useful than legacy attendance, discipline and poverty data because they are

  • more thoroughly descriptive;
  • predictive; and
  • actionable.

We’ll examine how. Continue reading

Political Damage to Primary Instruments of Improvement in Virginia Schools

by James C. Sherlock

We need all the help we can get assessing Virginia schools and producing actionable information to make them better.  

The Standards of Learning exams show the results of poor learning, but do not identify actionable causes.

Directed to choose an additional measure of school quality by the federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in 2015, Virginia, like most states, chose to use a school climate survey.

Virginia chose a hell of a good one developed in Virginia by University of Virginia scientists for the federal government. It was used here very successfully for several years.

Then Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) functionaries dumped it in 2020 for what were clearly political/philosophical reasons.

I have not seen any evidence that the new survey has been proven valid or reliable, even if one agrees with their woke philosophy. Frankly it could not have been validated in such a short span of time in the middle of COVID.

The new leadership at VDOE needs to return to the original.

Continue reading

Abortions in Virginia – Data for the Debate

Fetus – 15 weeks
Credit pregnancy health.net

by James C. Sherlock

With all of the controversy, it is useful to know the facts of what has been happening with abortions in Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control conducts abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions and the number of abortion-related deaths in the United States.

The last CDC annual abortion surveillance report was for 2019.

It provides useful reference material inasmuch as several of its data tables are broken out by state. I have chosen four: number, age of mother, race/ethnicity and known weeks of gestation.

Three things of note:

  1. In Virginia, there were 160 abortions for every 1,000 live births.
  2. As a percentage of abortions, Virginia women have late-term (after 15 weeks) abortions at only about half the rate as women nationally. In Virginia, 2.5% occurred after 15 weeks of gestation — 0.6% after 20 weeks.
  3. As for race, it is instructive to see that abortion has not strayed far from its American eugenicist roots.  It was sterilization at the beginning.  Now it is abortion.  Black babies are still killed at a  disproportionately high rate. But strange differences today are:
    • Black executives now largely run Planned Parenthood; and
    • Much of the Black press and clergy have joined the hallelujah chorus in support of abortion.

Continue reading

Virginia Model Policies on Protecting Students Show Differences in Constitutional Focus and Interpretation

by James C. Sherlock

There is lots of interest, and not a little headline hyperbole, concerning the change in Virginia’s model policies designed to assure all children appropriate treatment at school.

Two different world views are apparent in the titles:

  • the Northam administration’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (Northam Model Policies) and
  • the Youngkin Administration’s Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (Youngkin Model Policies).

Both attorneys and general audiences will find interesting the way the authors of each document interpreted the United States Constitution.

Each referred to the first and 14th amendments. And Virginia laws. The differences in emphasis and interpretation were chosen to support their cases.

That is not surprising, but I think those differences make or break the case for the two policies.

I will let readers decide. Continue reading

Lessons from One of the Worst Middle Schools in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote last time about school climate surveys.

Yawn.

But perhaps not in this case. I am going to use the results of a 2019 climate survey of Fredericksburg’s only middle school, Walker-Grant, to make a point.

The results of that survey of students and staff were absolutely brutal. Especially the responses of the students.

When polled about student support, disciplinary structure, academic expectations, prevalence of teasing and bullying and aggression toward staff, they gave the bad “grades” to their school across the board.

I checked upon a couple of other middle schools in the state widely known to be problems, and the results were not close. Walker-Grant students had the worst opinion of their school I could find.

So, that is the context for the state-worst chronic absenteeism in 2021 and horrible learning losses in 2022.

The survey also predicted that nothing would be done by the leadership of the school to make improvements based upon that survey.

Because they never had before. Continue reading

What is a Good School, How is One Measured and How do Poor Schools Improve?

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote yesterday about the dumpster fires that were Fredericksburg Public Schools during and immediately after the pandemic.

They completely fell apart.

It is not clear how and whether the children, with whose well being, development and education those schools and their parents were charged, will ever recover from the experience.

Under current practice in Virginia, the school board in Fredericksburg will need to decide on the future of its superintendent.  The citizens will decide whether they need a new school board.

But there are proven forensic approaches to determine what happened and, more importantly, to understand how to prevent it from happening again.

The obvious next question is what the state can do about failing schools.  School boards are made virtually independent actors by Virginia’s constitution.

But the Board of Education has levers of control.  The Department of Education has money.  And the board has constitutional control over the qualifications and professional licenses of the superintendents and the endorsements that allow persons to become principals.

I propose that the Board use that authority and funding to recognize and financially reward leaders successful in improving poor performing schools and remove the credentials of principals and superintendents proven unable to do so.

If that second part sounds harsh, so are the problems.

The question then is how to define success and failure and how to measure them?

And, ideally, how do we spot pending failure so corrective actions can be taken before the children and teachers go down with the ship.

Continue reading

Fredericksburg Schools Need a New Superintendent

by James C  Sherlock

Note:  I took the unprecedented step of taking a column down ten days ago.  

I did so out of an abundance of caution in response to an outpouring of disbelief among colleagues and the readers about the 71% chronic absentee rate posted by Fredericksburg Public Schools in 2020-21. Many insisted the number could not be right. The discussion could not proceed usefully.  

VDOE today confirmed to me that the absenteeism figures submitted by Fredericksburg match the ones posted on the VDOE website. That level of chronic absenteeism also aligns with the horrible learning losses demonstrated by Fredericksburg students in the AY 2021-22 SOLs.  

Finally, the 71% absenteeism was the subject of a report by Rick Pullen in the Fredericksburg paper in February of this year. It brought no pushback from the school division.  

I repost my column below. Continue reading

School Attendance Is a Right and an Equal Opportunity Issue

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote a column yesterday on chronic absenteeism in Virginia’s schools. The article has generated confusion among some readers about the obligations of parents and those of the state in getting children to school.

Some wonder if absenteeism is even the problem that the data say it is. And what about … (fill in the blank)?

But as a society, we have already decided. Truancy is against the law. For good reasons. Attendance is a right and denying it denies equal opportunity.

And adults in both homes and government offices are denying children that right. Continue reading