Category Archives: Education (Early Childhood)

Virginia Child Victims in the Left’s War on the Enlightenment and Science

Richard Bernstein, a founder of American critical theory.

by James C. Sherlock

Modern progressivism is religion, defined by Webster as “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”

The critical theory progressive, that is to say the modern American progressive, rejects proudly and publicly, root and branch, both the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolutions of the 16th through 18th centuries in Europe.

Critical Theory developed into a synthesis of Marx and Freud. The Frankfurt School which birthed it studied the sources of authoritarianism. Their followers, as in much of human experience, wound up as practitioners.

By contrast, the leading lights of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution awakenings, bravely in their time, stressed the belief that science and logic give people more understanding. And with understanding came freedom and the rights of man.

Logic is the principles of reasoning; science provides the principles of investigation and proof.

They led much of Europe, and the American colonies, to develop more successful systems of governance, economics, mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and education than did tradition and religion.

One development, capitalism, has raised more people out of poverty than any economic system ever.

Some of the rest of the world followed. Some did not. Those that did, prospered, and improved the lives of billions of people.

But success in those twin intellectual revolutions came too slow for some.

To that table came two prominent 19th and 20th century experiments in rejecting the Enlightenment: communism and national socialism.

They proved the deadliest political movements in human history. Continue reading

Speaking of Banning Books

by John Massoud

Earlier this month, a Warren County resident was complaining about a “small group of people who wish to ban books” from the Samuels Library. The writer talked about how many of the speakers that evening were not Warren County residents, or may have just purchased a library card so they could speak.

The writer may not be aware of this, but by that last statement, he was trying to suppress free speech. Several of the speakers who were supporting allowing these books in the children’s section of Samuels Library were trying to suppress free speech. One of the more egregious examples was a young lady who early in the meeting said that “churches should not be allowed to speak” because they “don’t pay taxes.” What she meant to say was that no person who attends a church should be allowed to speak. So people who attend church, who pay their taxes, should not be allowed to speak, yet anyone who agrees with those wanting to show porn to kids should be allowed to speak as they wish. This according to the logic of those who want to show porn to children.

People like the writer say they are 100 percent for free speech. Yet they want anyone who disagrees with them to not be allowed to speak. The writer does not support free speech. He supports free speech if you agree with him. With that being said, here are the books that many leftists want banned (and in some cases have gotten banned):

Of Mice and Men

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

To Kill a Mockingbird

Six books written by Dr. Seuss

For the record, I, like pretty much every person today, finds use of the N word despicable. Yet, the fact is that “Huck Finn” is an American classic. Should Huckleberry Finn be banned because Mark Twain used a word which may have been acceptable in the late 1800s but is now rightly seen as disgusting? Of course not. Dr. Seuss is coming under fire because some radicals’ sensibilities are offended over artwork. Dr. Seuss was the least racist person of his time. Continue reading

Gun Owner Whose Son Shot His Teacher Will Get Her Day In Court

by Kerry Dougherty

Four words came to mind when news broke yesterday that a Newport News grand jury had indicted the mother of a 6-year-old school shooter: what took so long?

It’s been 13 weeks since a FIRST GRADER brought a handgun to school in his backpack and used it to shoot his teacher in front of his classmates.

It’s been 94 days since the 6-year-old sociopath got his hands on his mother’s gun and took it to school.

During the ensuing three months, prosecutors repeatedly said they weren’t sure the owner of the gun would be charged for the near-murder.

That effectively meant no one would be held criminally responsible for the shooting. It’s widely accepted that a 6-year-old cannot be charged with a crime.

Finally, on April 10, a grand jury indicted the gun owner — the mother of the shooter — and charged her with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of recklessly storing a firearm so a child could gain access to it.
Continue reading

Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” and the Suppression of Debate

Herbert Marcuse. Courtesy Britannica

by James C. Sherlock

There have been countless articles here on the tyranny of the left on Virginia college campuses. And nationwide.

I need not summarize them here.

But I think it useful on a weekend to consider the origins of that movement to better understand it.

It did not spring up randomly, and it continues to flow from its source, Herbert Marcuse and his book Repressive Tolerance (1965)*.

Marcuse abandoned the working class as a source of subversion of capitalism in 1964’s The One-Dimensional Man.  He

put his faith in an alliance between radical intellectuals and those groups not yet integrated into one-dimensional society, the socially marginalized, the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other ethnicities and other colors, the unemployed and the unemployable.

You may recognize that target coalition.

Herbert Marcuse has been the campus left’s philosopher since the 60’s radicals were suckled on his writings and remained in academia. Their students have come now to dominate the heights of the culture, including academia, Hollywood, the media, and teachers’ unions.

What I call the “stupid right,” more useful to the left than to conservatism, seeks to use some of Marcuse’s tactics in an equally destructive way. But they remain a fringe.

They seek a different coalition, most of which utterly rejects them.

Because they are destructive of society. Continue reading

What Do We Owe To and Expect from a Special Ed Teacher?

Abigail Zwerner
Courtesy AP

by James C. Sherlock

On February 16, USA Today published a story by Jeanine Santucci. That is the latest in an excellent series of reports on the shooting of Newport News first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner.

Her article, “Virginia 6-year-old who shot his teacher exposes flaws in how schools treat students with disabilities.” raises questions that Virginians need to answer.

  • What, exactly, do we expect of special education teachers and what do we owe them?
  • What training and resources must we provide?
  • How do we keep them safe?
  • How do we get enough people to accept the challenges and risks?

Any school official or teacher will tell you:

  • That the best-organized parents in K-12 education are special-ed parents;
  • That federal law is very prescriptive and provides little room for error on the part of the schools;
  • That schools’ (meaning taxpayers’) liability for error is open-ended; and
  • That special-ed continues to get more challenging, especially after COVID accelerated the number of emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.

Few school divisions will claim to have any of that under control.

 JLARC in 2020 concurred with that assessment in Virginia.

Longstanding shortage of special education teachers persists, and many school divisions rely on under-prepared teachers to fill gaps.

IEPs are not consistently designed effectively.

School divisions are not consistently preparing students with disabilities for life after high school.

Continue reading

Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Virginia Public Schools – Big Complications and Major Changes

Credit JAMA Pediatrics, April 6, 2020

by James C. Sherlock

Rebecca Aman, a member of the Newport News School Board, is frustrated. She told me in an interview that:

Without sufficient discipline and access to clinical mental health services, behavioral intervention does not work to make schools safer and healthier.

She believes that Newport News schools need to improve both discipline and the effectiveness of behavioral interventions.

She is absolutely right.

But school-based mental health services offer different, very complex and rapidly changing challenges.

The profession of psychology has recognized that the one-on-one clinical treatment model is permanently out of reach for the broad communities needing assistance because the supply of qualified professionals cannot now and will never meet the demand.

So the delivery model is in the midst of profound change.

Three key changes being pursued are

  • a far bigger emphasis on prevention, much of it to be delivered by school staff;
  • better diagnosis; and
  • “school based” (their term) group treatments.

Which raises at least three questions:

  • Are the pediatric mental health delivery models changing so much that the schools are “shooting behind the rabbit” in the hunt for more services?
  • What does the profession of psychology mean when it describes massively expanded “school-based” services? The schools and parents better find out.
  • Should schools even be in the hunt for more in-school services? I say no. They are already trying to do too much.

Continue reading

School Discipline – Part 5 – How and When Democrats Broke Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

We read earlier today that the eminent developmental theorist Urie Bronfenbrenner has written:

The more we study human development, the more it becomes clear the family is the most powerful, most humane and, by far, the most economical way of making human beings human.

That truth, however, does not account for the degree that families have broken down in America in the last 60 years, which is, unfortunately, a lot.  The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.

So we try to impart in school what some children are denied at home: humanity.

The federal government, Virginia government and local school boards have killed a lot of forests with laws, regulations and guidelines (and spent a very large fortune) trying to accomplish that.

I will provide here overwhelming evidence that Ralph Northam and the new Democratic majorities in both houses of the Virginia G.A. in 2020 did catastrophic damage to the schools’ ability to maintain order and thus safety.

The Northam-McAuliffe Board of Education in 2021 finished the job just in time for students to return in progressive-run divisions from as much as a 15-month COVID hiatus from schools.  No conservative-run division was out nearly that long.

So they created a perfect storm based on progressive dogma. At the most vulnerable time in our schools’ history.

They actually discouraged in law the reporting by school principals and teachers to police of cases of assault and battery in schools.

They never considered for a minute the easily foreseeable victims of the changes.

Ask Abby Zwerner about her school’s positive climate. Continue reading

How Parents Can Take a Proactive Role in Their Child’s Education

by Timothy Rarick

In Dr. Seuss’ classic book Horton Hatches the Egg, we are introduced to Mayzie, a lazy bird who is also an expectant mother. She loathes the work and responsibility that come with taking care of her developing baby within the egg. She eventually convinces Horton the elephant to take care of her egg so she can take a short vacation. As Horton nurtures the baby bird through many difficult circumstances, it becomes clear that the lazy Mayzie had no intention of returning any time soon. When their paths crossed again a year later, the egg burst open and — to both Horton and Mayzie’s surprise — the baby appeared to be part elephant and part bird.

On the surface, this story is amusing but unbelievable. An adoptive parent’s influence cannot alter the physical DNA of their child. But if we look deeper, we discover some profound lessons for parents today. These lessons might be put in the form of questions, such as:

— How much influence does a parent really have over their child’s development?
— Who should be the child’s primary educator and influencer?
— What and how is the child being taught from that primary source?

Of course, these ideas and questions did not originate with Dr. Suess. For decades, research and theory have explored similar questions about child development. The eminent developmental theorist Urie Bronfenbrenner, posited that a child is influenced, or socialized, in multiple contexts or sources. The primary influencers being the immediate environment such as the home, schools, neighborhood, etc. In a 1992 interview, Dr. Bronfenbrenner made a profound statement that appears to offer an answer to the first two questions above. “The more we study human development,” he wrote, “the more it becomes clear the family is the most powerful, most humane and, by far, the most economical way of making human beings human.”

His theory was developed at a time when schools and parents were much more in sync with one another. Today, there appears to be growing discord over whether parents or the state (i.e., public schools) should be the primary influencer and educator of children. Although many parents today are not as irresponsible as Mayzie, how a parent answers these questions has never been more critical.

These questions relate not only to parental responsibility but also parental rights. Parental rights expert, Dr. Melissa Moschella, posed the questions this way:

Do the right and the responsibility to educate children belong primarily to parents, or to the state? And who should win when parents and the state disagree over educational content, methods, and goals? Disputes about parental rights are ultimately disputes about authority. Either child-rearing authority fundamentally resides in the political community (which partially delegates that authority to parents), or parental authority is natural and pre-political, based on the nature of the parent-child relationship.

Virginia: Ground Zero

The past decade in Virginia is a model for addressing the tension in these questions. In 2013, a Virginia law was passed that protected the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their child. Since the 2021 election of Virginia’s first Republican governor in more than a decade, the push for parental rights has been moving forward. Governor Glenn Youngkin’s efforts, such as allowing parents to opt their children out of assignments that contain sexually explicit material, are an important step in getting parents actively involved in their children’s education to be the influential source that Bronfenbrenner asserted they are. Continue reading

School Discipline in Virginia – Part 4 – The False Legend of PBIS Effectiveness

Catherine P. Bradshaw
Senior Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development Professor, UVa School of Education and Human Development

by James C. Sherlock

To discover the origins of the legend that Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is effective, we have to dig into the interlocking government and ed school interest groups that fund and publish “studies” that validate their views.

The goal of the ed schools is always to capture the attention, funding and approval of the federal Department of Education (DOE) of their new bright ideas.

The method is to use DOE’s own seemingly limitless grant money and its bureaucracy’s predisposition to progressive causes to fund studies conducted by progressive “educators” that prove progressive theory.

Where is the anti-trust division of the Justice Department when we need it?

The legend of PBIS effectiveness is perhaps most founded on a famous study conducted in Maryland, the results of which were reported in 2010. The abstract claimed that the schools in the trial experienced significant reductions in student suspensions and office discipline referrals compared to the control group.

That worked until the Department’s Institute for Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) took a look at that study more than a decade later and found that while the study design and execution met scientific standards, it offered:

  • “No Statistically Significant Positive Findings”; and
  • that the evidence for that finding was strong.

Oops.

Many of Virginia’s school divisions have gone down the PBIS rabbit hole and continue to do so at great cost both in time and money and in opportunity costs, i.e. the ability to try interventions actually proven to work.

We’ll trace that 2010 report.

We will find that the study’s leader, now a professor at the University of Virginia’s ed school, is now on the inside of IES, chairing a What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide on positive behavior support.

Yeah, my take is the same as yours.

The swamp is eternal. Continue reading

School Discipline in Virginia – Part 3 — A Sharp Policy Turn to the Left after 2009

by James C. Sherlock

Here is the information from a slide briefing to the Loudon County school board on February 6, 2013.

“Experimentally.”

The slide itself was actually produced in 2008 by pbis.org. It seems like a bad joke now, but that was how it was presented.

Not a word about race there, but there surely is in a presentation linked by that organization now. Risk index and risk ratios? With cartoon figures of Black children? Seriously?

Did I mention that Newport News Public Schools is rated fluent in PBIS by the state ed school consortium that trains and rates PBIS schools? They probably would take issue with all of those promises.

As would most of the working staff of schools across Virginia that use PBIS.

So how did we get here? Continue reading

School Discipline in Virginia – Part 2 – Positive Options Trumped by a Race Card

From social media video of school fight

by James C. Sherlock

I have found both surprise and confusion among some readers when I use the term “valid studies” in discussing the avalanche of doctoral theses and studies produced annually by schools of education.

The federal Institute for Educational Sciences established What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in 2002 to sort the wheat from the chaff for school divisions and state education agencies before they choose a particular intervention to pursue to solve a problem.

Since I discovered WWC a few years ago, I check it in my own research in an attempt to make sure I don’t go down a rabbit hole with some study that is flawed.

On the subject of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), WWC shows in assessments of interventions to solve problems of social-emotional learning and behavior management:

  1. strong evidence that PBIS offers no measurable improvement, and
  2. that there are alternative approaches to PBIS that do show strong improvement.

One study of PBIS, conducted in Maryland (which will come up again later), was the only one ever to meet strict WWC standards of quality and strong evidence.

Strong evidence from that trial — in 2010 — found that PBIS did not work to improve social-emotional development and behavior in K-5 children.

There were no positive findings. None.

Yet a very large number of Virginia’s largest school divisions use it anyway.

And all of them started using it after that 2010 study.

But then again, so did Maryland. Continue reading

School Discipline in Virginia – Part 1 – PBIS

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Feb 1 at 8:13:25 with a correction to IES assessment of PBIS.

Newport News Schools PBIS Capacity Assessments – Courtesy Dr. Jaruan M. Ransome, Program Administrator, Student Conduct & Discipline

Newport News Schools first implemented Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) and its discipline component, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), in the 2017-18 school year.

That year Newport News Schools was in Cohort 3 of VDOE’s VTSS program, which provides support at the division level through grant funding and technical assistance. PBIS is implemented in every Newport News school.

In April of 2022, for the second time, those schools were rated by the state as “fluent” in the implementation of VTSS/PBIS.

Good to know. I mean that.

That means that there can be no confusion as to what has gone wrong in Newport News Schools. The behavioral and educational chaos there represents some combination of system failure and individual failure.

But the point is that was always going to happen in many schools, especially those in the toughest neighborhoods.

PBIS is dangerous by design.

It can work, but in trying to trade some safety for a lot of equity, it too often gets neither.

And even its proponents have found out that without safety and order, nothing else about the schools can work.

Continue reading

Virginia Community Schools Redefined – Part 2 – Stop Trying to Provide Mental Health Services in School

by James C. Sherlock

In Part 1 of this series I described the current Virginia Community School Framework (the Framework) and found it not only lacking, but counter-productive.

Its basic flaw is that it assumes all services to school children will be provided in the schools by school employees, including mental health services.

When you start there, you get nowhere very expensively, less competently, and with considerably more danger in the case of mental health than if the schools were to partner with other government and non-profit services.

This part of the series will deal with child and adolescent mental health services exclusively.

Public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services for children and adolescents are funded by governments at every level. For the federal view of the system of care, see here.

In Virginia, those services are organized, overseen and funded through a state and local agency system.

  • The state agency is the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) in the Secretariat of Health and Human Resources. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) (Medicaid) plays a funding and patient management role as well;
  • Local agencies funded and overseen by DBHDS are the Community Services Boards (CSB’s) throughout the state.

Some schools and school systems seem to operate on a different planet from their local CSB’s. Indeed, the Framework mentions them only reluctantly and in passing.

The ed school establishment clearly wants to handle child and adolescent mental health problems in-house, with tragic results. They need to stop it now.

There is absolutely no need to wait. Continue reading

The Shooting at Richneck Elementary – Part 2 – the School

By James C. Sherlock

Richneck Elementary Credit WAVY TV 10

The shooting at Richneck Elementary was a tragedy by every measure.

I am not going to discuss the shooting itself here.

I will instead offer a summary of the school’s state quality data so we can get a sense of the environment in that school.  It is located across I-64 from Fort Eustis in a neighborhood described in The New York Times as “generally safe”.

Fort Eustis hosts General Stanford Elementary, the highest performing elementary school in the Newport News Public Schools system.  In a neighborhood generally considered extraordinarily safe.  Hooah.

Continue reading

Just-in-Time Remediation for Kids Who Fall Behind

by Matt Hurt

There have always been students who have evidenced a year or more delay in their independent working ability. Unfortunately, our educational response to the pandemic of closing schools and offering virtual instruction has made this problem significantly worse (more on that here). Today there are significantly more students who are a year or more behind in their ability to work on grade level skills than before 2020.

The term “learning loss” has been used to describe the situation caused by our educational response to the pandemic. It seems that this term is an incorrect characterization of our current situation. To have lost something, one first must have had it. During the closures and subsequent offerings of virtual instruction many kids did not learn what they should have during that time. Some kids regularly participated in virtual instruction and they learned most of what they were taught. Some kids rarely if ever participated in virtual instruction and therefore didn’t learn what was expected. Unfortunately, the kids who were in the latter group tended to make up a significant part of our economically disadvantaged kids. This group typically has less structure in their homes to support these efforts.

For the purpose of this essay, everything discussed will be limited to the content areas of English and math. These skills (Standards of Learning or SOLs) are very well sequenced from Kindergarten through high school in such a manner that if students learn the skills from the previous grade, they have all of the prerequisites necessary for success in the following grade. These skills definitely build upon what was taught in previous grade levels, and any gaps in learning that a student has will result in negative consequences later on.

To understand the instructional process, we must first understand that there are a variety of skills that a student must master to be able to independently work on a given grade level. If a student has significant gaps in skill attainment, he or she will assess to be working on a lower grade level than the current grade placement. That does not necessarily mean that the student has learned nothing from the previous grade, but is missing some key aspects.

For example, SOL 2.6b requires students in second grade to determine the sums and differences of two numbers of no more than two digits. This is the first year students are expected to regroup, i.e. borrow for subtraction and carry numbers while adding. In third grade, SOL 3.3a requires kids to determine the sums and differences of two numbers of up to four digits. If the student did not master SOL 2.6b in second grade, he or she does not have the prerequisites to learn SOL 3.3a in third grade. The student may or may not have learned all other second grade skills. It is unlikely that any third grade student would have mastered no second grade skills unless they were simply not taught the content. Continue reading