Category Archives: Education (Early Childhood)

Virginia Board of Education: Stay the Course

Standards and Curriculum Framework are Both Needed – Not One Without the Other

by Kathleen Smith

In November, the Board of Education put off the approval of the Virginia History and Social Science Standards again. The Board members seemed quite perplexed as they were asked to approve only the Standards without the Curriculum Framework –- or a “decoupled process” as the State Superintendent explained.  In February, the concerns over the much-disputed process and standards will be considered again.

On November 30, the Virginia Mercury published an article regarding the separation of the Virginia History Standards and the Curriculum Framework.  Three other articles have recently come to light as well.  On December 3, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an opinion column by Tom Shields entitled “Schools Have a Moral (and Legal) Obligation to Resist a ‘Divisive Concepts’ Ban.”  Children First – IRDA published a policy paper entitled “What Virginia’s Anti-Equity Executive Order 1 and Reports Mean for K-12 Schools & Students – A Guide for School Leaders.” Lastly, EducationWeek published “The Architects of the Standards Movement Say They Missed a Big Piece.”

These references provide some insight into the concerns the Board of Education expressed at the November meeting. The public and parents are interested in what should be taught or not be taught in schools related to divisive concepts, including equity. State Board members should stay the course and approve both the Standards and the Curriculum Framework without any “decoupling” of the two documents.

When you pick up any package of food, all ingredients are listed as required by code. This lets the consumer know what is in the food you are eating. The curriculum framework is the same as the ingredient listing on food packages. It is a transparent way of making sure folks know what they are eating, or in the case of the frameworks, know what is meant by the standard and what the teacher is expected to teach. Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Perpetuating Schools of Education

by James C. Sherlock

We are in the midst of a series of articles examining Virginia’s system of schools of education. In this one we will look at how the rules for licensure of teachers and other school staff have changed and impacted teacher education.

Those answers are found in the laws of Virginia and in the Board of Education’s regulations and comprehensive plans. All are political documents written by political organizations.

As we examine them below, we will see that the politicians, on the advice of the schools of education, have made the business of traditional schools of education a sinecure.

In Virginia, those schools have become an integral part of the system of laws and regulations that make them a self-perpetuating system that has no apparent purpose other than to sustain itself. Continue reading

Can Teaching Be Fixed to Transform It From a Burnout Job? – A Professional Approach

by James C. Sherlock

K-12 teachers all over the state and country report burnout.

There are lengthy discussions — OK, arguments — about the reasons for that situation. But no one denies it is happening.

One of the attractions of teaching when I was a kid and a young man was that teachers, largely then as now women, could raise their families, teach and enjoy and feel fulfilled by both.

  • Most went to school with the school buses and came home with the school buses. They were home when their kids got home. They were with their kids in the summers.
  • They did not work at home or at school on their computers and the internet because there were no home computers or internet. They had a free period during the day, but they did grade papers at home. Sure. Sometimes. Lesson plans. Ditto. I know I did in my brief pre-military stint as a teacher. But I did not find that stressful. Neither did my married colleagues. Teaching was fun.
  • The undergraduate education schools taught their students how to teach. Both the curricula and student teaching were meaningful. They prepared student teachers for their first and second years of teaching far better than they do today.
  • Ed school emphasis was on their undergraduates. Teachers did not require graduate degrees to teach. (Still don’t, but their own schools today make them second-class citizens if they do not have one. Lower pay. Unlikely to be a principal. Not versed in the latest graduate school of education trendy theories, so they don’t get sent to professional conferences. Regardless of the relative quality of their teaching. They can be Master Teachers in some divisions, but that was an afterthought.)
  • That system worked for both the teachers and the kids, both their own and those they taught.
  • It worked for the schools, because they could fill their classrooms with qualified teachers, who did not burn out and quit.

There is a professional approach to returning the job of teacher to a lower stress condition. First, insist on it. Then re-architect the school and thus the profession of teacher to make it happen. Continue reading

Where Does Virginia Most Need Charter Schools?

by James C. Sherlock

Discussing failing schools in Virginia, people tend to speak in generalities. When an example is needed, the City of Richmond Public Schools is chosen — an uncontested layup.

But failed schools are not a problem just in Richmond. And bad public schools in Richmond are not limited to RPS. They are a problem to which VDOE has paid lip service, hamstrung by Virginia law and constitution when trying to fulfill federal mandates with federal money.

I will be very specific about schools and school divisions and the potential to help those children with professionally-run charter schools. Currently not a single one of the six or so charter schools in Virginia is managed by a successful charter management organization (CMO).

The most useful public list that we have at the moment for this discussion is the 2020-21 VDOE list of “Schools Identified for Support and Improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

I will use that list to offer specificity to a Governor who wants to help. Continue reading

Fix One Thing — School Physical and Electronic Security

by James C. Sherlock

I offer an apolitical suggestion. We know how to begin to fix school security.

Do it.

Step 1. Every school division has a security instruction. How many of them monitor whether that guidance is being followed? I will let them answer that.

Step 2. The more complete solution is deployment of integrated combinations of physical and electronic security systems. System integrators who specialize in school security can help with requirements definition for any facility and tailor expandable solutions to budgets. That is their business and they are good at it.

As an example of what is possible, see ADT’s integrated intrusion security and fire detection and alarm system offerings for K-12 schools.

When people say “do something”, this is the kind of solution on which all of us can agree. Do it. Continue reading

Statewide Teacher Shortage: 2,500 Vacancies and Counting

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s public schools had 2,500 teacher vacancies in October 2021, according to Virginia Department of Education data, reports Capital News Service.

That number is likely higher today, as burned-out teachers quit their jobs in the middle of the school year in unprecedented numbers.

Despite hiring 700 to 900 teachers per year on average, Prince William County has 453 vacant positions. Richmond City Public Schools lists 90 open teacher vacancies. Fairfax County Public Schools has about 200 vacancies, although because it is so large, the county is only 1% shy of being fully staffed.

Schools are filling open positions by hiring teachers with provisional licenses, which means they have not yet completed teacher preparation programs. “Recruiting pools of people and making it easier for them to enter doesn’t actually solve the crisis. I equate it to filling a leaky bucket,” Adria Hoffman, president of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators, tells Capital News Service. Continue reading

The Latest Euphemism: “Unfinished Learning”

PALS screening tool results, 2019 and 2021. Source: Virginia Board of Education

James A. Bacon

A remarkable euphemism has entered the lexicon of Virginia’s educational bureaucracy — “unfinished learning.” Unfinished learning is what you get when school children do not demonstrate grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and other subjects by the end of the year. Ever sensitive to tender psyches, Virginia educators don’t want to tell anyone they “failed.” Using the “F” word puts the onus on individual students to do better. Saying instead that students are unfinished learners places the onus on schools to remedy their deficiencies. That distinction goes to the heart of Virginia’s modern-day educational philosophy.

Be that as it may, we may be thankful that the Virginia Board of Education’s (VBOE’s) “2021 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia,” does acknowledge that “unfinished learning” is a significant issue. As shown in the graph above, which compares end-of-year reading proficiency as measured by the PALS K-3 screening tool, the percentage of students who are “at risk” for reading proficiency in kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade roughly doubled between the pre-pandemic year of 2019 and the pandemic year of 2021.

The COVID-era collapse in learning cuts across all demographic groups — Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, economically disadvantaged, not economically disadvantaged, English learners, not English learners, and students with disabilities. Even Asians saw a decline (although it was the least marked of all groups measured). Continue reading

Mystery: What’s Behind the Dramatic Fall-off In K and Pre-K Enrollment?

Source: Virginia Board of Education

by James A. Bacon

There are many gaps and omissions in the Northam administration’s just-published “2021 Annual Report on the Conditions and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia” — most notably the lack of recognition that the acute problems described by the report stem in part from policies endorsed by the Northam administration itself — but the Board of Education (BOE) document does highlight several issues that any fair-minded person would acknowledge need highlighting.

One of those issues is the sharp decline in public school enrollment since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably in Pre-K and Kindergarten. As seen in the graph above, pre-K enrollment is down 18.6% and Kindergarten is down 12.8%.

Do these declines portend comparable declines in public school enrollment as these age cohorts work their way through the educational pipeline? Has something fundamental changed about the way parents of young children think about their schooling? Or are these declines transitory blips that will disappear as America learns to live with the virus? Continue reading

Day One Powers of the Governor – Removal of Members of Boards and Commissions

Glenn Youngkin Photo Credit: NBC News

by James C. Sherlock

The left routinely reminds us that elections have consequences.

Well, indeed they do.

People ask what can Glenn Youngkin really do on day one of his administration. The answer — more and more consequentially — than is commonly understood.

I have written here repeatedly about long term corruption in the Board of Health and rigid and relentless progressivism in the Board of Education.

Those boards are very powerful in Virginia. They are charged with both writing regulations and oversight of the underlying departments. The current members of those boards need to go — en masse.

The new governor has the power to make that happen. Continue reading

Candidates Matter

by James C. Sherlock

Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe proved that candidates matter, even in blue states like Virginia.

Jack Ciattarelli and Phil Murphy in yet bluer New Jersey have proven it again, no matter how that dead even race turns out.

I wrote here in early May that Glenn Youngkin and Jason Miyares would not only win the nominations, but go on to win the general election because of the education policies of the Northam administration.

I was proven right about that.

In the same column, however, I predicted that Terry McAuliffe would “read the room” among Virginia voters and ask Northam to fire his education leadership team.

I was wrong. McAuliffe doubled down. I am very happy he did not take my prediction as advice. Continue reading

By Failing, Progressives ‘Win’

by James C. Sherlock

Progressives in America have perfected the art of winning by failing. 

They create demand for more government with devastatingly destructive government programs badly run.  

It is the idea of control and the money it brings policy makers from rent seekers rather than the management of programs that attracts them. Plenty of progressives make fortunes playing the strings of the government program violins they have created.

Ask Terry McAuliffe.

When those policies inevitably fail to produce the promised results and simultaneously restrict human achievement, the Left considers that a feature not a bug. That is the job, for example, of many prominent ed schools.

As insurance of failure, the Left has perfected incompetent government. It creates opportunities for yet more government control.  

Pure alchemy. Continue reading

Terry McAuliffe as Governor Aggressively Denied Charter Schools to Poor Minority Children

by James C. Sherlock

Terry McAuliffe demonstrated as governor that he will fight public charter schools.

He will oppose them regardless of the lifelong costs to the students of some truly pitiful Virginia public schools, many with majorities of minority students.

When governor, he vetoed a major attempt by the General Assembly to help those kids.

Indeed, not a single charter school has been approved by the Virginia Board of Education since the McAuliffe administration took office in 2014. Two, subject to reauthorization by hostile Boards, have closed.

He and his supporters in the unions and the ed schools consider the children be acceptable collateral damage to their policy preferences. Continue reading

Biden and McAuliffe to Complete the Roundup of Toddlers by the State

Terry McAuliffe. Photo credit: The Virginia Star

by James C. Sherlock

Updated 26 October 1:48 PM

The progressive dream of government control of children from birth is approaching reality in Virginia.

Terry McAuliffe shares that dream and wants to lead Virginia to that promised land.

Governor Ralph Northam and the Democratic General Assembly have established state control of our youngest children, but will struggle to fund it. And if a progressive government could pass those new laws in 2020, future state governments can repeal them.

McAuliffe wants to be Governor to opt in for Virginians to the early childhood education provisions of the federal “Build Back Better” program.

To complete the government control of children from birth with federal money. Under federal regulations and requirements. Wrench control of toddlers from their parents with two sets of laws.

Who says progressives don’t like walls.

Every parent in Virginia should pray he never gets the chance. And vote to prevent him from being in position to do so. Continue reading

Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI+) Pilot – Hidden Data, Disappearing Value — Thanks for Nothing

by James C. Sherlock

This is a follow-up to my Monday report on VPI+, a federally funded four-year pilot program to assess the value of the Virginia Preschool Initiative.

Today we will discuss what was not reported to the public. We will also assess the dreadful results of the pilot participants after those kids graduated and went on the kindergarten and first grade.

Clearly, SRI International (main report) and RAND (cost-benefit report) were directed not to disaggregate the results of the data they collected by division and school. Those, of course, are the levels that give parents enough information to evaluate the program.

What was revealed, at the very end of the main report, was that disadvantaged kids participating had made learning gains compared to their disadvantaged peers who did not attend, but

“like other state public preschool programs, by spring of first grade the differences were no longer statistically different.”

That heart-breaking outcome was left un-assessed.

The mandarins at VDOE (and perhaps the federal DOE) appear to believe that pre-school is too important for parents to get involved.

If given full information, some might challenge the program or decide it is not appropriate for their own children in their local school district.

Like the domestic terrorists some of them are considered in certain circles to be. Continue reading

Virginia Preschool Initiative Pilot – Political Conclusions Belied by the Data

by James C. Sherlock. Updated Oct 18 at 5:38 PM

Those who have followed my reporting know that I am passionate on the subject of helping poor children do better in Virginia’s schools. They also know of my disdain for Virginia’s hyper-political education establishment.  

Well, the Northam administration has turned the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus pilot into a full fledged program.

In doing so, it has finessed the needs of the children by ignoring the results of that pilot to satisfy the political desires of the progressive education establishment. Continue reading