Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Charts of the Day: Teacher Vacancies

by James A. Bacon

The teacher shortage at Virginia’s public schools is getting worse. School divisions report 4,304 unfilled positions in the 2023-24 school year, according to a recent report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). Out of a teacher workforce of about 87,000, the creates an average statewide vacancy rate of 4.8%.

The shortages are not evenly distributed, however, as seen in the table below.

Continue reading

Want to Save the World? Teach a Kid to Read.

(Image credit: Salon.) Who does more to promote social justice — these guys? Or…

Reading skills among Virginia’s public-school children as measured by Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores are dropping through the floor. Among the remedies that Governor Glenn Youngkin proposes to address the threat of mass illiteracy is requiring under-performing students to receive three to five hours of tutoring per week.

…this guy? (Image credit:ETFO Voice)

Good luck finding the tutors, warns The Washington Post. The teacher shortage is getting worse — about 4.8% of teaching positions were vacant at the start of the school year, up from 3.9% the previous year. And half of schools responding to an Institute of Education Sciences survey reported that their tutoring programs were constricted by lack of funds or inability to find staff.

Here’s an idea: recruit the social justice warriors to teach kids to read. Continue reading

Virginia’s Top and Bottom Local School Divisions, 2023

by John Butcher

Professor Excel is glad to sort the Division test results so let’s look at the top and bottom performers.

But first: On average, Virginia’s economically disadvantaged (ED) students pass at about 20% lower rates than their more affluent peers (Not ED). Thus, the overall division averages are affected by the relative percentages of ED students, which is not a performance metric. The excellent VDOE Build-A-Table offers data for both groups, so let’s look at them separately. Continue reading

Fairfax School Board Ignores the Rule of Law

by Emilio Jaksetic

On July 18, 2023, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for all Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools” (Revised Model Policy).  A copy of that policy is accessible at

On August 15, 2023, Michelle Reid, Ed.D, Superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) issued a Superintendent’s Message entitled “Model Policy Update.”  According to the Superintendent’s Message, “We have concluded our detailed legal review and determined that our current Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) policies [on transgender and gender-expansive students] are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies.”  A copy of the Superintendent’s Message is accessible at 

On August 23, 2023, Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares issued an advisory opinion affirming the legal validity of the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy and advising Virginia Governor Youngkin that Virginia school boards are required by Virginia Code Section 22.1-23.3 to adopt policies that are consistent with the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy.  A copy of the Attorney General’s Advisory Opinion is accessible at

Attorney General Miyares is correct that Virginia Code, Section 22.1-23.3 imposes a duty on Virginia school boards.  Section 22.1-23.3.B. requires “Each school board shall adopt policies [on transgender students] that are consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Department of Education pursuant to subsection A.”  The word “shall” means Virginia school boards have a mandatory duty to adopt policies that are consistent with the VDOE’s Revised Model Policy.  Under Section 22.1.-23.3.B., Virginia school boards have no authority or discretion to adopt or retain policies that are inconsistent with the Revised Model Policy.  However, the Superintendent’s Message is a declaration that FCPS will not carry out the mandatory action required by Section 22.1-23.3.B. Continue reading

Petersburg: Paradigm of VBOE Fecklessness, the 2023 Update

by John Butcher

Despite nineteen years of “supervision” by the Board and Department of Education, the Petersburg schools marinate in failure.

Va. Code § 22.1-8 provides: “The general supervision of the public school system shall be vested in the Board of Education.”

Va. Code § 22.1-253.13:8 provides:

The Board of Education shall have authority to seek school division compliance with the foregoing Standards of Quality. When the Board of Education determines that a school division has failed or refused, and continues to fail or refuse, to comply with any such Standard, the Board may petition the circuit court having jurisdiction in the school division to mandate or otherwise enforce compliance with such standard, including the development or implementation of any required corrective action plan that a local school board has failed or refused to develop or implement in a timely manner.

Documents on the VBOE Web pages show the following events as to Petersburg:


“MOU” is bureaucratese for “Memorandum of Understanding,” which in turn is an edict to which the Board can point in order to claim it is doing something about lousy schools. The MOU process demands a Corrective Action Plan (“CAP”) that sets forth “specific actions and a schedule designed to ensure that schools within [the affected] school division meet the standards established by the Board.”

The 2023 SOL data are now out; they show the results of the nineteenth year of the Board’s attempts to improve the Petersburg schools.

Continue reading

In Loco Parentis, Part II

by A.L. Schuhart

My last essay here engendered a bunch of predictable comment, as I hoped it would. The fact is, however, that my argument is sound, and my purpose is to reacquaint the public with the principle of in loco parentis as it informs the grand discussion of Education in Virginia and America.

Those readers who responded that parents do not get to decide curriculum are just wrong. If you look at the examples I gave of things that parents can and should object to, you would see that they are all in what educators term the “affective domain,” as opposed to the “cognitive domain.”

What’s the difference in Education theory and practice?

The cognitive domain describes concrete skills and cognitive development: math, reading, writing, history, etc. The affective domain is essentially the personal “world view” of the student: politics, religion, social attitude, emotions, etc.

Schools have a mandate to teach the cognitive domain, and traditionally the affective domain is not the business of the teacher or school to intrude upon. It belongs to the parent. Continue reading

Teach for America in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

One commenter on my last article was highly critical of Teach for America (TFA). I cannot let that go without refutation.

Look at the map of TFA places to work.  

You will see that in Virginia only the inner suburbs of the D.C. area have access to those highly motivated young people. Alexandria is the first school division in Virginia to partner with Teach For America. It is actively recruiting TFA volunteers.

Now look at North Carolina on the same map. Read the Charlotte-Piedmont Triad TFA web page.

Now look at the Petersburg teacher charts again. Continue reading

Petersburg School Board Folds on Union Bargaining

by James C. Sherlock

The Petersburg Education Association has a plan for collective bargaining.

So, once, did the school board. Unanimously.

We have been looking for signs of strength in the Petersburg School Board so we can believe it will take strong and innovative measures to improve the city’s dreadful schools.

It is the wrong place to look. The union routed the board on collective bargaining without resistance.

Petersburg School Board – Official Photo

The state, during the Democratic interregnum in the General Assembly and governorship, made local government collective bargaining optional.

On June 21st, the Petersburg board passed a resolution for teachers, guidance counselors and librarians who hold a teaching license to have a form of collective bargaining.

As reported by The Progress-Index’s Joyce Chu,

The resolution does not allow teachers the ability to negotiate their wages or benefits, limiting the scope of negotiations to hours and scheduling, health and safety, and work rules.

Just a guess, but that board likely did not vote originally to allow negotiations on wages or benefits for a pretty good reason. Continue reading

Is K-12 Absenteeism Too Complex a Problem for an Administrative Fix?

Source: Virginia Department of Education. There is a strong correlation between days of school missed and educational under-achievement.

by James A. Bacon

In releasing the 2023 Standards of Learning (SOL) scores, which showed marginal overall improvement from the disastrous 2022 results, Team Youngkin added a bit of useful analysis — it drew a connection between poor educational performance and school absenteeism.

The Virginia Department of Education press release noted that students in 3rd through 8th grades who missed more than 18 days of school scored 18% lower in reading exams than students with regular attendance. Students who missed more than 36 days scored 43% lower. Similar discrepancies occurred in the math exams.

This should come as a surprise to no one. Students can’t learn if they’re not in school (or home school, which these children are not).

To raise SOL scores, the Youngkin administration is targeting the school skippers. #AttendanceMattersVA, according to DOE, “works with Virginia schools and parents to increase attendance by communicating the importance of attendance to families, expanding breakfast after the bell programs, ensuring that every child has a trusted adult at school, monitoring and celebrating successes, and reducing barriers to attendance such as transportation and mental health challenges.”

Clearly, something must be done. These ideas seem as reasonable as any other. But I fear that the problem may be so deeply rooted in social dysfunction that the initiative will prove ineffective. Continue reading

The SOL Disaster

by John Butcher

The 2023 test results (generally called “SOLs” but including results of other tests) are up on the VDOE Web page. Those numbers are not pretty.

First, some background.

2020 was the first year without statewide SOL testing since 1997. Then came 2021, when participation in the testing was voluntary. The VDOE press release (link now broken) said, “In a typical school year, participation in federally required tests is usually around 99%. In tested grades in 2021, 75.5% of students took the reading assessment, 78.7% took math, and 80% took science.”

So, the ‘22 data are the first post-pandemic numbers with a claim to measuring anything beyond individual performance. Continue reading

An Inspiring Story about Public School Reformation, Beautifully Written

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes it is fun to acknowledge great work.

For a wonderful story about schools and kids transformed for the better by local action, see “The Rutters of Athens County” from New York Magazine reprinted in the Intelligencer.

It is beautifully written by Dan Xin Huang, an investigative journalist who lived in Ohio for three years to create this story.

His work was funded in part with a 2020 grant from NYU’s Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award. It was featured in One Great Story, New York Magazine’s reading recommendation newsletter.

He and his work have proven worthy of all of that.

The author unfolds the story of a school district reformation in a series of individual conversations over several years with those directly involved, many with contrasting viewpoints.

School change to achieve excellence takes leadership at the local level first, especially in Virginia, given our constitution.

For those who need inspiration to engage in that quest, this should do it.

Petersburg Public Schools Cheat Children of Their Futures

by James C. Sherlock

We like to think of ourselves as civilized people.

Virginia and America are at an advanced stage of social and cultural development.

Aren’t we?

For the children of Petersburg, we are not. We continue to let them quite publicly and measurably be cheated of their futures by their public schools.

Queue the excuses for bad schools. Whatever list you can come up with, it’s not good enough. We are not civilized if we, as a state, continue to let it happen to children with no other option.

Virginia is unique in that our state constitution explicitly gives local school divisions control of their schools.

Virginia passed a law in 2013 that created a body to take over schools failing to receive accreditation or what is now accreditation with conditions for three consecutive years. It was found unconstitutional.

I don’t know why the constitution was written without some provision for dealing with failed schools and school divisions after long-term failure.

But it was, and it was a mistake. We need to change the constitution to give the children of Petersburg and in other failing schools a chance in life.

That goal is, and must be, worth the effort it will take to accomplish it. Continue reading

New Bad SOL Data Bring A New Youngkin Administration Plan for Mitigating Learning Losses in Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The Governor announced today that he and the General Assembly came together on a bipartisan basis to invest $418 million to tackle student learning loss.

The Virginia Department of Education recommends school divisions allocate the $418 million “to proven programs that will achieve the greatest student impact—approximately 70% for high-dose tutoring, 20% for Virginia Literacy Act acceleration, and 10% for chronic absenteeism response.”

Press releases today from both from the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Department of Education provide both a lot of data and a plan to assess.

From VDOE’s2022-2023 Test Results Show Virginia Students Continue to Struggle with COVID-Related Learning Loss in Reading and Math”

Today the Virginia Department of Education released the 2022-23 Virginia Assessment Results, demonstrating significant and persistent learning loss in reading and math for Virginia students in grades 3-8. More than half of 3rd-8th graders either failed or are at risk of failing their reading SOL exam, and nearly two-thirds of 3rd-8th graders either failed, or are at risk of failing, their math SOL exam….

In 2022-2023, the number of chronically absent students doubled from 2018-2019.

VDOE has also posted the school quality profiles to present the 2022-23 data.  So you can look at your local school division or school. Continue reading

“School’s Closed Today! It’s the Law”

Photo credit: Your Teen Magazine

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Now that two of my grandchildren are in public school, rather than being home-schooled, I am more attuned to what is going on in public school.

Last Friday, I was in Northern Virginia visiting them because they were off from school. Although I was happy to get the extra time with them, I was ranting about the absurdity of a school holiday only two weeks after school had opened and in face of the impending Labor Day holiday. My grandson informed me it was the law. I protested that it couldn’t be, but he showed me that it was. Continue reading

How to Save Loudoun County Public Schools from the Injustice of DEI

by A.L. Schuhart

To Loudon Parents:

Here is the legal strategy to stop Diversity, Equity and Inclusion regimes in your schools.

DEI violates the principle of in loco parentis, which is the legal foundation of public education in Virginia and America. It is by this principle that schools and educators receive their mandates from the citizens of Virginia to teach children. The Supreme Court has consistently affirmed this legal principle since the beginning of public education. Continue reading