Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Bacon Bits: Government Failure, Private Initiative

Will Metro ever get its act together? The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has pulled the 7000 series of rail cars from service after a derailment on the Blue Line and discovery of more than two dozen wheel-assembly defects similar to those that had contributed to the accident, reports the Washington Post. “The potential for fatalities and serious injuries was significant,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, “This could have resulted in a catastrophic event.” The news represents the latest in a long series of setbacks for the commuter rail system, which serves Northern Virginia. It comes at at time when transit officials were hoping that ridership, devastated by the COVID-19 epidemic on top of a history of safety and service issues, might rebound. But never fear, the federal government has a printing press and it has limitless dollars to prop up failed enterprises.

K-12 education in crisis. The crisis in K-12 education has far deeper roots than the COVID-19 epidemic. Nationally, 13-year-olds saw unprecedented declines in both reading and math between 2012 and 2020, according to scores released a week ago by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Despite relentless efforts to close the racial achievement gap, the “Nation’s Report Card” shows that Blacks are falling behind even faster than Whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Declines were most severe in the bottom 10th percentile. “It’s really a matter for national concern, this high percentage of students who are not reaching even what I think we’d consider the lowest levels of proficiency,” said George Bohrnstedt, a senior vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, as quoted in the 74 Million blog.

Dumb and dumber. Speaking of the NAEP scores, fewer than half of Virginia’s 4th graders score “proficient” or higher  in the NAEP tests. By the 8th grade, they fall even farther behind. Here are the most recent numbers (2019): Continue reading

Climate Rationality Preached in a UVA Pulpit

Jason S. Johnston, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

by Steve Haner

Efforts to rapidly expand our reliance on wind and solar generation for electricity, while at the same time closing baseload natural gas generation with similar haste, makes no sense economically. “The only explanation for that policy is you want to shut down the economy.”

Another voice of reason has emerged to challenge the climate alarmist orthodoxy, a Virginia voice,  Professor Jason S. Johnston at the University of Virginia School of Law. He brings to the discussion the experience and analysis of a regulatory law expert and economist, distilled into a somewhat daunting 656-page book published by Cambridge University Press in August.

“Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance” (available through Amazon here) focuses at length on the legal precautionary principle behind most climate regulatory schemes, with little or no consideration taken of either the economic costs or unintended environmental consequences. He writes in an excerpt from his introduction:

The precautionary principle says little if anything about how such costs should be weighed in designing policy. But, given the highly uncertain and unpredictable future impacts of rising atmospheric GHG concentrations and the unprecedented cost of reducing GHG emissions, any rational regulatory response to curbing human GHG emissions must surely closely scrutinize the case for decarbonization. The purpose of this book is to provide precisely such an examination…

Precautionary US climate policy has already cost lives, damaged the environment, and increased costs for the basic life necessities, such as electricity, in ways that are felt most acutely by the poorest American households.

Continue reading

No CRT to See Here, Move Along Now

From the Critical-Race-Theory-is-a-conservative-bogeyman department:

Celebrate #UnityWeek and join panel discussions where you can engage in healthy and positive conversations about unity. Featured for Unity Week is the “Stamped from the Beginning Community Read Project,” a Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL) read program series featuring “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi and its youth and teen adaptations. Continue reading

Stronger Teacher Unions = Weaker Parents

Loudoun County parents pack a School Board meeting. Photo credit: Idiocracy News Media

Allowing collective bargaining will put yet another special interest ahead of the parents who simply want a say in what is best for their children.

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

First published by Virginia Works and reprinted with the author’s permission. 

Virginia parents soon could lose even more control over their children’s education.

Parents frustrated with school curriculum and other education issues throughout the state have earned national attention. But as that frustration boils over into school board recall petitions and the race for governor, one policy change that could limit parental and voter choice is being overlooked: public sector collective bargaining.

new law in Virginia gives local governments and school boards the power to permit government unions to have a monopoly on representing public employees. If school boards pass the law, they will be forced to negotiate with these union officials.

This will put an extra, unaccountable unelected layer of bureaucracy between parents, teachers and schools.  Continue reading

Virginia Elections: Endanger Kids, Lose Your Seat

by Kerry Dougherty

I tried to warn you that kids would get hurt. I tried to warn the governor.

On February 2, 2020 we published “Insane Bill Will Endanger Kids” after Democrats in the General Assembly passed HB257, reversing a law that had compelled school principals to report cases of sexual battery, stalking, assault and battery and threats against school personnel and schools themselves.

What could possibly go wrong when the very people with an interest in making their schools look safe — principals — were allowed to sweep crimes under the school desks?

I begged the governor not to sign this pile of legislative fecal matter, but he did on March 12.

Of course he did. This is just one more part of the left’s soft-on-crime, perps-first agenda.

Now this: At least two girls were sexually attacked in Loudoun County public schools and the alleged rapist was transferred between schools. The public only found out when the outraged father of one girl went public. Continue reading

McAuliffe Lets the Cat out of the Bag

by James C. Sherlock

Current Virginia law and Terry McAuliffe cannot coexist.

“A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

Code of Virginia § 1-240.1. Rights of parents.

“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Terry McAuliffe, Sept 28, 2021

Let’s walk that forward. Progressives all over Virginia and the nation were horrified. They consider McAuliffe’s words to be dogma. But they wish he hadn’t exposed it so publicly. 

During an election bid.

So, now that the cat’s out of the bag, let’s experiment with changes to  § 1-240.1. Rights of parents and see what it takes to make it comport with progressive thinking. Continue reading

The Emerging “Lost Generation” of Students

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

Virginia schools, like schools across the country, experienced an educational meltdown during the COVID-19 epidemic. The relatively comforting news is that, according to Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s graduating seniors significantly out-performed their peers nationally. Fifty-six percent of Virginia test takers met all four of the college-readiness benchmarks — English, Reading, Math and Science — compared to 25% nationally.

Here’s what Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane had to say about the results: “Given the impact of the pandemic on participation, the latest ACT results represent a snapshot of achievement during a challenging year. But even so, the ACT – like the more widely taken SAT – shows that Virginia students continue to demonstrate a much higher level of college readiness than their peers nationwide.”

Arguably, the ACT scores show no such thing, a point I’ll get around to making in a moment. But let’s pause and consider the implication of that fact that only 56% of test takers showed across-the-board college readiness. That’s out of the mere 9% of Virginia high school seniors who took the test — presumably those who are most serious about attending college. What does it say about the quality of education when only 56% of those students are fully college ready?

Janet Godwin, CEO of the nonprofit ACT organization, sounded downright pessimistic in the ACT press release summarizing the national results (my bold face): Continue reading

Dressing Up Garbage

by Deborah Hommer

In the fall of 2020 news media were highlighting the drastic increase in suicide/mental health issues among teenagers. Most accounts blamed the social isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I think there’s more to it than that. 

Our 9th grader’s required English book last year celebrated two teens who had to learn the “art of killing” in a dystopian world. One teen stated, “It is the most difficult thing a person can be asked to do. And knowing that it is for the greater good doesn’t make it any easier. … The ending of life used to be in the hands of nature. … We are its sole distributor .. how necessary the work is.” (“Scythe” by Neal Shusterman).

Three years ago, our 12th grader’s required English book, “Jazz” by Toni Morrison, contained sexual activity between a man and an older teenage girl, a father stomped to death, a mother burned, revenge, obsession, and fantasy killing. The other required book, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams, contained alcoholism, homosexuality, sodomy, frustrated sexuality, infidelity, jealousy, seduction, lying, insulting remarks, and threats to kill.

Could there be a connection? Continue reading

COVID, School Closings and the Real Racism

Click thumbnail for full image.

by James A. Bacon

If you’re looking for evidence of “systemic racism” in Virginia schools, you can find it in a table produced by Matt Hurt, executive director of the Comprehensive Instructional Program, and published in the previous post. The table shows the extraordinary decline in in-person instruction that took place in the 2020-21 school year.

The Code of Virginia requires 990 hours of instruction yearly. The statewide average of in-person learning for White students was 439 hours. The statewide average for Black students was 338 hours.

Put another way, Black students received 100 fewer hours of in-person instruction on average than White students, and 59 fewer hours than the statewide average for all students. By all accounts, distance learning was a massive failure for poor children, and hybrid learning not much better.

If you define “racism” by differential outcomes, that’s about as racist as it gets.

But the reason for this racial disparity has nothing to do with the usual left-wing bogeyman — ubiquitous white racism — and everything to do with “progressive” politics. The racial disparities in in-person learning were the direct outcome of school-closing policies driven by COVID hysteria and the teachers, teacher unions, parents and politicians most sensitive to that hysteria. Continue reading

How COVID School Closures Impacted SOL Test Scores

Table 1: 2021 In-Person Instructional Hours (and percentage of 990-hour standard) by Virginia educational region.

This is the fourth in a series of articles discussing Virginia’s Standards of Learning assessments.

by Matt Hurt

The Code of Virginia requires school divisions to provide students a minimum of 990 hours of instruction yearly. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the Virginia Department of Education waived that standard, allowing local school districts to offer remote learning and hybrid remote/in-person alternatives as they found expedient. Local practices varied widely.

Earlier this year VDOE surveyed public school divisions to determine the number of in-person instructional hours offered during the academic year. The table above displays the results collected, broken down by region, race (Blacks and Whites only), and by disability status.

Some broad conclusions emerge from this data.

  • Statewide, only 40% of students experienced full in-person instruction. (No student experienced a full school year. Even divisions that offered in-person five days per week did so on an abbreviated school day.)
  • Southwest Virginia schools provided the most in-person learning (60%), and Northern Virginia schools the least (34.7%).
  • Statewide, Black students experienced far less in-person learning (338 hours on average) than Whites (439  hours) — a gap of more than 100 hours. Continue reading

VB School Board Shoots Down Resolution

by James A. Bacon

Last night the Virginia Beach School Board voted down 4-to-7 a proposal that would clarify school board policy regarding training and teaching about race and racism.

Among other guidelines, the resolution would have prohibited teachers from training, teaching or promoting, among other propositions, the ideas (a) that any individual by virtue of his or her race or skin color is inherently racist, privileged or oppressive, (b) that any individual bears responsibility for the actions committed by other members of his or her race, skin color or religion, and (c) that the United States is an inherently racist country. (Read the full document here.) Continue reading

No Need to Call in Feds, Says Virginia School Board Association

Protest at a Loudoun County school board meeting. Photo credit: Loudoun Now.

by James A. Bacon

It became national news when the National School Board Association (NASB) asked the Biden administration to investigate threats and violence against school board members around the country. The Justice Department announced it would collaborate with the FBI and local law enforcement to prosecute criminal behavior. The views of the national association did not reflect the views of at least 13 state organizations, including Virginia’s, reports National Review

The Virginia School Boards Association made clear in a letter published last week that it provided no information to the national organization and was never informed that a letter would be sent. The NASB was not the first decision with which the Virginia association disagrees, the Virginia group wrote, and it “probably will not be the last.” Continue reading

Did Loudoun School Officials Cover up a Rape?

by Kerry Dougherty

In the winter of 2020 I had several heated arguments about HB257, which was introduced by Newport News Democrat Mike Mullen, approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Here’s a news story where Mullen proudly touted his soft-on-crime bills.

One of those abolished the requirement that all criminal activity on school property had to be reported to the police.

Proponents of the measure claimed that principals were calling the cops to break up fistfights and as a result, minor skirmishes were escalating into criminal matters.

On March 12, 2020 Ralph Northam signed the bill into law, over the objections of many, including Virginia Beach’s Victoria Manning, according to WAVY-TV 10.

Virginia Beach School Board member Vicky Manning feels the law doesn’t help the lack of trust in the disciplinary process. Continue reading

Descent into Madness: Loudoun County Edition

by James A. Bacon

Two weeks ago the National School Boards Association (NASB) appealed in a highly publicized letter to President Biden to do something to stop the “threats and acts of violence against public school children, public school board members, and other public school district officials.” Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI would respond to the challenge. “Threats against public servants are not only illegal,” he said, “they run counter to our nation’s core values.”

What heinous events prompted the intervention of the FBI into local law enforcement matters? The NASB spelled out numerous “acts of malice, violence and threats” by parents irate about the rise of race demogoguery, transgender politics, masking policies, and pornography in libraries.

One individual in Illinois was arrested for aggravated battery. In Michigan an individual yelled a Nazi salute (undoubtedly in the same sarcastic spirit of the Nazi salute that set off a Twitter Outrage Mob in the Netflix series “The Chair”), and another “prompted the board to call a recess.” In Virginia, elaborated the NASB letter, “an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion.”

According to the news story the NASB linked to, the individual in Virginia who “was arrested” was a certain Scott T. Smith. The video clip below shows what kind of threat he posed to Loudoun County School Board members.

Continue reading

Resolution to Clarify Equity Training and Teaching

The Virginia Beach School Board will discuss the following resolution at a meeting tonight.

WHEREAS, the School Board of the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia values diversity, promotes inclusiveness and is committed to providing a learning environment whereby ALL students have access and opportunities to benefit from the high standards, support and resources required for a high quality education; and

WHEREAS, the School Board values the uniqueness of each member of its staff, student population and community and encourages individual and multiple perspectives; and

WHEREAS, the School Board must provide a clear and transparent understanding of the School Division’s positions and expectations regarding equity training, teaching and learning; and Continue reading