Courtesy of wallpaper.com
by James C. Sherlock
The effects of public policies can be murky.
Not this one.
The subject today is alarming chronic absenteeism of Charlottesville City Schools (CCS).
At issue is the virtual abandonment by that division of the use truancy filings with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, removing parental consequences.
That change has been accompanied by enormous increases in absenteeism and everything, all bad, that comes with it.
The numbers are stark. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
“Defund the police” is a stupid slogan.
Give its proponents the benefit of the doubt, however. Maybe what they meant was return police to their core mission of protecting life and property, remove their frequent role as social worker or mental health counselor, demilitarize their responses to all but the most dangerous situations, and soften the qualified immunity defense. It’s still a stupid slogan, especially at the local level.
“Let cops be cops” might have been a better slogan if the murder of George Floyd hadn’t stoked anti-police sentiment in so many. The more rational response might have been reforms to the concept of qualified immunity, which is roughly the idea that a police officer can’t be prosecuted for a harmful or destructive reaction if he thought he was doing the right thing. “Defund the police” seems predicated more on the idea that all police are bad or that paying them less will improve policing or that having fewer of them will reduce crime.
The attitude behind the slogan on the left is half of a symbol of the polarization that keeps government from accomplishing anything. The other half is the anti-teacher sentiment on the right. Public safety and education are the two largest segments of any local budget. Someone once observed that a local government is a school system with a police force. In Harrisonburg, those two segments of the city budget consume 57 percent of local funding. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Yesterday we noted that Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) and their parents have failed Black students to a degree perhaps unmatched in Virginia.
The systems CCS has in place to prevent that very outcome offer a catalog of virtually every equity program that the nation’s schools of education have produced.
Yet that whole effort has failed spectacularly.
All of the outward-facing indicators of a school division that centers equity are there in CCS in both the leadership and policies.
- The division has qualified people in charge. Black professionals are well represented in that leadership. The teachers have higher than usual educational attainment and a statewide average racial mix.
- The usual problems that accompany poverty and single-parent families are there, but neither marker is present at levels seen in most Virginia cities and many poorer counties.
- CCS offers a complex matrix of policies and programs designed to prevent its terrible performance in educating black children.
The very complexity of those policies and programs and their demands on teacher time and academic focus may be part of the problem. But not all of it.
Any attempt to fix Black student achievement must start with improving attendance and providing safe, orderly schools for all kids without which learning cannot occur.
We’ll break down the system as it is. Continue reading
Charlottesville neighborhoods. Courtesy Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition
by James C. Sherlock
In the relationship between Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, very bad things have happened to Charlottesville and continue to do so.
I have developed a working thesis on that relationship.
The city is at the mercy of the University by virtue of the latter’s wealth, influence, and power in Charlottesville elections.
Unfailingly progressive Charlottesville city council, school board and Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates are elected by the dominant votes of the University, its employees and its students. With those officials in place, the University gets its way.
Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) are to a large degree creatures of the University.
Many CCS teachers have their bachelors and/or advanced degrees from UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Every progressive educational policy and virtually every experiment the University’s ed school can dream up are visited on those students.
For the city’s Black children in those schools, that influence, well-meaning though it was, turns out to have been a disaster unparalleled in the Commonwealth. Continue reading
Posted in Attendance, Children and families, Civil Rights, Culture wars, DEI, Demographics, Discipline and disorder, Education (higher ed), Education (K-12), Elections, Governance, Housing, Race and race relations, teacher education
Tagged James Sherlock
by James A. Bacon
If you have any doubt that wokeness is the primary force responsible for collapsing discipline in Virginia public schools, eroding teacher morale, deteriorating learning conditions, and the educational impairment of tens of thousands of students, consider this story from Charlottesville.
After incessant student brawls this school year, 27 teachers at Charlottesville High School called a walk-out, effectively closing school for the day. Following an emergency meeting of the School Board, Chair James Bryant announced that classes would be cancelled Monday and Tuesday while students, teachers and staff planned a “reset.” Summarizes the Daily Progress:
That “reset” will be addressing a high school culture that many say has gotten out of control, with students roaming the halls during class time, instigating fights, disobeying administrators and even letting intruders into the school with the sole purpose of perpetrating violence.
The purpose of the “reset,” according to Bryant, is for staff to “return to our core purpose — offering a safe learning environment in which our students will grow and thrive.” Continue reading
Table source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
by James A. Bacon
The Virginia Department of Education is running two weeks late in releasing Standards of Learning (SOL) testing data for the 2022-23 school year. The reason cited by state Superintendent Lisa Coons, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is to process retake data and appeals.
The SOL results, as they appeared on a Richmond Public Schools website before being taken down, were disappointing. Far from reverting to the pre-COVID norm, student achievement remained mired in a post-lockdown slump. Reading and writing scores were mostly unchanged, history/civic scores eroded, and math and science scores improved only a little.
The Youngkin administration has not commented on the results. The only quote cited by the Richmond Times-Dispatch comes from James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, who dishes out the usual social justice-style rhetoric calling for more money. Continue reading
A Yondr cell phone pouch.
by James A. Bacon
The Charlottesville public school system has banned the students’ use of cell phones. Superintendent Royal Gurley decries students’ “addiction” to the mobile devices, and teachers have complained that the phones have become a tremendous disruption in the classroom, reports The Daily Progress. The restrictions, school officials hope, will “increase connectivity between classmates and teachers improve mental well-being.”
Predictably, some parents are pushing back.
“It’s too extreme,” M.J. Smith, whose son is a senior at Charlottesville High School, told The Daily Progress. “I think it’s in the right place, but it comes across as heavy-handed and not well thought out in light of the active anxiety that the community is facing with another school year and active shooter robocalls. We’re all worried about that.”
I’ve got some questions for parents opposed to the ban. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) on June 16th notified the federal Department of Education (USDOE) of its updated State Plan.
Such updates are required annually to allow the states to receive federal school improvement funds appropriated for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as updated by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The change was designed under the Northam administration to give credit for the first time in Virginia to a school for the progress of any student who has:
- failed two consecutive state assessments on SOLs or the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) test (eligible students with significant cognitive disabilities); but
- does better in the current year than the previous one.
It has been in the works for several years. This past school year was the second year of data collected under that system. That in turn provides comparable year-to-year data to show progress or lack of same for a student and the work of his or her school. Thus, the formula change will be implemented in the coming school year.
The change was designed to help identify the schools in Virginia who most need the ESEA funding rather than repeated cycles of identifying the same schools with poor minority student populations without giving credit for such progress.
It appears to be at least partially an attempt to improve morale — to give teachers in such schools credit for improvements with kids, say, who enter 5th grade unable to read but show progress on the next set of tests.
I don’t know what effect it will have, but I believe it is a good thing to try.
We’ll look at the entire process for distributing that particular pot of federal money in Virginia. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Image credit: Lumenlearning
I received a note from Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in reference to my column on that program in early July.
He thanked, as do I, readers for their interest and supportive comments.
We agree with you that (Community College Guaranteed Admissions and Credits) are one of the most effective ways to expand access, improve retention and completion, and make college more affordable.
We (SCHEV) talk about it regularly in our various reports and recommendations.
We have a standing item in our annual tuition and fees report that calculates how much a student can save by following a pathway that goes through a community college.
For years, we have worked on improving systems that guarantee not only admission but also acceptance of community college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
We could always do more outreach, so we appreciate your interest in the subject and the positive response you received from your readers.
It is important that the state offers a way to mitigate substandard K-12 educations. Virginia does that very well as far as I can tell.
It is important to spread the word.
But the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) cannot replace fully the lack of a solid grounding in life and academics in K-12. Continue reading
by Jeanine Martin
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James P. Fischer has ordered Loudoun County Public Schools to turn over its internal investigation into the assaults and rape that occurred in 2021 at two Loudoun County high schools.
The school system had argued that it was privileged information that they need not share with the public. Judge Fischer disagreed and ordered the report to be turned over to the public within 7 days.
The ruling is a win for Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who has been fighting to expose how he says the school district mishandled the incidents.
The judge agreed with prosecutors from the Miyares’ office that the internal report on the 2021 sexual assaults and rape on school grounds was not protected under attorney-client privilege — noting that then-Superintendent Scott Ziegler gave the perception that any findings from the independent investigation were for the public’s benefit.
In a statement, Miyares’ spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said in part, “We appreciate the courts time and attention to this matter.”
More on the story here.
This piece was originally appeared in The Bull Elephant and is reprinted with permission.
by Kerry Dougherty
If you live in Virginia Beach, I have some questions for you:
Did you sit at home while the Bathrobe Brigade on the School Board fought to keep schools closed, long after we knew kids weren’t at risk from Covid-19?
Did you watch on public access TV as the hysterical hypochondriacs of the School Board battled to keep face diapers on kids long after we knew they were doing absolutely nothing to stop the spread?
Did you sit on your hands when you learned that graphic novels featuring oral gay sex were on the shelves of public schools and the woke majority on the School Board wanted to keep them there?
Well, it’s time to get out of your La-Z-Boy and join the weary parents and grandparents who have been fighting your battles for you.
Get to tonight’s school board meeting at 6 p.m. Join the 87 people who had signed up to speak as of late yesterday, according to board member Vicky Manning.
Lisa Coons. Image taken from Virginia Department of Education YouTube clip.
by James A. Bacon
Dr. Lisa Coons, Virginia’s new superintendent for public instruction, has been on the job for only two weeks, but she has clear priorities for reversing the slide in educational achievement in Virginia’s public schools: raise standards, get chronically absentee kids back into the classroom, and address teacher shortages.
Recruited from her job as chief academic officer for the Tennessee public school system, Coons filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Jillian Balow. She granted Bacon’s Rebellion her first media interview. I started with an open-ended question: What are the greatest challenges facing Virginia public schools today? Her gut response: Recruit more teachers.
“We have to get a high-quality teacher in every classroom in the state,” she said. “Remove the barriers and challenges to processing licenses. Create plenty of pathways to bring people into the [teaching] workforce.”
Raising teacher pay is one obvious strategy for reversing the brain drain from schools. Lawmakers have funded significant pay hikes for Virginia teachers, but the raises have lagged cost-of-living increases. Improving working conditions is another approach. Virginia teachers consistently cite disciplinary issues, unsupportive administrators, and lack of respect from students and parents as morale busters. But those issues are inherently local and not amenable to top-down action from Richmond. Rather, Coons is focusing on changing state-level regulations with the goal of enlarging the pool of teachers. Continue reading
by Matt Hurt
The teacher vacancy rate in the Commonwealth has become such a problem that the Virginia Department of Education created a database to track this problem. The Staffing and Vacancy Report found on the Education Workforce Data & Reports page of the VDOE website displays unfilled Virginia educator positions at the state, region, division, and school levels as of October of each year.
This data was first published in 2021 and reported that approximately 3% percent of Virginia’s teaching positions were vacant at that time. Historically, few hires are made after the beginning of the school year, as all willing and eligible potential teachers have already been hired by that point. Anecdotally, I am aware of and have heard many more instances of teachers leaving throughout the year, whereas in the past most would wait until summer to leave the profession.
When one compares the October 2021 teacher vacancy rates to the 2022 Standards of Learning (SOL) pass rates at the division level, that seemingly insignificant teacher vacancy rate statistically accounted for 26% of the variability in division SOL pass rates that year. In October 2022, the teacher vacancy rate across Virginia increased 26% percent to almost a 4% teacher vacancy rate. Given this increase, it is reasonable to believe that this problem will more significantly and negatively impact student outcomes this year than last.
by James C. Sherlock
This is addressed directly to Virginia public school principals.
You are compliant with current Virginia law whether you report assault and battery to police or do not.
Bad law makes for bad policy.
Depending upon your school division, your requirements may vary. A lot.
In gambling, and this issue is a big gamble for you, if you don’t know who the mark is, it is you.
The current law on reporting of assault and battery to police reflects a poorly conceived and poorly written attempt by Virginia Democrats in 2020 to break what they called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” They made reporting to police conditional upon on-scene medical and legal findings – by you.
The Board of Education has done nothing to improve the matter. School divisions are all over the spectrum on what to do about reporting. You cannot carry out either the law or many of the school division policies without personal jeopardy. Continue reading
Posted in Children and families, Civil Rights, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Discipline and disorder, Education (K-12), General Assembly, Government workers and pensions, Law enforcement, Scandals, Unions
Supposedly, Microsoft is integrating ChatGPT artificial intelligence technology into its search results. I’m not sure how far along the tech giant is in this process, but what I’m seeing so far is not impressive.
Just for yuks, I posed the following query to Microsoft’s Bing search engine: “What is causing the breakdown in discipline in Virginia public schools?”
Here was the answer:
According to a report by Bacon’s Rebellion, the root causes of disproportionate exclusionary discipline in Virginia public schools are bias and schools and their principals and teachers not aligned with progressive thinking¹. A 2020 report by Virginia Commonwealth University and Penn State found that school segregation by race and income was deepening in Virginia and that Central Virginia, including the Richmond metro area, reported “severe school segregation”³. Implicit bias is heavily implicated as a contributing factor when we analyze the causes of racial disproportionality in school discipline⁴. Continue reading