Category Archives: Discipline and disorder

Why are Teachers Quitting? In Virginia Beach, It May Not Be “Mean Parents”

by James C. Sherlock

In the latest installment of “Why are Teachers Quitting,” I have come in possession of a summary copy of the 2020 responses of Virginia Beach teachers to a survey conducted by the Virginia Beach Public Schools (VBPS) administration relating to school discipline.

Survey results were forwarded by Dr. Donald Robertson, Chief Schools Officer. Remember when you read it that this is Virginia Beach.

The PBIS system of discipline implemented in Virginia Beach and referred to in the survey is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.  To see what is expected of school systems implementing PBIS, see here.

There is, of course, a 27-page PBIS blueprint. From that blueprint:

The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Implementation Blueprint is to guide leadership teams in the assessment, development, and execution of action plans. The outcome is the development of local capacity for sustainable, culturally and contextually relevant, and high fidelity implementation of multi-tiered practices and systems of support.

PBIS is our old friend MTSS – sorry, VTSS (Virginia Tiered System of Supports) – in the commonwealth. The holy grail of the progressive left.

Let’s see how PBIS is working in Virginia Beach. Continue reading

A Teacher Safety Perspective on Teacher Shortages

by James C. Sherlock

We have discussed here teachers shortages in Richmond and some of the other larger school divisions in Virginia.

When the issues of teachers being physically afraid to continue teaching because of behavioral chaos in the schools is brought up, it is ignored or dismissed by the left in favor of its “mean parents” narrative.

The facts do not matter to that narrative. But they matter to nearly everyone else except, for some strange reason, the teachers’ unions. I have no explanation for that.

Let’s look at high school teachers’ (and students’) fears for their safety from student assault. Continue reading

Alexandria Schools’ Tentative Return to Sanity

Image credit: Podcast Republic

by James A. Bacon

Yesterday I wrote about a move by the Alexandria public school system to designate 30 minutes each day to “social-emotional learning” — a therapeutic approach involving counseling and community circles to teach students how to behave themselves in school. This initiative follows a previous decision to restore School Resource Officers (SROs) in the public schools, and it accompanies other measures such as restricting access to school buildings, requiring students to carry student ID cards, and staggering student dismissal times.

Now comes this bit of context from WTOP News (my emphasis): “The school system has had problems with dozens of fights and weapons, on and off campus, including the stabbing death of a student at the Bradlee Shopping Center during a brawl in May.”

I have argued that violence and disorder surged in Virginia public schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods, as social-emotional learning proved inadequate to deal with disciplinary issues arising from COVID-driven school closures. Alexandria compounded the problem by removing SROs from the schools. The results were predictable — Bacon’s Rebellion saw the early signs around the state early last fall and warned repeatedly of the encroaching anarchy. In many high-poverty schools, it was evident that adults had effectively lost control.

Credit must be given to Alexandria school officials. Woke though they may be, they are not blind to reality. Fights and violence became a problem too severe to be ignored. The adults are trying to re-establish control. Continue reading

Alexandria Schools to Devote 10% of Instructional Time to Social-Emotional Learning

This © CASEL infographic on the Virginia Department of Education website shows how “effective implementation integrates SEL throughout the school’s academic curricula and culture, across the broader contexts of schoolwide practices and policies, and through ongoing collaboration with families and community organizations.”

by James A. Bacon

Beginning in the new school year, Alexandria City Public Schools will designate 30 minutes every day to “social-emotional learning,” according to the school system’s website. In addition, Student Support Teams will provide more “targeted and intensive” interventions for individual students identified through the school’s Multi Tiered System of Support process.

In Virginia the standard school year is 180 instructional days, or 990 instruction hours. The standard school day shall include 5 1/2 instructional hours in 1st through 12th grades, excluding time for recess, class changes and meals. In other words, 90 hours per year, equivalent to 10% of Alexandria schools’ instruction time, will be turned over to social-emotional learning.

What is social-emotional learning (SEL)? According to the Virginia Department of Education, the definition is:

The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

One might interpret this as a bureaucratic, jargon-filled way of saying that SEL is teaching students how to behave themselves. Continue reading

Social Theory vs. Science in K-12 Discipline in Virginia – Fraud or Just Wrong?

Both fraudulent and wrong?

by James C. Sherlock

American school children have in my lifetime been the subject of widespread experiments in theory disguised as breakthroughs in education.

Consider the “new math” and the “reading wars” as prominent examples.

Now we have social theory on school discipline created by federal civil rights lawyers piggybacking on what may or may not prove to be successful academic practices for children with disabilities. That social theory has been promulgated as state policy guidance in Virginia.

A Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) has been used successfully in some instances to help teach academics to the learning-disabled.

This system was extended by lawyers from the aspirational left to school discipline and social-emotional learning without evidence. Now it has been published by the Virginia Board of Education for use by every school division in Virginia as a potential cure for “systemic racism” in discipline.

The 2021 Model Guidance for Positive, Preventative Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension (Virginia Model Guidance) may be fraudulently referenced. It is certainly incompletely referenced. Continue reading

The Great Escape

Scene from “The Great Escape”

by James A. Bacon

Fletcher Norwood has made his great escape. It feels, he says, as if he’s broken out of a German stalag and been elevated to Winston Churchill’s aide de camp. When he resumes teaching in August, he’ll no longer be consigned to the high-poverty Title I high school where he has been teaching the past several years. He’ll join a school in a neighboring county where he expects most students will be motivated to learn, classroom behavior will be manageable, and administrators will have his back.

Norwood, whose experiences I have chronicled in previous columns, has a lot of company. Teachers have staged what can best be described as a mass breakout from Virginia’s failing schools: retiring, transferring to other schools and districts, or just quitting the profession altogether in unprecedented numbers.

Based on extensive word-of-mouth, Norwood (not his real name) estimates that one quarter to one third of all the teachers have resigned from his old school this year. The school he’s going to is close to fully staffed. “I got a job in a better county that is reaping the benefit of poorly run counties that are losing teachers,” he says. Continue reading

Why Teachers Are Resigning: Student Behavior

Source: Chalkboard Review

by James A. Bacon

Why are so many teachers resigning from Virginia’s public schools? Based on widespread anecdotal evidence, I have suggested that the breakdown in classroom discipline is a major contributing factor, especially in high-poverty schools. But anecdotes are just that — anecdotal — and others blame low pay, COVID, or meddling right-wing parents. Now comes a survey of teachers in six Midwestern states who have resigned or will resign before the start of the 2022-23 school year. Among the 615 respondents, students’ “classroom behavior” is hands-down the biggest issue.

Key findings: “319 of the 615 responders listed student behavior as their biggest reason to leave the classroom, followed by 138 for ‘progressive political activity’ and 134 for ‘salary is insufficient.’”

The survey was conducted by the Chalkboard Review, which was founded in 2020 to provide a “heterodox outlet” for news and commentary from educators. By emphasizing diversity of opinion, it is safe to assume, “heterodox” is roughly synonymous with “non-Woke.” So, one must take into account the possible biases of those conducting the survey. (See the description of the methodology here.) Continue reading

K-12 Debacle Update: Richmond Teacher Shortage

Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras in happier days. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Public School System is facing a teacher shortage after 25% of the system’s teaching staff resigned at the end of the 2021-22 school year. RPS is trying to fill 176 positions before the school year starts in August, reports WRIC television.

RPS has formed a teacher retention task force and is partnering with teacher residency programs at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University, Superintendent Jason Kamras told the School Board Monday.

Kamras proposed offering incentives worth up to $10,000 for new teachers, including $6,000 for relocation expenses and another $4,000 for teachers filling critical shortage fields. The money for incentives and recruiting would come from the federal stimulus fund. If the shortage is not resolved when the school year starts in August, said WRIC, the school will hire substitutes, deploy staff not currently assigned classrooms and adjust class sizes.

“We need to create incentives to keep and track experienced teachers,” Kamras said Monday night. “We are in a moment that requires extraordinary steps to meet extraordinary circumstances. That’s why I am moving forward with these incentives to help close the gaps over these next few weeks.” Continue reading

Teacher Resignations Surge as K-12 Meltdown Continues

Image credit: Hannah Natanson / The Washington Post

by James A. Bacon

Teachers in the Washington, D.C., area, including Northern Virginia, are resigning in unusually high numbers this year, according to The Washington Post. Resignations spiked 45% in Fairfax County Public Schools and 96% in Arlington, according to the WaPo data compiled by reporter Hannah Natanson.

The surge in teachers calling it quits mirrors national trends. The WaPo article cites The Wall Street Journal as saying that 300,000 public school teachers and staffers quit their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022, representing a 3% decline in the K-12 educational workforce.

The big question is why. Teacher burn-out is the short answer. But that begs the question: why is there teacher burn-out?

Students in more than 80% of public schools are “struggling with their behavior, social-emotional well-being and mental health,” and 50% are reporting increased acts of disrespect toward educators, Natanson says. But there’s more to it, says Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association. As the WaPo summarizes her thinking: Continue reading

Let’s Hope This Kid Isn’t Going Back to School Next year

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days.
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
     –Gus Edwards and Will D. Cobb (1907)

Virginia schools don’t use hickory sticks to impart discipline anymore, but they do have jail. And that’s where 18-year-old Elijah Schneider is heading after assaulting a fellow student at Strasburg High School.

Schneider pleaded guilty to assault and battery, possession of a weapon on school property, and use of profane language over an airway in a plea deal with the Shenandoah County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced to six months in jail with time suspended.

Here is the account of the incident provided by Northern Virginia Daily: Continue reading

Hopewell Schools to Become Phone-Free

Yondr pouches. Photo credit: Rolling Stone

by James A. Bacon

Hopewell has banned cellphones during the school day at the city’s middle school and high school, reports The Progress-Index. “We want our families to know we are taking an important step to enhance student learning, culture, and safety at school,” said the Hopewell Public School System in a Facebook post.

When school resumes in August, Hopewell schools will become cell-free zones. Upon entering school, students will put their cellphones in a “Yondr” pouch provided by the school system. The pouches remain in the students’ possession, but they remain locked during the day. The system provides an alternative to having teachers collect the phones, hold them, and redistribute to students.

On Facebook, many parents expressed support for the initiative, although some objected to it on the grounds that in an age of school shootings, students should retain access for security reasons. Continue reading

Virginia Strategic Imperatives: Train and Retain More Teachers and Nurses

A Major Opportunity

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to make a lasting difference in Virginia. He wants to leave it better than he found it.

In the years I have been writing about healthcare and education in Virginia, there is a recurring theme in both fields: not enough practitioners; specifically, registered nurses and teachers.

I will not in this article try to dissect the specifics of each shortfall, other than to say each is growing and reaching crisis proportions simultaneously in both professions.

This is, rather, a plea to the Youngkin administration and the General Assembly to turn their focus to dealing with those shortfalls. If they do not, a lot of the things  they are doing will be lost in the carnage of the failures of the healthcare and education systems.

Without education, there is no economic future. Without competent healthcare, there will be no future at all for many.

In both cases, the approaches must raise incentives and reduce disincentives. Continue reading

What China Tells Us About U.S. Educational Achievement Gaps

by James A. Bacon

Shaomin Li, a business school professor at Old Dominion University, specializes in studying China’s economy. His book, just published by the Cambridge University Press, “The Rise of China, Inc.,” is well worth reading for its description of how the Chinese political/economic system works. Li, whose job early in life was painting portraits of Chairman Mao, is an advocate of human rights and a determined foe of the Communist regime, but also a steely-eyed realist.

Among China’s greatest assets, Li argues, are traditional values that the Communist regime has been unable to extinguish. An under-appreciated factor contributing to its rise to economic superpower status has been the country’s spectacular gain in labor productivity, which he attributes in large measure to the high value the Chinese place upon educational achievement. In his international business classes, he tells students what they’re up against in a globally competitive economy by comparing two schools — Maury High School in Norfolk and Maotanchang Middle School in Anhui Province.

Li describes Norfolk as an “old, mid-sized city (population 244,000) in Southern Virginia with a lower income level and higher concentration of minorities than its neighbors.” Maury is the best high school in Norfolk and one of the best in the United States, ranking 3,139 out of 24,000 nationally, he writes. The school has good infrastructure, including an indoor swimming pool, a fine library, and an up-to-date computer lab. The teachers, he says, are dedicated. Many have advanced degrees from esteemed universities such as Duke and the University of Virginia. But the school’s academic performance is nothing to brag about. Continue reading

Discipline Meltdown in Prince William Schools

Prince William County School Board Chairman Babur B. Lateef

by James A. Bacon

The adults are losing control of Prince William County public schools. Fighting and alcohol/drug-related violations increased 20% during the first three quarters of the current school year compared to the same period in the pre-COVID year of 2019-20.

In the third quarter alone, middle and high schools recorded 515 alcohol/drug-related violations, up from 344 in the second quarter. The division recorded 722 fights, up from 463 the previous quarter, according to a presentation to the schools’ Safe Schools Advisory Committee obtained by InsideNoVa.

Prince William teachers are raising an alarm that social issues stemming from school closures, coupled with staffing shortages in schools, are making the job of educating students more difficult, InsideNoVa says.

What’s interesting about this article is that school officials (1) are acknowledging they are having huge disciplinary issues; but (2) are blaming the rising level of fighting and drug abuse on the shift from in-school to at-home learning during the COVID epidemic. No one quoted by InsideNoVa expressed concern with the impact of the “restorative justice” paradigm for dealing with disciplinary issues. Indeed, school officials are doubling down on the “progressive” prescription for disorder in schools. Continue reading

Once Upon a Time, Schools Didn’t Need Fancy Buildings, Big Bureaucracies and Trauma Counselors to Teach

Gail Smith

by James A. Bacon

When Gail Smith talks about growing up in 1950s-era Goochland County, she calls her time attending the Second Union Rosenwald School as “the best years of my life.” The two-room schoolhouse was lacking in what we refer to today as “amenities.” But it was supported by the local African-American community, and it had spirit.

There were no school buses in her poor farming community — Smith passed through woods on her trek to and from school. There was no indoor plumbing or running water, either. The boys went to a nearby spring with a bucket and dipper to fetch water. Nor were there grocery stores, much less free meals — students brought their farm-raised lunches in brown bags. There wasn’t even central heating. During cold weather, the boys scoured the woods to gather kindling for the fire. School lasted five hours until 2:15, with time off for two 15-minute breaks. When the kids heard the bell, they hurried back to their classroom. Smith and her contemporaries recall a teacher, Fannie Beale, with great fondness for her firmness and her ability to inspire.

“We were poor but we were happy,” Smith says. “We came to school excited to learn.” She and many classmates went on to earn higher-ed degrees and pursue professional careers. Continue reading