Category Archives: Education (K-12)

2020-21 SOLs: the Racial Gap Widens

Here is a pro forma breakdown of Standards of Learning pass rates by race and subject. I say “pro forma” because these numbers do not reflect the fact that one-fifth to one-quarter of public school students failed to take the test in the 2020-21 school year. Adjusted numbers might prove to be even more dismal, although I am too early in my analysis to suggest that is, in fact, the case.

Two things are abundantly clear. First, test scores fell across the board — all races and all subjects. Second, the racial gap widened. As anyone could have predicted, test scores among Asians fell the least of any racial/ethnic group — although the decline was big enough to be profoundly discouraging. Pass rates for whites fell significantly more, while pass rates for Blacks and Hispanics went into free-fall.

A 34% pass rate in math SOLs for Blacks is nothing less than catastrophic. It is difficult to imagine how thousands of Black students can ever recover from this setback. Continue reading

SOL Test Scores Collapsed In 2020-21 School Year

by James A. Bacon

How bad are the Standards of Learning test results for the COVID-afflicted 2020-21 school year? They’re so bad that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) press release announcing the results didn’t mention bare-bones numbers until the seventh paragraph, and even then it provided no basis for comparison to the previous year, 2018-19, in which the tests were given.

The results were so bad that the press release didn’t summarize the results in a table, as it has every year previously. Instead, it provided a link to VDOE’s “Build-A-Table” database for readers to figure out themselves.

The results were so bad the press release alluded to the widening racial/ethnic gap in pass rates but provided no numbers, as VDOE always has in the past.

The 2020-21 school year might well have seen the greatest regression in learning in Virginia history.

Rather, the VDOE press release amounted to a lengthy exercise in deflection and blame shifting. It attributed the dismal scores to the “extraordinary circumstances” of the COVID epidemic and the “disruptions to instruction” that followed from school closing across most of the state. Continue reading

UVa’s Ideological Litmus Test — “Diversity Statements”

by James A. Bacon

In the fall convocation ceremonies at the University of Virginia this week, President Jim Ryan said many things that once upon a time would have been considered unremarkable. The purpose of a UVa education, he said, is to pursue the truth. The search for truth is unending, and progress toward the truth is predicated upon free speech and open inquiry. UVa is a place for honest and respectful conversations between those who disagree, Ryan said. UVa is a place where civil dialogues can take place.

An alumnus in the audience, Bert Ellis, was reassured by Ryan’s words. Ellis is president of The Jefferson Council, a group dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa that has catalogued the suppression of free speech and expression and the drift toward intellectual conformity, and he was primed to be skeptical.

“All in all, I liked his remarks,” says Ellis. “I was pleasantly surprised by his references to and respect for Mr. Jefferson and his legacy and with his very strong support for open dialogue and for the Honor System. I hope his actions over the upcoming school year will be as strong as his words.”

Indeed, words are one thing, and actions are another. While Ryan supports free speech and expression in the abstract, deans and department heads are enforcing a social justice dogma under the banner of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in their hiring policies. Job prospects are subject to what can only be called a DE&I litmus test. Continue reading

First Morning Bus Delays in Fairfax Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Aug 23 at 5.50 PM

FCPS has published its first morning FCPS Bus Delay list of buses delayed more than 15 minutes.


  • This is the first day of school, but certainly there were several trial run days this summer in an attempt to provide sufficient time in the schedules to avoid lateness. Every school district does that.
  • A lot of these schedules required multiple runs by individual drivers, so the delays would have cascaded and been longer the later in the morning the child was scheduled to be picked up and delivered to school.
  • FCPS publishes transportation contact names and phone numbers for each school and center, so I expect they had a very busy morning.
  • The list does not indicate how long the bus ride was scheduled to take before the delays. Nor how many routes each driver was scheduled to drive.    

Roughly a third of FCPS schools and centers were affected. Some schools took the brunt of it.  

The school system is not playing favorites. Langley High is a case in point. Langley serves one of the wealthiest public school populations in America. You would have no trouble telling the student parking lot from the teachers’ lot. But those are just the seniors. Continue reading

Schools Desperately Short of Bus Drivers; Carpooling App Needed

by James C. Sherlock

A Fairfax County Public Schools Twitter message August 19:

“If you can walk with or drive your child (and perhaps a neighbor’s), please do. Also, we ask that you update your transportation status through your school, if you choose to not have your child take the bus.”

WTOP reported that as of Aug. 12, Fairfax County Public Schools was short 190 drivers.

Parents have already made plans and notified school districts if their children will be bus riders. I expect that the interlocking administration and logistics of car pools and buses to T-bone one another because of the late start and lack of preparation for the car pool option at scale. But that is where many districts are.

Driving a school bus is a difficult, nerve wracking and hazardous job. The training required makes them professional drivers. The demand for such skills and the pay and benefits in the private sector are very high and growing because of a labor shortage in the face of increasing demand.

Like pretty much every other type of blue collar work. Continue reading

What Does Northam’s Masking Order Mean for 70,000 School Kids with Disabilities? Does Northam Even Know?

Governor Ralph Northam…. Oh, our bad, that’s a weasel.

by James C. Sherlock

My own preferred policy for schools is mandatory vaccination for school staff, recommended vaccinations for the kids and voluntary masks for everyone.

One of the advantages of that is that it is executable.

One of the disadvantages is that I have no influence whatever over the governor or health commissioner. Pretty big disadvantage.

But Virginia’s current order for schools is purposely garbled when addressing accommodations for disabled children, and the health commissioner understood that when he signed it for the governor.

The authors of that document had no idea how to handle the mask issue for the over 70,000 kids in Virginia public schools were labeled as “disabled” last year.

So they punted. Continue reading

Shots and Masks in Richmond Schools

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Belt and suspenders?

Vaccinations and masks now are both mandatory in Richmond Public Schools. Vaccinations because the school board ordered it last night. Masks because the Governor ordered it last week.

The vaccination order, though many oppose it, has science behind it. Vaccinations work. For the vaccinated, though, the mask wearing mandate is purely political – and political theater. The mask mandate did not presume vaccination mandates.

Cue the squeaking from the “yeah, but” crowd.

Let’s look a these one at a time.

Vaccinations – Richmond

After a vote last night by the school board, nearly all employees of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) must be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

I wish them godspeed.

This policy, with which I agree, is a major experiment with a very short time horizon, an unknown baseline and an unknown outcome. Continue reading

Will (Legal) Immigrants Save Us from the Madness?

An unidentified Chaldean Christian immigrant from Iran had a few words for the Loudoun County Public School Board three days ago. He’s not happy with the idea of public schools propagandizing students “like the ayatollahs did.” If anyone saves Americans from themselves, it will be (legal) immigrants like this man. He has an idea so crazy it just might work: schools should focus on teaching reading, writing, math, and science!

Not All COVID-Fighting Masks Are Created Equal

The three main types of face mask.

by James A. Bacon

So, society is back to wearing masks. Governor Ralph Northam has mandated mask usage in public schools, while many universities and employers in Virginia are doing the same.

The K-12 mandate does make accommodations for people who are eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, playing a music instrument, and/or is in  state of unconsciousness. (I’m not making that up). Clearly, mandating masks represents an advance over closing the schools for another year. But Northam’s latest executive order provides no guidance on one important question. What kind of masks should children wear? Continue reading

Return to Autocracy in Virginia

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock.
Updated Aug 13, 12:15 PM

It was so easy to predict that I can claim no special prescience. I wrote a week ago:

“The Governor’s 15-month emergency powers expired June 30, and, God, does he miss them…. (H)ow long (will the) governor put up with the lack of emergency powers?”

If you guessed a week, you win.

Today’s headline: Virginia Gov. Orders Mask Mandate for State’s K-12 Schools

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced a public health emergency order to require masks in all indoor settings for the state’s K-12 schools.

The Governor has a legal basis for the order, § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia. The State Health Commissioner, acting for the Board of Health when it is not in session (§ 32.1-20 of the Code of Virginia),

may make separate orders and regulations to meet any emergency, not provided for by general regulations, for the purpose of suppressing nuisances dangerous to the public health and communicable, contagious and infectious diseases and other dangers to the public life and health.

If you are wondering, the Board of Health meets four times a year for a couple of days each meeting. And there is no mention of a role for the General Assembly.

This is not the same law that Northam used for 15 months. New ball game. Continue reading

Northam Orders Masks on Faces of Virginia Students

by Kerry Dougherty

They say an advertisement is successful if you can recall the name of the product long after you’ve seen the ad.

If that’s true, the 2013 Staples Back-To-School spot has to be one of the greats. I thought it was hilarious when I saw it eight years ago and I think of it every year around this time.

See for yourself:

Unfortunately, after yesterday’s edict by Gov. Ralph Northam, there will be lots of long faces on students in the coming weeks – although we won’t be able to see them – as Virginia’s school children trudge back to class wearing face masks.

Again. Continue reading

Gloucester School Board Nixes CRT

CRT in Gloucester County Schools? No thanks.

by Carol J. Bova

The Gloucester County Public School Board spelled out its opposition to indoctrination or teaching that encourages hate and division in Gloucester public schools in its Tuesday meeting. The Board voted 6 to 0 for a resolution opposing Critical Race Theory in their school district’s curriculum.

The resolution printed in the Mathews Gloucester Gazette Journal said:

Gloucester County Public Schools (in alignment with the mission, vision and core values of the school district) will not teach or embed material designed to indoctrinate students to specific beliefs, teach or encourage in any matter hate or division based on race, creed, color or religion, and confirm that topics such as, but not limited to, Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project, are not, and will not be, part of the GCPS curriculum.

Continue reading

Liberals’ Nasty Authoritarian Streak

by Kerry Dougherty

This, friends, is an actual headline in an actual daily newspaper. It ran yesterday over a “news story” about Tuesday’s Virginia Beach School Board meeting:

After hours of vitriol and misinformation, Virginia Beach School Board votes to make masks mandatory for students, staff


That’s liberal newspeak for any statement or point of view that diverges from the party line being spouted by Anthony Fauci and the CDC.

They’re infallible, apparently. No disagreement with them will be brooked by corporate media. To challenge the government is to spread misinformation.

More proof — if any were needed — that objectivity in the mainstream media is dead. Increasingly, they censor and mock opinions that are not government-approved. Is it any wonder that newspapers are circling the drain while alternative news sources are flourishing? Continue reading

Kendi Blames Capitalism, Prescribes Discrimination

By Steve Haner

The book was one the local librarian chose to display on the new acquisitions shelf, my curiosity was high, and by all accounts some  leaders in Virginia’s educational establishment are taken with and listening to the author. So I read Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”

I will largely let the author, who graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, speak for himself below. It was possible the critics were exaggerating. His own words below indicate otherwise.

I recommend the book to anybody really interested in this ongoing debate. Is this being directly taught to K-12 school children?  I doubt it, but maybe. Is it being taught to the next generation of teachers and is it at the heart of much of current in-service teacher training? Apparently. Continue reading

Public School Systems on Fire

Virginia’s public education system…. Er, sorry, that’s just a dumpster fire.

I’m normally reluctant to post material from anonymous sources, but I’m making an exception in this case. The author of this post is not asking us to accept anything on his (or her) say-so. He (or she) points to Virginia Department of Education documents that can be readily found online. Much of this material has been reported on Bacon’s Rebellion, but the author pulls together multiple strands into a coherent whole. The impact is powerful. — JAB

For months, the Virginia Department of Education has feigned ignorance about what might be behind all the fuss over critical race theory infiltrating the Commonwealth’s public schools.

In article after article, State Superintendent James Lane’s spokesperson repeated the talking point that nowhere in the Standards of Learning — the curriculum standards that all Virginia public schools must follow — is there a requirement to teach critical race theory, or to incorporate critical race theory when presenting state-mandated academic content.

By and large, education reporters and editorial writers in the state have bought this hook, line and sinker. Continue reading