Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Virginia Higher-Ed Enrollment Resilient in Face of COVID-19

by James A. Bacon

Undergraduate enrollment in Virginia’s nonprofit higher-ed institutions has declined only 1.3% this fall, far less than feared in many quarters, according to preliminary estimates released today by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). There had been widespread concern that measures to combat the COVID-19 virus would disrupt campus life and discourage students from attending.

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Implement “Joyful Learning” in Virginia’s Poorest Performing Elementary Schools

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote in a previous post of the astonishing record of New York City’s Success Academies in achieving the highest scores in the state of New York on that state’s standardized tests with some of the most economically disadvantaged students.  

I write this time with the great news that there is absolutely no impediment to implementing the Success Academy model in Virginia schools.

I will also offer a very straightforward way to get there.

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Joyful Learning

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

Many of our readers have expressed dismay about the future of Virginia’s schools, some coming to the conclusion that there is no hope. Some others contend that because poor kids haven’t learned over the past three decades, that they can’t learn. Or that some poor kids can learn, just not poor black kids. Or whatever.

Education “leaders” in Virginia contend we must lower the standards to meet the kids, not raise those kids to meet the standards.

Virginia’s Secretary of Education’s stated position is that we must do away with achievement tests to mask deficiency in actual learning and rely instead on aptitude tests, which he admits are not available, to find talented children of color.

Secretary Atif Qarni then insists we put them in advanced classes and schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology regardless of their inability to demonstrate that they have mastered the preparation necessary to succeed there.

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Kendi’s Brand of “Anti-Racism” is Unconstitutional

Ibram X. Kendi

by Hans Bader

The Fairfax County Public Schools paid $20,000 to an advocate of racial discrimination against whites, for a 45 minute speech on “anti-racism.” They also are paying bus drivers to drive empty school buses, even as schools operate online. Fairfax County has 1.1 million residents, and runs the largest school system in Virginia.

Its schools told the Daily Wire that Ibram X. Kendi, who advocates discrimination, was invited last month “to speak to school leaders about his book, ‘How to Be an Antiracist,’ as part of the school division’s work to develop a caring culture.”

As the Daily Wire notes, “Under Kendi’s ideology, discriminating against others on the basis of race is a meritorious idea, so long as it is producing racial equity (i.e., anti-racist). Kendi explains this ideology in ‘How to Be an Antiracist,’ his 2019 best-selling book.”

As Kendi puts it, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Continue reading

Fairfax County Tax Dollars at Work

by Asra Q. Nomani

One Thursday morning, in early August, author Ibram Kendi tucked Apple AirPods into his ears and nestled into his seat in front of a camera to chat online in an “exclusive” “conversation” with principals, teachers and staff of Fairfax County Public Schools. An hour later, he was done, and laudatory messages rolled over Twitter, quoting Kendi on “systemic racism,” “the cradle of racism” and “inequity.”

As I reported yesterday in a new column at Quillette, coauthored with attorney Glenn Miller, the price tag for the one-hour call over the Zoom teleconferencing platform? A whopping $20,000, or about $333.33 per minute.

To Fairfax County Public School parents such as Miller and me, paying so much money for a virtual “conversation” is particularly galling considering the fact that Fairfax County Public Schools eliminated the position of outreach coordinator to underrepresented minorities seeking to attend the high school — Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — that our sons attend. In the wake of this failure, we wrote that Fairfax County is forcing through the bureaucracy a lottery system that earns a resounding “F” from community members, including parents, students and alumni.

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The Philosophical Tug of War in K-12 Education – 1988 to Present

E.D. Hirsch. Image: BARBARA KELLEY Wall Street Journal

by James C. Sherlock

Others in this space and I have been asking readers to confront what we oppose: critical theory in education, a Marxist-based philosophy that in its execution is designed to tear down the American culture and start over. We see that philosophy today personified in critical race theory and state-directed intrusions in its favor.

To try to provide historical perspective to some of those discussions, I will offer a brief survey of proponents of a more constructive path for K-12 education, directed specifically to improve the performance of poor minority children.  

The ones I have selected feature the work of, Richard Rorty,  E. D. Hirsch Jr. and Naomi Schaefer Riley. Drs. Rorty and Hirsch were professors at the University of Virginia. 

Dr. Hirsch and Ms. Riley are not exactly what you expect.    

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Anti-Racism Training and Whiteness – Equal Time

by James C. Sherlock

The movement should be allowed to speak for itself. It will do so here.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in its online portal called “Talking About Race,” provided what may qualify as the official list of the characteristics of whiteness. 

The graphic linked below was published by the museum sometime before July 16. The part you may have trouble reading says:

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes, and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States, and since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture—including people of color.”  

It was accompanied by a chart to show what whiteness is.  Click on the link to see a readable version.  

characteristics of whiteness

In one of the six stages of loss that antiracism training features, participants may wish to confess their parts in the listed aggressions.

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Major Impacts of Northam’s War against Teachers

Federal school funding threatened; Democrats and unions in a bind; Lawsuits coming

Timing is Everything

by James C. Sherlock

Ralph Northam declared on August 30 of this year that Virginia’s schools are systemically racist and that teachers are presumptively racist and must be treated and monitored.

In addition to threatening to create turmoil in the schools and damage to the very students he apparently meant to help, the Governor has potentially kicked over a hornets’ nest worse than he stirred up with his infamous infanticide interview that resulted in the release of his blackface yearbook photo. 

And he may have set Virginia up for federal demands for repayments of Department of Education funds and related fines. At stake is a breathtaking amount of money that includes CARES Act funding, all of which has been contingent on compliance with the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The documented facts may also have put Democrats and their allies (in that word’s traditional and critical race theory definitions) in a large political bind.

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Northam Labels Virginia’s Teachers Racists

No word on teacher Pam Northam’s status

by James C. Sherlock

Trouble at the dinner table?

Governor Northam on August 24, 2020 declared Virginia’s schools guilty of systemic (structural) racism and declared his intention to “build antiracist school communities.”  

He was addressing the #EdEquity VA Virtual SummitCourage, Equity and Antiracism hosted by Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

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What Drives Turnover Among School Principals?

Source: Virginia Principal Retention, Attrition and Mobility Study

by James A. Bacon

Most principals of Virginia public schools — 70% — are “generally satisfied” with their jobs, although half work 60 or more hours and two-thirds feel like they spend most of their time solving immediate problems rather than creating great schools. Those are some of the findings of a survey of 467 public school principals by the Virginia Foundation for Educational leadership.

However, one in seven (14%) responded that “the stress and disappointments involved in being a principal at this school aren’t really worth it,” and one out of four (26%) said they did not have as much enthusiasm for the job as when they began. Remarkably, one in ten (11%) answered, “I think about staying home from school because I’m just too tired to go.”

A significant issue for many principals is school discipline. Four out of five (81%) reported the necessity of dealing with student acts of disrespect for teachers at least once a month, and more than half (53%) deal with physical conflicts among students at least monthly. Large percentages also reported student bullying and verbal abuse of teachers. Continue reading

A Backlash at Last

Scene on the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

A message addressed to “Friends of UVA” by Bert Ellis, class of 1975, is passing around virally by email. Reed Fawell posted the message in the comments on a previous post but did not mention Ellis by name. Given the fact that Ellis is a prominent and wealthy alumnus — he is CEO of Ellis Capital — his opinions matter. I am republishing his open letter on the blog because everyone needs to see what has become of “Mr. Jefferson’s University.” — JAB

This is a sign posted on a Lawn Room door right now. It has been up like this for about 2 weeks. I sent the picture to President Ryan a week ago and asked if the University was going to permit such a sign to stay up on such a public place as the Lawn. I told President Ryan that I absolutely support this student’s right to his/her political opinions and hir/her right to express them on his/her Lawn Room door but not the profanity. Ryan responded immediately and told me “We’re working on it”.

This past Friday I went to Cville to knock on this door (room 36 East Lawn) and discuss the sign with the current occupant….if the sign was still there. It was. Not only is the University not going to remove it, they have assigned 2 UVA Ambassadors … to patrol the Lawn and prevent anybody else from taking it down, ie me. The University has determined this is her first amendment right. Continue reading

In the Naming Rights Sweepstakes at UVa’s Ed School, A Sophie’s Choice for the Woke

Mao Zedong

by James C. Sherlock

“Sophie’s Choice” is centered on a scene in Auschwitz where Sophie has just arrived with her ten-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. She loves them both equally. A sadistic doctor tells her that she can only bring one of her children; one will be allowed to live while the other is to be killed.

A reader of an earlier post suggested with tongue in cheek that UVa’s School of Education and Human Development be renamed the Marx School of Re-education.

Three currents have reached “intersectionality” (see Wikipedia’s anti-racism glossary) in renaming Virginia’s Ed School: the theorists – Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory –  and the practitioners – the new Cultural Revolution.

It would insult the leadership of the Ed School to call them theorists.

Accused accurately and publicly of “shoddy scholarship” by the Rector of the University, those worthies may consider them elves street fighters leading a cultural revolution, not academics. If so, they will wear the label proudly. The T-shirts write themselves.

If given only two choices similar to those that faced Sophie, UVA’s Committee for Naming must let Marx go and put Mao’s name on the door.

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A Crisis in Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Virginia

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni – Why is this man smiling”?

by James C. Sherlock

I urge those readers with experience as teachers and anyone else with expertise in education to review  a March 2020 presentation by Patty S. Pitts, Assistant Superintendent Teacher Education and Licensure Virginia Department of Education March 9, 2020. She discusses both reasons for teachers leaving Virginia public schools and the shortfalls in recruitment of their replacements. Her data  did not include the retirements and resignations since COVID.

Consider these data in light of the new expectations of teachers as reflected in the State Board of Education and the School Boards of Virginia Beach and Albemarle County policies written about in this space earlier.

The specific recommendations of the Commission on African American History Education in Virginia relative to professional development of teachers will be reviewed by the Virginia Board of Education on September 17th.

Click on and download those recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education in Virginia.

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Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy – Part 2

Dr. Matthew S. Haas
Superintendent of Schools, Albemarle County

by James C. Sherlock

After I posted yesterday on Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy, I wrote each of the members of that school board.  Still troubled, I wrote them again this morning.  That board is a very distinguished group .   I thus have reason to hope the messages have some effect before the vote on the policy on September 24.  We’ll see.  

Here are the messages.

Yesterday

The Daily Progress reported that you “didn’t ask many questions” on September 10 concerning the pending Draft Grading Policy.   

I have experience in Virginia schools as both a public school teacher and, once retired, as a volunteer tutor in remedial mathematics.  

I read the draft policy closely.  I found considerable cognitive dissonance and large gaps both in the newspaper interviews and in the draft policy.  

This grading policy as written will present teachers with a major challenge to their integrity.   Continue reading

The Albemarle County School Board “Didn’t Ask Many Questions.”

Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education, is pleased

by James C. Sherlock

As sure as the sun rises in the east, the coming woke fix for achievement gaps in schools will be modified grading standards as part of antiracism policies.

Albemarle County is already there. The School Board is poised to approve a new grading policy at its meeting September 24. “During the meeting, board members were pleased with the policy and didn’t ask many questions.”

Readers can be for that or against it, and it may prove a good thing, or not. Proof will be in the execution.

There is no word how college admission offices will perceive and evaluate the grades of applicants from Albemarle County high schools.  Also none on how students transferring from Albemarle County schools to another district or state will be evaluated for proper class placement in their new schools and their grades translated for transcript purposes.

Details to be worked out.

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