Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Unconstitutional Viewpoint Discrimination in Virginia K-12 Teacher Evaluation Standards

Daniel Gecker Esq., President of the Virginia Board of Education. Appointed to the Board of Education by Governor Terry McAuliffe and reappointed to a four year term by Governor Ralph Northam. Date of expiration of appointment – June 30, 2023

by James C. Sherlock

Progressives, in the fullness of their dogma, oppose the entire Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights is specifically structured to limit the powers of government, which progressives find not only unsuitable, but unimaginable.

In the Golden Age of Progressivism in Virginia, 2020 and 2021, they controlled the governor’s mansion, the General Assembly, the Attorney General’s Office and all of the state agencies.

With total control, they took flight.

They have always known what seldom occurs to conservatives not prone to offend the Bill of Rights.

With total control of state government, progressives can enact and have enacted laws, regulations and policies that violate both the federal and state constitutions.

They know it will take a decade or more for courts to push back. Meanwhile they can call opponents “haters.”

After which the worst that can happen is that nobody is held accountable. Except the taxpayers.

I just exposed unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in the University of Virginia’s hiring process. that was implemented starting in 2020.

The same fertile progressive imagination is also present in the Board of Education’s new (in 2021) Standard 6. “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equitable Practices performance indicators” (starting on page xv) in “Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers(Guidelines). Continue reading

Stop Coddling Bad Kids

by Kerry Dougherty

I have a new hero. I don’t know her real name but in her Southeast Washington D.C. neighborhood, they just call her “Grandma.”

Last Friday Grandma was on her way to chemo when a 15-year-old punk walked up and ordered her to hand over her car keys.

“I have a gun,” he said.

“Baby, you’d better shoot me because you’re not taking my car,” she shot back.

A struggle ensued — Grandma’s hand was sliced by the keys — but she screamed for help and help arrived. Her grandson and some other neighborhood boys heard the commotion, and ran to her defense.

The would-be car jacker was taken away in an ambulance.

Score one for the good guys. And for Grandma.
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For Your Consideration: An Intellectual Freedom Protection Act

by James C. Sherlock

I offer for your consideration the text of a draft Intellectual Freedom Protection Act proposed this morning by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

FIRE is the leading American voice supporting academic freedom, free speech and due process. In doing so they defend democracy itself.

They are what the ACLU was before that organization abandoned the field as an impartial supporter of civil liberties to pick a side.

FIRE defends left and right equally.

I have below eliminated the preamble of the draft law for brevity. Lawyers can find the legal precedents referenced in the preamble here. Continue reading

Richmond’s Crime-Infested Neighborhoods, Terrible Public Schools and Equity

What would MLK say?

by James C. Sherlock

It’s Black History Month. Even in Richmond.

As a contribution, I am going to review the facts on the ground in Richmond — in its most crime-ridden neighborhoods and its worst public schools.

Which are overwhelmingly Black. And co-located.

In a city with a Black mayor and a Black school board. And a Black Commonwealth’s Attorney, Colette Wallace McEachin, who, since 2019,

has helped to make Richmond a safe, just and equitable city for all, including victims, witnesses and offenders.

Her office offers many alternatives to incarceration for most non-violent offenders.

She really wrote that. And she has “worked toward dismantling “the school to prison pipeline.” Excellent news.

But, in the real world, Richmond schools and many neighborhoods are beyond tragic.

That doesn’t mean order cannot be restored. Or that poor Black children from dangerous neighborhoods can’t learn.

NYC charter schools have proven for years that Black kids from the very same type of disadvantaged, dangerous neighborhoods that some of the Richmond kids call home can succeed at the highest level.

It just means the Richmond kids from tough neighborhoods don’t learn.

We are going to look at what are measured as the 10 most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Richmond, where the kids from these neighborhoods go to school, and the performance of those schools.

And see what we see.

It is a nightmare. Continue reading

New York Previews the Virginia Politics of Charter Schools

Success Academy kids in line entering their NYC school. Courtesy NY Post. Credit Steven Yang

by James C. Sherlock

I am no stranger to writing about charter schools in Virginia.

The half-dozen or so we have in the state have no effect, and expansion is blocked by the fact that charters in Virginia have to be approved by division school boards.

Which are elected by teachers, not students.

The result, very predictably, is that the places that need them most, the horrible schools in Virginia’s minority-majority cities, have exactly one charter. Total.

Charter school politics among the progressive minority politicians who dominate those school boards match that of the Democratic majorities in both houses of the New York State Assembly. For the same reasons.

New York City, as written about in an extensive series by the New York Post, illustrates both the advantages and the political challenges of charter schools in an urban environment.

The people of that heavily Democratic city have exceptional experiences with and have created long waiting lists for the 275 public charter schools already operating in the city that enroll 142,500 students (with tens of thousands on waiting lists), 15% of all public school kids in the city.

Voters polled want more charter schools by a ratio of two to one.

Every New York Governor since George Pataki has supported charter schools. Former Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, pushed through a charter school expansion with the backing of then-President Barack Obama.

Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul is proposing as many as 100 more in her budget.

She ran on a pro-charter platform. She won by 6% against a Republican candidate who also supported increasing the current cap (275 in NYC, 460 statewide) on charter schools.

From the NY Post:

Roughly 80% of charter students are from low-income families, and 90% of them are black or Latino, according to the non-profit Charter Center.

You would think her proposal for charter school expansion would sail through the New York State Assembly, with Democratic super-majorities in both houses.

You would be wrong. Continue reading

“Social Justice” Comes for Henrico’s Gifted Program

by James A. Bacon

Here we go again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch is using “statistical disparities” as evidence of racial bias in Henrico County schools.

Under pressure from federal authorities to address racial disparities, Henrico County is endeavoring to enroll more students from minorities in the county’s “gifted” programs. States the article: “The Richmond Times-Dispatch reviewed annual reports on the demographics of the Henrico students identified as gifted and compared them with the division’s enrollment demographics…. As of the 2021-22 school year, Asian and white students were 4.9 times and 3.5 times likelier than Black students to be determined gifted.”

Why does such a disparity exist? Black parents in Henrico, wrote the RTD, claim that Black students are not being identified as gifted due to behavioral issues, according to an external audit of the program.

The article leads with a story of a bright biracial lad whose teachers acknowledged that he was mathematically gifted but did not admit him into Henrico’s gifted program on the grounds of immaturity. He acted out because he was bored by remote learning during the COVID shutdowns, said his mother, Amanda Reisner. “That didn’t set right by me. Maturity has nothing to do with giftedness.”

Reisner’s remark raises an interesting question of whether students (of whatever race) should be denied admittance to a gifted program if they are unable to conform to expected behavioral standards. But let’s set that aside and focus on how the RTD uses statistics to make admissions into the gifted program a racial issue. Continue reading

362 is more than 273

by Joe Fitzgerald

Take our word but not our numbers, Bluestone Town Center (BTC) backers seem to say

The moral of this story is: what the City Council doesn’t know won’t hurt the HRHA.

When I first heard about the scope of the BTC, I did some quick arithmetic and came up with an astronomical estimate of how many new K-12 students it would generate. I was wrong; the total was merely stratospheric.

Perhaps unwilling to accept the blog post of an ex-mayor, HCPS created its own model and discovered my revised numbers were pretty close. (For the record, proving me right is not why they created it.) They came up with a model that said 322 new students.

Worth noting, HCPS provided two sets of numbers. One was if they applied their model to 900 new housing units in Harrisonburg, and the second if they applied it to 900 in the southwest corner of town. The difference wasn’t significant. What was significant was the effort to share all relevant information.

In October, HRHA pointed out to HCPS that 60 of its units were for seniors, so HCPS reconfigured the estimate. (Because there’s a hell of a lot of H’s in this history, let me help: HRHA is Harrisonburg Redevelopment Housing Authority, and HCPS is still Harrisonburg City Public Schools. HRHA is partnered with EquityPlus, or EP, to apply for a rezoning to build BTC.)

The new estimate from HCPS was down to 273. A little more than half an elementary school.
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Virginia’s PreK-12 Educational Goals?

by Matt Hurt

For any organization to be successful, there must be clearly defined goals based on the desired outcome. The goals must be measurable, and the measure(s) of progress must also be defined. The greater the focus is maintained on those goals, the more likely the organization will attain them.

Virginia’s educators are at a disadvantage in that the goals (identified as priorities) laid out in the Board of Education’s Comprehensive Plan do not identify student outcome targets. The mission adopted by the Board (page 5) mentions the improvement of student achievement, but how much improvement is considered sufficient is not defined anywhere in the document. This document also does not specify any measures of student achievement that could be used to determine whether or not the board is accomplishing its mission.

The lack of adopted student outcome goals and measures could be a significant factor in the declines in student achievement in the past five or so years. Much has been written about the recent and significant decline in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in 2022, but student outcomes as measured by SOL tests were generally in decline prior to the pandemic. The only SOL scores that improved were in math, and then only because the Board of Education significantly lowered cut scores with the newest SOL test in 2019, which had the effect of making the new tests easier to pass.

There have been a number of decisions made by the Board in recent years that have been inconsistent with practices which improve student outcomes. These decisions in effect lowered the expectations for Virginia’s students and educators. Rarely do outcomes improve when expectations are lowered. For example, the degree to which student outcomes were calculated into teacher and administrator evaluations was decreased from 40 percent of the evaluation to no less than 10 percent in 2019. Also, that same year, the Board lowered the SOL cut scores in math, which effectively lowered the expectations in that subject. Two years later, the Board similarly lowered the cut scores in reading.
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Peak Insanity: Why Schools Shouldn’t Teach the Dangers of Communism

by James A. Bacon

HB 1816 would require the governor to annually issue a proclamation declaring November 7 each year to observe Victims of Communism Day to honor the approximately 100 million souls who died at the hands of communist regimes. The bill also would require the history and social science Standards of Learning to emphasize the dangers of communism in classroom instruction.

There may be legitimate reasons for objecting to the bill. But they are emphatically not the reasons given by the Virginia Education Association (VEA) representative shown in the clip above. Here’s a transcript of her remarks:

The VEA opposes this bill. Four out of the five current communist regimes are in countries that are in Asia. We are concerned that this bill would subject Asian-American students to anti-Asian sentiments.

Continue reading

Virginia Math SOLs: Science vs. Common Core

By Rick Nelson

Parents depend on schools to prepare their children with the skills needed in the global economy. In Virginia public schools, K-12 instruction is governed by the Standards of Learning (SOLs). Between 1995 and 2015, our math SOLs were based on “best practices” identified by scientists who study how the brain learns mathematics.  Listening to cognitive experts worked.  In national testing, Virginia’s math test scores rose to rank in the top 10% of the nation. Continue reading

Government Actors Try to Deflect, Deny and “Move On” from Failures During COVID

Courtesy CBS rendering of two CDC spring of 2021 survey findings about American high school girls reported Monday, Feb 13, 2022

by James C. Sherlock

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in full self-defense mode.

CDC and the left backed, indeed insisted, upon social isolation during the pandemic.

Now they deflect and deny agency in the consequences. They continue to try to insulate themselves from the catastrophic educational and mental health effects on children and adolescents of that social isolation.

A weakened CDC Director is pledging to overhaul the agency and its culture, a backhanded admission of the unimaginably bad performance of CDC during COVID.

The entrenched bureaucracy that is that agency and its culture is admitting nothing. They are counting the days until she leaves.

So, if experience counts for anything, we pretty much know how the CDC “overhaul” will work out.

Virginia is due for the same sort of review of state actions during COVID.

The Northam administration stumbled badly at nearly every new turn after failing to either exercise or implement Virginia’s own pandemic emergency plan. Which was excellent and predicted nearly exactly the course of events.

Then they tried to cover up the existence of that plan itself.

I am not sure that such a review is forthcoming. If it is, it will be preemptively be declared political. It must be done anyway.

The federal government, under progressive management, is “moving on.”

Or trying to.

I hope Virginia government does not make the same mistake. Continue reading

Woke Army Puts American Hindu Mom in Its Crosshairs

Suparna Dutta

by Asra Nomani

A Woke Army of far-left activists and leaders from the mosque that once hired radical imam Anwar Al-Awlaki put a mother in their crosshairs: Suparna Dutta, a brave immigrant who has advocated for the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, democracy, and meritocracy.

In a reprehensible display of bigotry and xenophobia, Virginia Democrats voted on Tuesday, Feb. 7, to reject Suparna’s nomination to the Virginia Board of Education, after Sen. Ghazala Hashmi accused her of alignment with “white supremacy.”

These are the new Southern Democrats — mimicking the bigotry of their predecessors.

You can’t make this up.

In a statement, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who nominated Dutta, criticized the “Democrats’ partisan rejection of qualified appointees,” including with the Parole Board and Board of Health.

“In an appalling show of partisanship, today Senate Democrats attacked the integrity of three highly qualified members of my administration,” said Youngkin. Continue reading

Bias and Risk in Behavioral Polls and Studies – A Cautionary Tale for Public Policy

Courtesy WebIndia

by James C. Sherlock

Here at BR, both the authors and commenters spend a great deal of time discussing the outcomes of behavioral polls and studies.

Taxes, mandates, and bans are behaviorally informed. As are most public policies.

But behavioral science adds levels of risk and bias much more prevalent than in the hard sciences.

As a citizenry, we generally understand that polls that predict future behavior can prove unreliable because we see political polling.

Most expect polls about how we feel about our lives to be imperfect, but not purposely so. Yet some polls are designed to support a specific political position.

We probably understand a lot less about the risks and biases in behavioral studies that govern most public policy, because assessing them requires technical expertise most, including most elected politicians and political observers do not possess.

Which is a key reason such policies often go wrong. Continue reading

No Better Time to Instill Financial Literacy in Black and Brown Virginian Youth

by Sherifah Munis

Racial systemic inequalities have recently been brought to the forefront of our national conscience, shedding light on the centuries of policies that have disadvantaged Black and Brown Americans’ ability to build, maintain, and pass on wealth. A striking 2019 statistic shows that the median family wealth (the difference between gross assets and liabilities) for White Americans was $188,200 compared to $24,100 for Black Americans and $36,100 for Hispanic families.

One area of resounding disparity is the inequality between Black and Brown Americans and their White counterparts regarding access to and knowledge of financial literacy – the ability to understand and apply financial skills related to personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. This gap is evident in the research on Black Americans with regard to low home ownership, low participation in the financial marketplace, high credit card and student loan debt, and expensive credit card behavior (such as paying minimum fees, incurring late fees, and taking cash advances).

The financial literacy education in U.S. public schools is inconsistent across states, often integrated into history or other social studies curricula, or only offered as an optional topic. The good news is the Virginia Board of Education approved one standard unit of credit in economics and personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation beginning with students who entered ninth grade in fall 2011. However, as a mom of teenagers, I noticed first-hand that the personal finance classes my kids participated in were varied in that an economics class fulfilling the personal finance requirement didn’t necessarily teach how to create a budget, or what it takes to build and maintain credit, etc. One potential solution to this problem is a standardized, culturally-relevant, and youth-oriented financial literacy program.
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Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Virginia Public Schools – The Epidemic of Risky Behaviors and Experiences in Adolescents

Courtesy YouTube

by James C. Sherlock

The 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011–2021 , was released by the CDC on Monday, provides the most recent surveillance data, as well as 10-year trends, on health behaviors and experiences related to adolescent health and well-being among high school students in the United States.

The survey was completed in the Spring of 2021.

The report writes that teen girls are “engulfed in a growing wave of violence and trauma.”

 

Illustrations courtesy of CBS

This survey is brought to you by CDC, the national sponsors of school shutdowns. Who could have imagined?

The survey did not include middle- and grade-school students, but we can assess that such conditions did not spring up full grown in the 9th grade.

Where, exactly, are the feminists? Especially the ed-school feminists? Like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) cheerleader Professor Catherine Bradshaw at the UVa School of Education and Human Development.

PBIS in place in most schools in Virginia and across the nation in that same 10-year period by design keeps violent and dangerous students in schools.

It is what PBIS is supposed to do. So those students can be socialized.

Or not.

That survey should, but will not, put to rest progressive insistence that out-of-control violence among students and fear in American schools because of violence are figments of conservative imaginations.

It confirms that increasing absenteeism is linked to fear. Which progressives will also continue to deny. Continue reading