Category Archives: Education (K-12)

“Good old TikTok: Chinese spy engine and purveyor of virulent antisemitic lies.” Sen. Josh Hawley

San Francisco High School students enflamed by false report from the NYT (which later offered “nuance”) broadcast worldwide on TikTok #freepalestine that Israel bombed that hospital in Gaza.

by James C. Sherlock

Taylor Lorenz, the estimable young Tech and Online Culture columnist for The Washington Post, has been the author of some of the most important reports on the Hamas-Israel war.

Today, she published with Drew Harwell, a Post reporter covering artificial intelligence and the algorithms changing our lives, “Israel-Gaza war sparks debate over TikTok’s role in setting public opinion.

A pro-Palestinian hashtag, #freepalestine, had … 770 million views over the last 30 days in the United States, TikTok data show.

To longtime TikTok critics like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), that assertion offered further proof that the app, owned by the China-based tech firm ByteDance, is a secretive propaganda engine built to manipulate American teens for Chinese geopolitical goals — in this case, Rubio said, to “downplay … Hamas terrorism.”

The same Post article, attempting balance, reports both the Sen. Hawley quote in the title of this piece and that:

TikTok creators and social media experts say the reality (of reporting on the war) is more nuanced (than critics have asserted).

“Nuanced.” What would we do without “TikTok creators and social media experts”? Continue reading

To Graduate or Not

by John Butcher

The 2023 4-year cohort graduation rates are up on the Virginia Department of Education Web site.

VDOE likes to report its “On-Time Graduation Rate” because it inflates the numbers by counting the nonstandard diplomas. The data below are the “Federal Graduation Indicator” that counts only the Standard, Advanced, and IB diplomas.

On average, Virginia’s economically disadvantaged students (ED) (mostly students who qualify for the free/reduced price lunch program) graduate at rates ca. 9% lower than their more affluent peers (Not ED). The handy VDOE database provides data for both groups.

To start, here are the division average federal ED rates plotted v. the Not ED.

The gold square is Richmond. The orange diamonds are the peer cities, from the left Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton. The green diamonds are the Richmond ‘burbs, from the left Charles City, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover. The aqua circle is the state average (average over all students, the averages of the division averages are slightly different, see below).

The fitted line (with the state average removed and Highland not showing because of the suppressed ED datum) confirms what our eyes tell us: The ED rate is only slightly correlated with the Not ED. Continue reading

What is Actually Taught about the History of the Jews and the Jewish State in Virginia Schools?

German-Israeli woman Shani Louk, whose semi-naked body was paraded through Gaza by Hamas, has been declared dead. Her skull was found separated from her body. Credit Instagram

by James C. Sherlock

What comes first? Sadism or hatred? Does religious radicalism create sadists or do sadists flock there for approval and opportunity?

Some on the radical right and the radical left in the United States share a hatred for Jews.

The radical right may not be able to remember why, but pursue it anyway.

Radical Islam combines Nazi views and medieval sadism and does not hesitate to act them out. Remember the Munich Olympics massacre, 9/11 and the ISIS beheadings? Now Oct. 7th? Any questions?

Virginia’s schools have lessons to teach. Unfortunately it is not clear what the message has been and will be in the future. Continue reading

Tales of Student Success in 2023

by Matt Hurt

Virginia Standards of Learning test results remained rather flat from 2022 to 2023 (see Table 1).  This occurred despite the fact that many considered the pandemic over.  There were many contributing factors, such as (but certainly not limited to) worsening teacher shortages and continued high rates of chronic absenteeism.  However, among Virginia’s one hundred and thirty-one public school divisions, there were certainly some success stories.

Table 1: Virginia SOL Results for 2022 and 2023

Among Virginia’s public school divisions from 2022 to 2023, overall SOL pass rate differences ranged from 8.94% to -9.19%.  Oftentimes it is also useful to compare division rankings from one year to the next as relative measures of performance tend to control for a number of factors.  The division that earned the greatest pass rate rank increase surpassed the performance of thirty-seven other divisions in 2023, while the division with the greatest decrease declined forty-four positions. Continue reading

Crime and Punishment in Charlottesville

by James C. Sherlock

UVa and Harvard are the two campuses most often cited by the national and world press as homes to the worst actors after October 7.

It is easy work.

I posted a column on Saturday making a series of recommendations for actions by the University of Virginia to protect its Jewish community and rid itself of those that threaten it.

That was my response to the infamous support of UVa-funded organizations for the slaughter of innocents in Israel by Hamas, a group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Kill Jews “by any means necessary” they wrote.

Read the column.  I named them.

Now I have been told by the Executive Director of Hillel at UVa, Rabbi Jake Rubin, that the President’s office and law enforcement “have been incredibly responsive, helpful, and present during this difficult time.”

Good start, and Virginians thank them for it, but it does not answer the questions about enforcement of state and federal laws.

So, there is more to do. Continue reading

Voters Will Decide Virginia’s Future Direction

by Derrick Max

In two weeks, the people of Virginia will decide on two competing visions for the future of Virginia. Will they elect a General Assembly favoring Governor Glenn Youngkin’s more freedom-oriented policy vision, or will they elect a General Assembly returning the Commonwealth to the statist policy vision of former governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam?

While much of the current debate in the Commonwealth has focused almost solely on abortion, the number of issues “on the ballot” in this election is much broader and ought to be more closely considered by voters. If readers want a deeper dive into these issues, links to the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s work in these areas are included.

Surpluses are on the ballot in Virginia.

Earlier this year, faced with an historic $5.1 billion surplus, Governor Youngkin and Democrats in the Virginia Senate reached a deal to cut $1.05 billion in taxes and allocate $3.7 billion in new, one-time spending. This $3 in new spending for every $1 in tax cuts is backward.

Budget officials in Virginia just reported that in the first quarter of this fiscal year, surpluses are continuing to be amassed in Richmond. Coupled with the official projections for spending and revenue for the next few years, the next General Assembly will almost certainly be faced with large cash surpluses. Continue reading

The Proper Understanding of the Importance of Education

October 20, 2020.  Fairfax Education Association President asks for Fairfax County Schools to remain closed for 2020-21 school year . Courtesy Fox 5.

by James C. Sherlock

Remember the schools being shut down in Richmond for the entire academic year 2020-21 for COVID?

Remember the teachers union protestations seeking the same outcome elsewhere in Virginia?

Of course you do.

Just a note to put that in perspective.

The IDF’s Home Front Command announced yesterday that Israeli schools and educational facilities across the central region of Gush Dan (Tel Aviv) will resume operations without restrictions starting Tuesday.

Jerusalem schools will also open Tuesday.

Transgender Issues — Whose “Centerpiece,” Youngkin’s or the Post’s?

by James A. Bacon

The latest Washington Post spin on its recent public-opinion poll about transgender issues in Virginia schools is a window into the unconscious biases of WaPo reporters and editors.

Here’s the lead (my emphasis):

Education is an important factor for many Virginia voters this fall, but transgender issues, one of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s most controversial education cornerstones, is a low priority for voters, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.”

A 70 percent majority of registered voters say that education is a “very important” factor in their vote for the Virginia legislature this year, whereas about half as many (34 percent) say transgender issues are very important to their vote.

“I’m not seeing in the data that the trans issue and how that is playing in public schools is a big driver right now in the electorate,” said Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

The message: Youngkin has made transgender policies a “cornerstone” of his education policy, but Virginians aren’t going along. Continue reading

Virginia Beach School Board Adopts Controversial Youngkin Policy

from The Republican Standard

The school board for Virginia’s largest city has adopted controversial guidelines announced by the Youngkin administration.

Under the new rules, teachers and students have the right to call transgender students by their birth name and the pronouns of their biological sex.

The Virginia Beach School Board initially opposed the governor’s order but reversed course on Thursday amid a lawsuit brought by two parents.

As The Virginian-Pilot reports:

“For the past year, the school board and community have been embroiled in a debate surrounding these policies, with LGBTQ advocates arguing the model policies could put transgender and nonbinary students in danger by forcibly “outing” them to unsupportive families or hiding their gender identities. Continue reading

Hatred of Jews at UVa – A Pot Brewed in the Faculty Lounge Boils Over

PHOTOS of smiling infants hang next to their bullet-ridden coat pegs in a bloodstained nursery devastated by Hamas terrorists. A little girl’s bicycle lays in a bullet-ridden yard. Credit

by James C. Sherlock

Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7.

On October 8, this letter was issued in Charlottesville.

“Events” were “a step towards a free Palestine.”

On October 11, President James Ryan issued a strong message condemning the savage Hamas massacre in Israel. He deserves credit for that, but has not gotten it on the grounds of the University.

Also on October 11, Jewish students at the University felt it necessary to address the University community in the Cavalier Daily. Continue reading

The Benefits of School Choice and the Risks in the November Elections

from Liberty Unyielding

The debate over school choice has tended to focus on whether students learn more as a result. But learning improvements from school choice are probably smaller than improvements in other dimensions, such as civic participation, law abidingness, and family stability later in life. Jason Bedrick of The Heritage Foundation notes that “School-choice policies even appear to foster law-abidingness and self-governance. A study by @P_Diddy Wolf & @Corey_DeAngelis found that students participating in Milwaukee’s school choice program saw significant reductions in criminal convictions & paternity suits.” Perhaps private schools have the ability to instill values in ways that the public schools do not.

“When it comes to civic knowledge and skills, 10 studies find a private-school advantage, six find no difference, and none find a government-school advantage,” Bedrick points out. “Some claim government schools are where people of all different backgrounds learn to live and work together. Yet, in the research on political tolerance—a virtue our nation needs direly today—show a 13-1 advantage for school choice over government schooling.”

In the public schools, “Teaching students a historically accurate understanding of our nation’s founding and the role of government is not a priority. Instead, instructional content too often centers on social justice, ethnic studies, and Marxist-inspired Critical Race Theory,” Bedrick says.

Since private schools spend less per student on average than the public schools, school choice also has the potential to save taxpayers a lot of money over the long run. Continue reading

Fairfax School Board Member Opposes Moment of Silence for Israel

from The Republican Standard

Fairfax County School Board Member Abrar Omeish put liberal intolerance on full display during a school board meeting Thursday night.

The Yale-educated Democrat broke into a minutes-long diatribe following a moment of silence held by her colleagues for the victims of Hamas terrorism and the innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives lost:

Thursday wasn’t the first time Omeish disrupted school board proceedings. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she opposed a moment of silence for the victims, implying it was racist and neglected to acknowledge “state-sponsored traumas” inflicted by the U.S. government. Continue reading

“Girls with Pearls” in Petersburg

Courtesy, Most Valuable Kids Program.  Rockdale Academy is in Cincinnati.

by James C. Sherlock

It is important now more than ever to celebrate people doing the right things for the right reasons. Good should be called out where found.

First Lady Suzanne Youngkin has taken helping Petersburg to heart and continues to support multiple initiatives to make that happen.  

She doesn’t have to do that, certainly to the extent that she has done and continues to do. It is clearly personal to her.

She is joining Petersburg Blandford Academy (6th grade of Vernon Johns Middle), Petersburg’s Communities in Schools (CIS), the Petersburg Women’s Club, and a small group of volunteers to bring the “Girls with Pearls” program to that city.

Girls with Pearls is a turn-key, school-based program that fosters leadership to change the outcome for girls by empowering them to plan for a bright future through education, personal responsibility and social awareness.

With those dedicated women and men behind it, Girls with Pearls will help young people become better adults.

They have our thanks and support.

Dumb and Getting Dumber

Two years after the COVID school lockdowns, the collapse in K-12 learning still has significant downward momentum. Of the 1.4 million high school seniors who took the ACT college preparedness test in 2023, the percentage meeting all four benchmarks — English, math, reading, and science — was 20.8% — down 1.3 percentage points from the previous year, according to ACT.

That’s not 21% of all high school graduates, it’s 21% of students who took the exam, which varied from 2% in Maine to 100% in Alabama.

“This is the sixth consecutive year of declines in average scores, with average scores declining in every academic subject,” ACT CEO Janet Godwin said in a press release. “We are also continuing to see a rise in the number of seniors leaving high school without meeting any of the college readiness benchmarks, even as student GPAs continue to rise and students report that they feel prepared to be successful in college.”

In Virginia, a mere 8% of high school graduates took the ACT exams, meaning only a highly self-selected group of college-bound students participated. Here is the percentage of Virginia students meeting ACT benchmarks of having “a high probability of success in credit-bearing first-year college courses”:

English — 83%
Math — 72%
Reading — 61%
Science  — 63%


Another Race Institute at UVa

Kimberly J. Robinson, UVa Professor of Law. Official Photo

by James C. Sherlock

Fund it and they will come.

The Daily Progress reports that thanks to a $4.9 million gift from an anonymous philanthropist, a new “Institute” has been launched at UVa’s School of Law.

The new organization, the Education Rights Institute, plans to

“find ways to improve K-12 education and help educators address the obstacles that face disadvantaged students.”

Staff have been hired and the institute’s first projects are already in development. There will be a star-studded roll out on October 16th.


Hold that thought while you read about the Institute’s leadership, goals and intentions. Continue reading