Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Education Schools Redux

by James C. Sherlock

Dick Hall-Sizemore went to great lengths in an article to rebut one of my own.

He attempted to disprove the two major assertions in my article:

  1. The ed schools have had control of education policy in the Commonwealth and nationally for a very long time. They have in the process made the profession of education in Virginia, both in the preparation stage and the classroom teaching stage over a career, much more expensive and generally maddening for teachers and school staff than it needs be. Ed school careers have been multiplied, assured and profited immensely from the requirements they have sponsored in the General Assembly and the Board of Education.
  2. Democrats in Richmond in the interregnum years of 2020 and 2021 made major changes to the way K-12 education is conducted, and therefore must be taught, in Virginia.

He was right that I should not have mixed politics and the ed school issues.

Dick’s most heartfelt issue is my take on the Democrats’ interventions in education. The Democrats themselves are so publicly proud of what they accomplished in education in the 2020 and 2021 sessions of the General Assembly and in the Board of Education that it seems remarkable to have to prove it to a Democrat.

But so be it. I will now deal with each in turn.

This one is about the ed schools and their death grip on teacher education and promotion in Virginia. And whether they earn their costs. And what the options might prove to be. Continue reading

COVID and the Racial Achievement Gap

by James A. Bacon

Two weeks ago, before I so rudely interrupted myself by taking a vacation in North Carolina, I was engaged in an analysis of the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores. As measured by pass rates, Virginia students statewide recovered much, but not all, of the ground they had lost during the disastrous 2020-21 school year of COVID-driven school closures. However, I showed there was considerable variability between school districts. Some some districts rebounded so smartly that pass rates last year (2021-22) exceeded those of the pre-COVID year of 2018-19. Others showed minimal recovery.

Today, I’ll drill into the data to examine the role of economic disadvantage and race. Rather than explore the “Black/White” divide in scores, as is customary among those who wish to perpetuate the idea of “systemic racism,” I present  data using Asians as the benchmark of performance, compared to whom all other groups — Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics most prominently — fall short.

In the table above we can see that 87.6% of students classified as Asian passed their English SOL tests last year, bringing them back to 98.4% of the pre-COVID norm. Whites recovered to a lesser degree, and Hispanics and Blacks an even lesser degree. Comparing the post-COVID year with the pre-COVID year, the racial achievement gap got worse.

It is widely accepted that the shift from in-person to hybrid and remote learning during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020-21 is largely to blame for the plunge in pass rates across all districts, racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes. However, the variability in performance after everyone returned to school is harder to explain. Continue reading

Challenge Accepted

by James C. Sherlock

I posted a column here based upon government data, specifically the chronic absentee rates of Fredericksburg schools in 2020-21.

The data, not my reporting of it, have been challenged by multiple colleagues as unreliable. They expressed their belief that the data were such outliers that they must have been transcribed improperly by the data entry techs or some other technical issue.

They were so strong in that challenge that the conversation could not move past that point of contention.

My initial reaction to the Fredericksburg data, part of a larger study I am conducting, was doubt as well. So, before publication I re-aggregated them from the individual cohort level at each school and found them internally consistent.

Thus if the data are wrong, they represent an extraordinarily meticulous series of data errors for every racial and gender cohort in each of four schools.

But in response to the challenges of those colleagues, I have taken the article down and submitted it to VDOE for verification of the data and comment.

I expect them to be confirmed.

I will republish the article either way. And we can move on with the conversation either way.

Schools of Education and DOE Regulations–A Closer Look

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I have long been skeptical of Virginia’s teacher licensure requirements in general and of education courses at colleges and universities, in particular.

In this vein, I was eagerly anticipating Jim Sherlock’s series of articles on this blog about teacher licensure and those schools of education. I agree with one of his main premises:  to the extent that schools of education faculty are involved in the drafting of teacher licensure requirements, particularly what should be in a bachelor’s degree in education, those requirements will be heavily tilted toward courses in schools of education, rather than in the field of concentration.

The articles have been disappointing.  For example, the most recent one promises to show “how the rules for licensure of teachers and other school staff have changed and impacted teacher education.”

The article fails to live up to its promise.  It is chock full of assertions and recriminations aimed at Democrats that are backed up by little evidence.  In fact, one of his major pieces of evidence refutes his assertions. Continue reading

What Leadership Looks Like – Teacher Shortages, Learning Losses and Gov. Youngkin

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes you just have to let leaders speak for themselves.

This is one of those times.

Faced with critical teacher shortages and learning losses, I publish here the Governor’s Executive Order 3 and Bridging the Gap: Learning Loss Recovery Plan

I don’t just congratulate the governor, but everyone involved, especially including the fifteen school divisions who agreed to try to become part of the solution in learning losses. Continue reading

The Kids Are Not All Right

by Kerry Dougherty

Remember when they told us students were “resilient”? Remember when they said kids didn’t need to see faces to learn? How about when they claimed remote learning was a fine substitute for in-person classes?

Remember when they said those who wanted schools open were selfish, just wanted babysitters for their kids, or worse, wanted to “kill grandma?” Remember when they said cloth masks protected against Covid?

Well, they were wrong. About all of it. And the kids suffered.

Boy, did they.

The nation’s so-called “report card” was released Thursday morning and even The New York Times — print media’s biggest cheerleader for lockdowns — had to admit that the results of Covid lockdowns were catastrophic for school children.

Their headline is wrong, though. The pandemic didn’t cause learning loss. School closures did. Time to stop conflating hysterical overreactions to COVID with the pandemic itself. The blame for this godawful mess rests squarely on the shoulders of the lockdown lobby. Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Perpetuating Schools of Education

by James C. Sherlock

We are in the midst of a series of articles examining Virginia’s system of schools of education. In this one we will look at how the rules for licensure of teachers and other school staff have changed and impacted teacher education.

Those answers are found in the laws of Virginia and in the Board of Education’s regulations and comprehensive plans. All are political documents written by political organizations.

As we examine them below, we will see that the politicians, on the advice of the schools of education, have made the business of traditional schools of education a sinecure.

In Virginia, those schools have become an integral part of the system of laws and regulations that make them a self-perpetuating system that has no apparent purpose other than to sustain itself. Continue reading

Regulatory Capture of the Board of Education by Virginia’s Schools of Education

By James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s schools of education have for years captured Virginia’s oversight of their profession.

With that power they have reinvented the entire nature of schools and the professional standards for the education and professional conduct of schoolteachers in the Commonwealth.

In the process, they have brought both the schools and schoolteachers to near ruin.

Let’s examine the source of that power.

Continue reading

Virginia’s Schools of Education – Part 1 – Overview of the Upcoming Series

I had barely started a draft of a series on Virginia’s schools of education when it was inadvertently released Saturday.  We took it down when we discovered the error.

by James C. Sherlock

People on both sides of the political divide have acknowledged enormous challenges to Virginia’s pre-K-12 public education system.

Some of the problems we all know about:

  1. poor minority children had disproportionate learning deficits pre-COVID;
  2. poor minority children experienced disproportionate learning losses during COVID;
  3. increasing stress for teachers, parents and students;
  4. teacher shortages.

We just disagree about the causes and appropriate mitigations.

News this series will break for many readers will include:

  1. the meager and declining productivity of Virginia’s schools of education;
  2. the astounding Virginia regulatory requirements for Bachelor of Education teacher training and the meager requirements for student teaching;
  3. the major expansions since 2020 to regulations that govern additional fields of knowledge that both teacher education programs and active K-12 teachers must learn and incorporate into the teaching to their students;
  4. Virginia’s closed loop system of ed school regulatory development;
  5. Alternative routes to licensure to see if all of those regulatory requirements for a Bachelor of Education are really necessary to produce a first-year public school teacher. We will find out that not even the Board of Education thinks they are.

Those are some of the sausage-makings of the train wreck that is the problems that we all can see in our public schools.

We will take a deep dive into both the requirements for and the performance of Virginia’s teacher education system, Virginia’s laws governing that system and its regulation by the Board of Education to see what part those issues play in causing or mitigating the problems we already know about.

In doing so we will discover issues that most of us had no idea about. Continue reading

The Richmond Free Press and the Contrast with Other Progressive Outlets

by James C. Sherlock

I celebrate the Richmond Free Press (RFP).

I discovered that newspaper in a terrific article in Richmond Magazine in 2015.

RFP calls itself a progressive newspaper. And it is. Black progressive.

I find it sometimes, but not always, mirrors the views of the White progressives who dominate the national press.

RFP staff reporters present the news far more straightforwardly than many progressive news outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post and others here, and I find it far more contemplative and locally focused in its editorials.

It is unlike its progressive competitors in many other informative ways.

We will look at a few of them. Continue reading

“Stop with the Drama”

Richmond School Board in happier days. They weren’t smiling last week.

by Jon Baliles

It’s hard to try and figure out where to begin to explain the special School Board meeting held earlier this week in the wake of the news that Richmond Public Schools’ SOL scores dropped dramatically. The state Department of Education released every district’s scores and in the wake of the pandemic, Richmond did not fare well, to put it mildly.

In fact, it is downright troubling and makes you wonder many things: will we recover? How long will it take? Is Jason Kamras the Superintendent to lead us out of this? Can the School Board turn the ship around? I even heard from two people who mentioned the idea of going back to appointing our school board – remember the Gang of 26 letter and subsequent kerfuffle? Talk about a can of worms for another day.

So, on the heels of the bad news and scores, a special School Board meeting was called for Tuesday, on just a few days’ notice, with no agenda; but rumors quickly swirled about the Board firing the Superintendent. Things moved quickly from bad to worse.

Monday you had the Mayor tweeting his way into the debate, saying that firing Kamras would be catastrophic for the schools. Parents got upset that such talk was even being considered just a week before the school year kicks off. Teachers made it known they were upset with the curriculum they are told to teach and that it doesn’t help kids, and all the speculation was about if and when the hammer would fall. Continue reading

Canceling Student Debt Accentuates the Class Divide

by Chris Saxman

The big news of the week was President Biden’s announcement that he was canceling a lot of student higher education debt. #IsItLegal?
Here are three non-judicial-branch reactions to the Biden plan:

The Washington Post Ed Board:

The loan-forgiveness decision is even worse. Widely canceling student loan debt is regressive. It takes money from the broader tax base, mostly made up of workers who did not go to college, to subsidize the education debt of people with valuable degrees. Though Mr. Biden’s plan includes an income cap, the threshold does not reflect need or earnings potential, meaning white-collar professionals with high future salaries stand to benefit….

Mr. Biden’s student loan decision will not do enough to help the most vulnerable Americans. It will, however, provide a windfall for those who don’t need it — with American taxpayers footing the bill.

President Obama’s Chairman of Council Economic Advisors: Continue reading

About Those SOL Numbers….

Matt Hurt, director of the Comprehensive Instructional Program coalition of rural school districts, provided detailed feedback on a recent post, “School Districts’ COVID Recovery Varied Widely.” His comments contribute significantly to the discussion of the impact of  COVID school closures in 2020-21 on Standards of Learning test scores in 2021-22, so, I republish them with minor modifications here. — JAB

by Matt Hurt

According to my calculations, 47% of the variance among overall division pass rate differences in 2021 was due to the amount of in-person instruction offered combined with the poverty rate of the division.

When I discussed this with our teachers and administrators, it seemed to explain a lot. The way that they put it, kids of affluent parents tended to have the supports in the home to make sure the kids attended to their work when they were participating in virtual instruction. Kids who live in poverty were much less likely to have anyone standing over them making them do their work. Given this situation, these kids found much more engaging activities in which to invest their time than school work. I suspect that the amount of in-person instruction in 2021 did affect the 2022 outcomes, but I haven’t had the time to calculate that yet. Continue reading

Taking Food From Needy Children to Advance the Trans Agenda

by Kerry Dougherty

This ought to be the number one campaign issue in the U.S. right now: the Biden administration’s radical plan to starve the National School Lunch program unless states adopt far-left gender identity rules for schools that include allowing biological boys to compete in girls’ sports.

This outrageous federal blackmail leaves states struggling to choose between protecting girls and keeping needy children from going hungry.

And it’s just another case of a federal agency — this time the USDA — exceeding its authority. How many times will Biden’s out-of-control bureaucrats have to be smacked down by the U.S. Supreme Court before they stop illegally exercising powers not delegated to them by Congress?

Twenty-two Republican attorneys general sued Tuesday to block the Agriculture Department’s newly announced guidance making student-lunch funds contingent on enforcing the Biden administration’s gender-identity agenda. Continue reading

A Chance for Petersburg

Credit: Urban News Weekly

by James C. Sherlock

The Youngkin administration is doing an unalloyed good thing the exact right way. In partnership with two Democrats.

The Governor, in an extraordinary joint presentation with his cabinet secretaries and Democratic Mayor Samuel Parham, laid out a plan for broad state help to Petersburg.

Standing on the stage with Democratic State Senator Joe Morrissey.

Parham, speaking to reporters, said

Governor Youngkin is the first to step down here and say that he is going to put all of his resources in a city to move the dial to create prosperity here in the city of Petersburg. Democrats and Republicans working together — that’s what makes Virginia special.

Occasionally. Continue reading