Category Archives: Education (K-12)

Blood Lead Levels, Classroom Disruption and Dropout Rates

Basophilic stippling (blood poisoning)

by James A. Bacon

It has long been known that lead poisoning in children is associated with higher rates of school suspensions, criminal behavior and other adverse outcomes. Low-income children are up to 12 times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels (BLLs); Black children are more than twice as likely to be lead poisoned as their White peers.

A new study explores the secondary consequences of lead poisoning. What effect do children with elevated BLLs have on their peers? “Because children exposed to lead are more disruptive, have lower achievement, and engage in risky behavior, the effects of lead exposure might spill over to affect everyone in the classroom,” conjecture Ludovica Gazze and two co-authors of “The Long-Run Spillover effects of Pollution: How Exposure to Lead Affects Everyone in the Classroom.”

While a primary purpose of the paper is to illuminate links between pollution and human behavior, it also sheds light on an issue of great interest to Bacon’s Rebellion: the impact of disruptive behavior on school children. As it turns out, Gazze et al. find a significant relationship between students with elevated BLLs and lower high-school graduation rates, SAT-taking rates, and increased suspensions and absences among their peers. Continue reading

VDOE Does Define Educational Equity as Equal Outcomes

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

An African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council (AASAC) was formed by the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020.

It is charged “to develop policy recommendations to advance African American students’ academic success and social emotional well being to inform VDOE priorities and strategies”.

It has proven extremely influential.

I have yet to find an AASAC recommendation that has not been adopted by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) and VDOE in drafting and approving regulations and standards.

Given that track record, I will present below the recommendations presented by AASAC on March 17, 2021, to the Virginia Board of Education’s (VBOE) Special Committee to Review the Standards of Accreditation.

These actual recommendations will perhaps quell some of the controversy on this site about what the left intends for Virginia schools. Continue reading

Marx, White Moral Panic and a White Liberal’s Rosary

Derrick Bell, the father of Critical Race Theory

by James C. Sherlock

A couple of days ago Dick Sizemore-Hall published CRT and Virginia History here.

Dick is an excellent essayist. That one was the exception that proves the rule.

He indicated early in the more-than-1,500 word piece that he would discuss “the legitimacy of this antagonism regarding CRT.” I actually looked forward to hearing his point of view on that subject.

But he never got around to it.

He may actually have forgotten that was what he set out to do. Instead he recited the history of racism in Virginia from the perspective of a white man from Richmond.

He named me several times. Yet he ignored my well-documented position that CRT-driven educational policies threaten the futures of young black students. He wrote instead that people like me either ignore or deny the history of racism.

That was, of course, a classic straw man fallacy. This one has the singular disadvantages of being false and he has ample reason to know it. Continue reading

Do Not Discount the Anger Over School Shutdowns

by James A. Bacon

Arlington County is one of the “bluest” localities in Virginia, exceeded in its propensity to vote Democratic (81% in the 2020 election) only by black-majority cities like Richmond and Petersburg and the Berkeley of the East Coast also known as Charlottesville. (The way things are heading, I soon may be compelled to refer to Berkeley as the Charlottesville of the West Coast.) But the level of dissatisfaction with the Arlington County School Board’s handling of the COVID-19 school shutdown has many Arlington parents up in arms.

I have issues with mainstreaming autistic children with major behavioral problems, but I think it’s a good thing to try if the children can exhibit a modicum of self control. Whatever one’s view of the matter, it is heart-breaking to hear what happened to Reade Bush’s autistic son when deprived of social interaction during Arlington’s fling with distance learning.

As Bush testified to the U.S. House Labor and Education Committee last week, the social isolation was devastating. His son lost sleep, lost social skills, lost his love of learning, and lost his grip on reality. He created an imaginary world with 52 friends. On his ninth birthday, he asked his father, “Daddy, can I die for my birthday?” In November Arlington schools began providing partial in-person learning for students with disabilities, and the lad’s situation has stabilized. But Bush says his son is a full year behind in reading, reports ArlNow.  Continue reading

Combating the Great Awokening

Read about woke math in National Review.

by James A. Bacon

Outside of the People’s Republic of Charlottesville, Northern Virginia is the most lopsidedly Democratic region of Virginia. It is also the most woke, and it is pushing the so-called “equity” agenda in schools more aggressively than anywhere else in the state. But the educrats have over-reached, pushing too far, too fast, and much of the population is up in arms. Insurgent groups are popping up over Northern Virginia, mobilizing support through social media, raising money to take back school boards, and using investigative-journalism techniques to delve into topics that local media refuse to cover.

The Washington Post has covered the Great Awokening in Northern Virginia schools only anecdotally. The region’s dominant newspaper has devoted none of its investigative resources to probing school board machinations and excesses as it has with, say, racism at the Virginia Military Institute. Citizens have been on their own to figure out what is going on.

Fortunately, one of those citizens is Asra Nomani, a parent of a student at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology who became outraged by the Fairfax School system’s equity-driven assault on the school’s admissions practices. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she fought back with the tactics she knew. Linking up with other super-savvy Northern Virginia moms to create Parents Defending Education (see the leadership team here) the India-born Nomani has wielded the Freedom of Information Act like a Gurkha kukri to hack out the story that the mainstream media has been unable or unwilling to tell. Continue reading

VDOE’s Radical Approach to SEL Far Exceeds Its Legislative Mandate

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane is running into fierce public resistance to draft SEL regulations. See the 409 comments so far.  They overwhelmingly oppose what he has offered as a draft SEL instruction in his April 23 memo.

The basic problem is apparent.

The Board of Education/VDOE are citing laws for authority in regulation writing that do not authorize the regulations they publish.

The 2016 Republican-controlled General Assembly approved House Bill 895 and Senate Bill 336, now Code of Virginia § 22.1-253.13:4. Standard 4. Student achievement and graduation requirements subsection D.:

The graduation requirements established by the Board of Education pursuant to the provisions of subdivisions D 1, 2, and 3 shall apply to each student who enrolls in high school as (i) a freshman after July 1, 2018; (ii) a sophomore after July 1, 2019; (iii) a junior after July 1, 2020; or (iv) a senior after July 1, 2021) In establishing graduation requirements, the Board shall:

1. Develop and implement, in consultation with stakeholders representing elementary and secondary education, higher education, and business and industry in the Commonwealth and including parents, policymakers, and community leaders in the Commonwealth, a Profile of a Virginia Graduate that identifies the knowledge and skills that students should attain during high school in order to be successful contributors to the economy of the Commonwealth, giving due consideration to critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship.

Continue reading

The New Racism: Fairfax Schools Edition

In impassioned remarks at a public hearing, Asra Nomani blistered the Fairfax County School Board for its anti-Asian educational policies, as seen in the video clip above. Nomani is well known to Bacon’s Rebellion readers as a leader protesting school board actions to stack the deck for admissions to the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology against high-achieving Asian students in the name of “equity.”

Watch the clip. It’s about three minutes long. Nomani refers to a laughable survey conducted by Fairfax County schools on racial attitudes, which you can read about here. She also refers to the NYC Leadership Academy, an executive “training” firm that indoctrinates school officials in proper thinking about “culturally competent leadership,” which Fairfax schools are paying as much as $467 per hour for training and coaching. You can see the contract here.

— JAB

From Talk-Talk to Spend-Spend

Executive coaching fees

by James A. Bacon

It looks like Fairfax County Public Schools are moving beyond talking about an “anti-racist” agenda and into the implementation stage — and they’re forking out the big bucks to develop “culturally sensitive leadership capacity” among senior executives, principals and staff.

A contract with the NYC Leadership Academy provides for “culturally competent” leadership training. The training costs $6,700 for 15 hours of virtual executive coaching — at the rate of $467 per hour.

School leader training is almost as expensive — $6,800 for 20 coaching hours, or $340 an hour. Continue reading

Could Southlake Happen in Virginia?

Prairie fire

by James A. Bacon

If you ever doubted that school board politics can be a potent electoral issue, look no farther than what happened a few days ago in the Dallas suburb of Southlake. Voters delivered a “resounding victory” — about 70% of the vote — to a slate of school board and City Council candidates opposed to the school system’s implementation of Critical Race Theory under the guise of “diversity, equity & inclusion.”

After two high schoolers used a racial slur on TikTok, local school officials over-reacted by unleashing an “anti-racist” overhaul of the entire educational system. A proposed Cultural Competence Action Plan would weed out microaggressions, subject students to cultural sensitivity training, and infuse the curriculum with anti-racism doctrines associated with Critical Race Theory. The initiative sparked a strong reaction in the area, which, though conservative, had been trending in favor of Democrats in recent congressional elections. Local news outlets expected a close contest, but the results in an election with record turnout were lopsided.

Could what happened in Southlake happen in Virginia? Continue reading

Virginia Needs a Constitutional Amendment to Elect the Board of Education

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) is by far the most powerful and consequential public board in Virginia. It is the only one whose Powers and Duties are defined in the Virginia Constitution.

It was a mistake not to make the members of the Board with such vast and unconstrained powers constitutional officers who stand for election.

We are now seeing what the Board, once appointed and confirmed, can do. It has transformed Virginia’s educational system into a Marxist indoctrination system.  Board members know what they are doing is not only radically transformational, but intensely political and fiercely opposed.

Their work is not only dogmatic, but sloppy. Their use of the English language has been demonstrated here to be severely challenged. Not exactly a trait most look for in a Board of Education.

And they do not care. There is no constitutional reason they should.

The current Board has demonstrated like no other before it that it needs to face the electorate. Virginia will need a constitutional amendment to make the VBOE, who are together more constitutionally powerful than any elected official but the governor, constitutional officials elected by the people.

It is time. Continue reading

VDOE Regulation Officially Nonsensical

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

I am a reasonably experienced and educated man, but sometimes I need help.

I just read the Virginia regulation 8VAC20-23-190. Professional studies requirements for PreK-12, special education, secondary grades 6-12, and adult education endorsements.  

I know, you don’t have to say it.

But anyway, I read it. The full regulation directs how Virginia teacher candidates must be educated. It directs a formal syllabus of 18 or 21 semester hours. VDOE swears that VDOE and the Board of Education wrote it, not the University of Virginia education school, and I take them at their word.

When I was done, I had to go back to Part 5. Classroom and behavior management: 3 semester hours. A key element:

“This area shall address diverse approaches based upon culturally responsive behavioral, cognitive, affective, social and ecological theory and practice.”

Continue reading

Virginia’s Updated “Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students” Has Temporarily Disappeared

James Lane, Secretary of Public Obfuscation and Obstruction Education

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes you just need to go to the documents to see what the Virginia Department of Education is up to. This example will tell you everything you want to know.

Each agency proposing a new or revised regulation is required by Virginia law to post a “Proposed Agency Background Document” on the “Virginia Regulatory Town Hall” website.

Turns out that those postings are occasionally fabulous. This is one of those times. One can see the wheels turning, including when the wheels go off the rails.

I have dissected one of particular interest to parents – Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students [8 VAC 20 ‑ 40]. 

Continue reading

Give ‘Em An Earful

Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to achieving “educational equity” in which every FCPS student thrives academically, socially, and emotionally, and is empowered as “the next generation of change leaders for a more just world,” declares a communique to parents issued today.

A key strategy in advancing that vision is changing teaching practices along with what is taught, states the message from Superintendent Scott Braband. “FCPS will begin by revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy and developing a new Anti-Racism Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”

If you are a Fairfax County resident and fear this new policy becoming a tool of left-wing indoctrination, you’d better speak up. FCPS is conducting a survey to gauge public attitudes. You can take it here.

— JAB

Arlington County School Wi-Fi Crashes

This just came in from a Bacon’s Rebellion correspondent around 10:50 a.m.

“Arlington wifi was out at all schools for the first hour of school today. At home students just sitting there. In school now totally dependent on powerpoint, google slides etc for instruction.”

There is no acknowledgement on the Arlington County Public Schools home page yet, and local news media has not yet reported anything.

This incident may be a fluke. I don’t want to read too much into it. But it could feed into the narrative that the people running Virginia’s public schools can’t get anything right. K-12 schools are shaping up as the biggest election issue of the 2021 electoral season, and this time the argument isn’t, “We need more money for schools.”

12:25 p.m. Update: Wi-Fi restored.

— JAB

Fall Elections Threaten Northam’s Radical Education Team

Qarni

by James C. Sherlock

Politics is a contact sport, and the two people in the Northam administration most likely to be blindsided are Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

I say blindsided — they won’t see it coming — because the hits will come from their own team. This isn’t about whether a reader thinks they have earned it or not. It is about politics.

Lane

I think it likely that Glenn Youngkin will be the Republican nominee for Governor and Jason Miyares the Republican pick for Attorney General.

If so, three things are likely to happen. First, both races will be competitive. Second, voters will turn out in droves in protest of the education policies of the Northam administration. Finally, If Terry McAuliffe, the presumptive Democratic nominee, feels threatened, he will flush Qarni and Lane one way or the other.

They should freshen up their resumes. Continue reading