First, Stuart Taylor and Ed Yingling (with Princetonians for Free Speech) got a column published Monday in the Wall Street Journal about the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance. Fox News followed with a story yesterday (seen above). Since then, Inside Higher Ed, the leading higher-ed trade publication, has run a news story of its own.
The response has been fantastic. Yingling has been overwhelmed with inquiries. The number of subscribers to The Jefferson Council blog jumped 50% overnight.
If anyone in Virginia has an interest in starting a university alumni group to address issues centered on free speech and intellectual diversity, check out the Alliance website. Or contact Yingling directly at edyingling[at]comcast.net. Continue reading
Letter from Bert Ellis, president of The Jefferson Council to All Friends of the University of Virginia.
I am writing this letter as Bert Ellis, a passionate Double Hoo (College ‘75, Darden ‘79) and as a Founder and President of The Jefferson Council. Our University is under attack from multiple sources and at multiple levels. The entire academic and community experience that so many of us shared at UVA is totally at risk. Our Administration has totally politicized the entire university to the detriment of all that we hold dear. Continue reading
By Donald Smith
This past summer, Washington and Lee University decided to keep Robert E. Lee’s name as part of the college’s name. Sentiment to keep Lee’s name was strong in and around Lexington. “Retain The Name” signs were commonplace. It’s not too late to trot those signs out again, to retain — or save, actually — another prominent name in Lexington and Virginia’s history — Stonewall Jackson.
Jackson’s name is carved into one of the arches at the Virginia Military Institute’s Old Barracks. The arch is commonly referred to as “Jackson Arch.” This past May, the VMI superintendent recommended that Jackson’s name be removed from the arch, and the Board of Visitors concurred. The stated reason: “certain venerations to the ‘Stonewall’ persona were overstated within the context of his contributions to VMI.”
Removing a sign is one thing — as long as you can remove it intact and undamaged. But what if you can’t remove it intact? Continue reading
Source: Virginia Department of Education
by James A. Bacon
Virginia schools, like schools across the country, experienced an educational meltdown during the COVID-19 epidemic. The relatively comforting news is that, according to Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s graduating seniors significantly out-performed their peers nationally. Fifty-six percent of Virginia test takers met all four of the college-readiness benchmarks — English, Reading, Math and Science — compared to 25% nationally.
Here’s what Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane had to say about the results: “Given the impact of the pandemic on participation, the latest ACT results represent a snapshot of achievement during a challenging year. But even so, the ACT – like the more widely taken SAT – shows that Virginia students continue to demonstrate a much higher level of college readiness than their peers nationwide.”
Arguably, the ACT scores show no such thing, a point I’ll get around to making in a moment. But let’s pause and consider the implication of that fact that only 56% of test takers showed across-the-board college readiness. That’s out of the mere 9% of Virginia high school seniors who took the test — presumably those who are most serious about attending college. What does it say about the quality of education when only 56% of those students are fully college ready?
Janet Godwin, CEO of the nonprofit ACT organization, sounded downright pessimistic in the ACT press release summarizing the national results (my bold face): Continue reading
Protest at a Loudoun County school board meeting. Photo credit: Loudoun Now.
by James A. Bacon
It became national news when the National School Board Association (NASB) asked the Biden administration to investigate threats and violence against school board members around the country. The Justice Department announced it would collaborate with the FBI and local law enforcement to prosecute criminal behavior. The views of the national association did not reflect the views of at least 13 state organizations, including Virginia’s, reports National Review.
The Virginia School Boards Association made clear in a letter published last week that it provided no information to the national organization and was never informed that a letter would be sent. The NASB was not the first decision with which the Virginia association disagrees, the Virginia group wrote, and it “probably will not be the last.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is ramping up for the 2022 Virginia School Survey of Climate and Working Conditions early next year. (Hat tip: Jim Sherlock) The survey is an annual exercise to gauge perceptions of safety, discipline, and working conditions in public schools. I have no idea whether the findings from this annual survey percolate up to top decision-makers in Northam administration, but the VDOE bureaucracy dutifully conducts the survey and posts its findings.
The results for the 2020 school year, based on 107,000 student surveys obtained from 299 high schools, are posted online. As you read the findings highlighted below, ask yourself the question, how do these responses comport with common assertions of systemic racism in Virginia schools?
The vast majority of students (94%) reported that there was at least one teacher or other adult at their school who really wants them to do well and 74% said there was an adult at school they could talk with if they had a personal problem.
Image credit: Facebook.com/ControversialFiles
by James A. Bacon
Yesterday I noted polling of the race for governor in which Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin showed remarkable strength among minorities — 25% support from Blacks and 55% from Hispanics — along with a shrinking majority of Whites. That poll might have been an outlier, so I don’t want to make too much of it. But, if it is a fair representation of popular sentiment, it lends credence to the idea that American politics is undergoing a seismic realignment, and we’re seeing that realignment here in Virginia.
For most of my life, Democrats were viewed as the party that stood for the interests of the “working man” and minorities, especially Blacks. Republicans were seen as representing the interests of the overwhelmingly white middle and moneyed classes. That’s rapidly changing. Increasingly, the Democratic coalition encompasses a highly educated White vanguard allied with the “marginalized” elements of society against the interests, represented by Republicans, of the broad working class and middle class regardless of race or ethnicity.
The key to understanding this transfiguration is what I have referred to often as the “political class” — most recently in a post headlined, “Parents and the Political Class.” In that post, I suggested that the aims of the political class were antithetical to the interests of the middle class.
In the comments, Bacon’s Rebellioncontributor Dick Hall-Sizemore asked me what I meant by “political class.” It’s a reasonable question. The meaning is not self evident, but understanding the nature of the political class is fundamental to comprehending the deep structure of society and politics underlying the daily headlines. Continue reading
Virginia’s “Lewis and Clark” energy future calls for an adaptable energy policy responsive to new information as it is gathered.
by Bill O’Keefe
Politicians are not known for engaging in reflection or looking back on legislation, but they should. The experience that Europe is having with its version of the Virginia Clean Economy Act is the reason why. Presently, Europe is experiencing energy shortages and surging prices. Some of this turmoil is due to global forces but some is due to energy decisions that European nations have made, in particular the decision to move rapidly to renewables and eliminate coal, nuclear and natural gas as major sources of electricity.
Green ideology blinded Germany and other European countries to the fact that wind and solar don’t provide around-the-clock reliable sources of energy. This summer there have been extended periods of low or no wind. Last winter, European nations experienced colder-than-normal temperatures which had the effect of reducing both solar and wind power and leading to steep price increases. Without reliable and commercially viable electric storage systems, renewables are vulnerable to cloud and snow cover and periods of low wind.
The General Assembly and Dominion Energy would do well to take a close look at Europe’s experience and determine how Virginia can avoid a similar fate. One important lesson is that major transitions are complex and beset with many uncertainties. Another is that government has at best a mixed record when it comes to industrial policy. Continue reading
This is third in a series of articles about Virginia’s Standards of Learning assessments.
by Matt Hurt
Teachers play a central role in the education of our students. Therefore, it is important to identify the characteristics of effective teachers, especially those who demonstrate success at educating at-risk students.
Prior to the COVID epidemic, the Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP), an independent consortium of mostly rural school systems, held fall meetings in which teachers shared resources and strategies, vented to peers, cried on each other’s shoulders, and generally supported one another. While some detractors believe that teaching is a pie job, nothing can be further from the truth. If teaching were easy, there would be no teacher shortage. Education is a people business, and people are messy. Teachers must effectively deal with problems their students bring into class before they can make sure their students attain the required skills. They must also deal with a host of organizational and school culture problems.
In these fall meetings, the teachers most successful at helping at-risk students, whether those who had disabilities or were economically disadvantaged, were called out in front of the group and asked how they helped their kids pass the SOLs. In every instance, they would relate three things in common — curriculum alignment, relationships, and expectations. Continue reading
by Marilyn Rainville
As a retired teacher and mother of two raising a school-aged grandson, I am concerned about what is being taught in the Virginia’s public schools. Two weeks ago, I spoke at a Mathews County School Board meeting to voice my concerns about Critical Race Theory.
The school Superintendent declared that our county does not teach CRT. However, she told me that Virginia does require faculty professional development in the area of “Culturally Responsive Teaching” and “Equitable Practices,” which it links to teacher licensing and annual evaluations. Culturally Responsive Teaching is derived from Critical Race Theory!
A February teacher-training workshop on Equity and Culturally Responsive Teaching in Virginia Beach was leaked to the internet on rumble.com. Several Black presenters were indoctrinating White teachers about racism. Each one repeatedly told the White teachers that they were racist and that all White people are racist. One woman continually tried to persuade the audience to admit they were racist. “One of the most freeing things that White people can do,” she said, “is say ‘of course I’m racist.'” Continue reading
This is the second in a series examining Virginia’s Standards of Learning.
by Matt Hurt
In the 2013-2014 school year school superintendents in Virginia’s Region VII, a region encompassing Southwest Virginia, began to focus on declining student pass rates during their monthly regional meetings. The Virginia Board of Education had recently adopted more rigorous Standards of Learning in Math and Reading and implemented much more difficult Technology Enhanced Items on those new SOL tests.
School board budgets had been slashed since the Great Recession of 2008. Many central office positions had been merged through reduction in staff, and those who were left had to attend to the administrative requirements of state and federal mandates. Therefore, the superintendents decided to pool their resources and their talents by creating a consortium, the Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP).
The mission of the CIP was simple: to improve student outcomes as measured primarily by Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests. Initially, data was analyzed to determine which division was the most successful on each SOL test. The most successful teachers of the most at-risk students in that division (as determined by SOL results) were recruited, and they spent the 2014-2015 school year sharing their pacing guides, instructional materials, and assessments, all of which were posted online for others to use. During the first year of implementation (2015-2016), the divisions that used the common pacing guides and common assessments realized greater gains in reading, writing, math, science, and history SOL tests than any other region in the state. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
None of us ever knows when we will need a nursing home for ourselves, our parents or our kids. Yes, kids.
While long-term nursing care is mostly for older patients, skilled nursing facilities are needed for patients of all ages, including children, for shorter term post-op treatment and recovery.
The patients in many of Virginia’s nursing homes suffer greatly from a combination of known bad facilities and a lack of government inspections. The health and safety of patients in those facilities are very poorly protected by the state.
In this series of reports I am going to point out some nursing homes (and chains) whose records will anger you. Government data show some have been horrible for a very long time in virtually every region in the state.
Those same records show that Virginia is years behind on important, federally mandated health and safety inspections.
VDH’s Office of Licensure and Certification doesn’t have enough inspectors — not even close. And the government of Virginia — officially based on budget data — not only does not care but is directly and consciously responsible.
When I am done reporting on my research I suspect you will demand more inspectors.
You will also reasonably ask why the worst of them are still in business when the Health Commissioner has the authority to shut them down.
Good question. Continue reading
Posted in Children and families, Efficiency in government, Ethics, ethics, General Assembly, Governance, Government Oversight, Health Care, Long Term Care and Nursing Homes, Money in politics, Public safety & health, Uncategorized
Tagged James Sherlock
This just in… Despite the travails of the COVID-19 epidemic and distance learning last year, 93% of Virginia students who entered the 9th grade in 2017-18 earned their diplomas and graduated within four years, the Virginia Department of Education announced today.
Actions by the State Board of Education and “the emergency waivers I issued last year,” said Superintendent of Education James Lane, “ensured that students were not prevented from graduating by pandemic-related factors beyond their control.”
Question: What percentage of students actually mastered the subject matter required to earn a diploma? Is a Virginia high school diploma worth the paper it’s printed on? Will students enter the workforce with unrealistic expectations regarding their capabilities? How many college-bound students will require remedial education? Is Virginia, in its striving for “equity,” achieving its goal by abandoning all standards?