Election’s Over; Time to Govern

Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The fall in the NAEP test scores of Virginia fourth-graders is alarming. A decrease itself is not surprising; in fact, it was expected in the wake of the disruption in schools caused by the pandemic. It is the magnitude of the decrease that is surprising and alarming.  That it was the largest decrease in the country is also embarrassing.

Governor Youngkin declared it “catastrophic” and proceeded to blame his predecessors.

It should be pointed out that the Northam administration and the “mainstream media” had begun sounding alarms several years ago. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, much criticized on this blog, declared in 2018 that “Virginia’s failing grade on reading SOLs must not be tolerated.” The administration began to take steps after the release of the 2019 NAEP scores to address the problem.  James Lane, then Superintendent of Public Instruction, expressed his dismay over the widening gap in the reading scores and declared the Department of Education (DOE) would examine the methods used by divisions in which students had scored well with an eye to determining whether those methods could be replicated in other divisions.  He also scheduled a statewide literacy summit in early 2020 in Charlottesville to address the problem. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and whatever was decided at that summit took a back seat to the efforts just to keep schools operating at some level during the crisis.  As the pandemic eased and schools re-opened to in-person instruction, it was recently pointed out on this blog that the Northam administration’s outgoing budget “prioritized reading initiatives for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders.”

What has Governor Youngkin proposed? For months, his administration has advocated increasing accreditation standards and the SOL “cut scores.” He reiterated those goals in the wake of the NAEP scores. The top priority listed in the Governor’s news release was “Raise the Floor and the Ceiling” and the fourth priority was “Hold Ourselves and Our Schools Accountable.” Those goals were also expressed by Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera, as reported by Jim Bacon on this blog.

Neither the Governor’s news release nor the Secretary’s presentation contained any details. However, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Youngkin declared that “his top priority is for the state Department of Education to establish the highest passing threshold in the country.” Furthermore, he was specific as to his timeline: “by the time our students take SOL exams next spring.” Furthermore, he is asking the Board of Education to “overhaul” the state’s accreditation standards for public schools.

Given that the administration and others have been talking about higher accreditation standards and have criticized the lowered SOL cut scores since it took office, it seems reasonable to examine what the Department of Education (DOE) and the Board of Education (which has a majority of Youngkin appointees thanks to the machinations of Republicans in the General Assembly) have been doing to move on these high priorities.

The Board of Education did not meet in July. For August, there were no agenda items for the Board’s work session or business meeting pertaining to revising accreditation standards or the SOL passing scores. Under the agenda item, “Discussion of Current Issues—by Board of Education Members and Superintendent of Public Instruction,” the “Superintendent’s Update” memo did not mention these issues.

At the Board’s September work session, DOE staff gave a lengthy overview of the accreditation process. It is a complex one. The discussion among board members following the discussion was enlightening, particularly the explanations of the “hold over” members of what they were trying to accomplish with the changes instituted several years ago. For anyone interested in the Commonwealth’s school accreditation process, I recommend watching the video of the meeting. The presentation and discussion lasted about an hour and a half. (Videos of the Board meetings and copies of presentations can be found here.)

There were no items on the agenda for the Board’s September business meeting relating to changes in the accreditation process or to the SOL cut scores.

For its October meetings, the Board heard a presentation on the support that DOE provides school divisions in which weaknesses have been detected. The agenda for the October business meeting had no items related to accreditation revisions or changes in the SOL cut scores.

In her “Superintendent’s Update” memo for the October meeting, Jillian Balow highlighted three issues: the upcoming release of the NAEP scores; the board’s annual report to the General Assembly; and the pending, proposed History and Social Science Standards. This last issue consumed 1.5 pages of the 2.5- page memo.

During the summer, Balow had asked the Board to delay approving the revised History and Social Science Standards for a month or so in order to correct some technical errors. In the October memo, she proposed a major overhaul of the format of the document with consideration by the Board extending to August 2023. The Board members spent two hours of its business meeting discussing this proposal and the format that should be used for the standards document. Two Board members expressed dismay over the extensive extra time being proposed to devote to the History and Social Science Standards, pointing out that other critical issues, including accreditation and SOL scores, needed attention.

To be fair, the September and October meetings occurred before the Governor announced his marching orders for DOE and the Board to develop the highest passing threshold for SOLs in the country by next spring. In fact, that pronouncement may have caught even the Secretary of Education and the Superintendent by surprise. I was told recently by a close observer of the Governor’s office that Youngkin has a habit of making policy announcements that catch even his policy office off guard. (I can imagine the scrambling going on after one of these announcements hits the press.) The November meetings of the Board of Education should be interesting.

As a final note, while poking around the Board meeting videos and agendas, it became apparent to me that membership on the Board of Education is not for the faint-hearted. The Board generally meets eight times a year. A “meeting” is often a two-day affair. The first day is devoted to any executive session that is needed, as well as committee meetings and a work session of the whole board.  The business meeting, which includes a public comment period that can be quite lengthy, is on the second day. Each day is a long one. Furthermore, there is often material to be reviewed in preparation for upcoming meetings. For example, the proposed History and Social Science Standards document reportedly is over 400 pages long.

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66 responses to “Election’s Over; Time to Govern”

  1. Fred Costello Avatar
    Fred Costello

    The public-education system takes much time to change. Teachers have been taught what and how to teach and have been following the program for many years. Charter and private schools are needed to get a new approach.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Unfortunately, only a few can afford private schools.

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      Yeah, it should take only a few minutes to retrain experienced teachers or mint new ones to staff charters and privates.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        to say nothing about the cost.

        “MO MOney”

        Here we have a “failure” of public education and it’s gonna take MO MONEY to “fix”.

        Let’s see if JAB makes his usual complaint about “Mo Money” when it’s a GOP GOV advocating for it!

        Forget those promised tax cuts!

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          Recall the income tax rebate.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            not gonna do that…

            but I bet you’re not going to hear a single comment from JAB and Sherlock about MO Money!


  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    We will have to wait until Youngkin’s successor is sworn in to judge Glenn Y’s reforms. It takes a great deal of time to turn the gears of the education machine and even longer to get the rudder turned in the right direction. Positive results from George Allen’s reforms were not visible until late in Gilmore’s term. Warner inherited schools on an upward trend and he wisely held course.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Truly an opportunity for Youngkin to actually make good change but likely won’t benefit politically from it.

      And raising the cut scores and accreditation standards won’t make it look better.. it will look even worse. Does Youngkin have the political courage to do that?

      Hold that thought while Youngkin decides if he wants to be Gov or POTUS.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        It all comes down to 2023. Every seat in the GA is up for grabs. Almost every school board and board of supervisors too. Win a year from now and Glenn Y can rewrite the Standards of Quality. That is the heart of the education machine.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Did realize you felt so strongly about the aspect of public education.

          I strongly suspect there is good bi-partisan support but it gonna mean more stress and work for teachers.

          1. Matt Hurt Avatar

            The extra stress and work will be proportional to the amount of teachers who leave the field. We can’t keep enough in the classrooms as it is.

            Luckily, there is a glimmer of hope in the Virginia Literacy Act. We have never given K-2 reading the attention is deserves, and if we do it right, I think producing more proficient readers by 3rd grade will pay off. Right now, we don’t have good enough information on our K-2 reading efforts. While PALs may be a decent formative assessment for teachers to use (despite the inordinate amount of time it takes to administer it), it does not provide the statistics necessary to adequately evaluate student outcomes. We have a gaping black hole in our student outcomes data squarely over K-2 reading, and we can’t say who’s doing it right and who’s not. We have to wait until third grade to get a glimpse into that, and by that point how much can you attribute to which teacher(s) in grades K-3.

            Anyhow, if we get K-2 figured out, it will be significantly easier to get our kids to be successful in the upper grades.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            I really appreciate your comments as an public education professional (as well as the others in the field who post).

            A lot of what I read and hear tracks close to what you are saying without regard to early grade literacy – especially for ED kids who often lack enough parental involvement.

            It’s a tough job for a k-2 teacher. If Youngkin wants, as part of his reform, to do SOL-like testing of k-3, I wonder how that would go over with folks in the field – like you?

          3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            Back at the beginning of the GA session, I remember that you were apprehensive about the Virginia Literacy Act. What has changed your mind?

          4. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well, I don’t know that my mind has changed all that much, as I initially thought there would likely be some good aspects of the bill. However the jury is out until we see how it actually hits the ground. I am still apprehensive about a number of components.

            For example, the law requires a lot of paperwork which likely will equate to an Individual Educational Plan for all of the kids who are reading below grade level. We’ve been required to do those for our students with disabilities for years, and how has that worked out. The focus has been on process and paperwork and not on outcomes. When teachers are doing all of that paperwork, what are they not doing?

            Similarly, the current PALs assessment is woefully lacking in the task of providing data to allow us to measure our efforts with our kids. The statistics yielded are simply not sufficient. Also, it takes a week for a teacher to administer this to the class, and the state requires that it be administered in K-2 in the fall and the spring. Many divisions also require it to be administered in the winter as well. Most teachers don’t use the data provided for most kids as it’s not needed- they’re on level and are progressing just fine. Therefore we’re trading three weeks of instruction for data that is not all that useful.

            They tell me that the new PALs to be rolled out in 2024 is expected to address some of these issues, but we’ll have to see about that.

            We really need some valid measures of student reading abilities if we expect this to succeed. Simply relying on teacher inputs is not a good strategy. In fact, one of the differentiating factors that separates our most successful and least successful schools and divisions is what expectations are communicated. In our least successful organizations, teachers are required to implement specific programs or strategies. In our most successful organizations, teachers are required to produce positive student outcomes.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            I do not know if you saw this about Mississippi and how it improved to the point where it is now BETTER than Virginia:

            ” One of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary 2019 NAEP report is Mississippi. A long-time cellar dweller in the NAEP rankings, Mississippi students have risen faster than anyone since 2013, particularly for fourth graders. In fourth grade reading results, Mississippi boosted its ranking from forty-ninth in 2013 to twenty-ninth in 2019; in math, they zoomed from fiftieth to twenty-third. Adjusted for demographics, Mississippi now ranks near the top in fourth grade reading and math according to the Urban Institute’s America’s Gradebook report.

            So how have they done it? Education commentators have pointed to several possible causes: roll-out of early literacy programs and professional development, faithful implementation of Common Core standards , and focus on the “science of reading”.

            But one key part of Mississippi’s formula has gotten less coverage: holding back low-performing students. In response to the legislature’s 2013 Literacy Based Promotion Act (LBPA), Mississippi schools retain a higher percentage of K–3 students than any other state. (Mississippi-based Bracey Harris of The Hechinger Report is one education writer who has reported on this topic.)

            The LBPA created a “third grade gate,” making success on the reading exit exam a requirement for fourth grade promotion. This isn’t a new idea of course. Florida is widely credited with starting the trend in 2003, and now sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have a reading proficiency requirement to pass into fourth grade.

            But Mississippi has taken the concept further than others, with a retention rate higher than any other state. In 2018–19, according to state department of education reports, 8 percent of all Mississippi K–3 students were held back (up from 6.6 percent the prior year). This implies that over the four grades, as many as 32 percent of all Mississippi students are held back; a more reasonable estimate is closer to 20 to 25 percent, allowing for some to be held back twice. (Mississippi’s Department of Education does not report how many students are retained more than once.)”


            Would you have a view about Mississippi’s approach?

          6. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well, first of all, what statistics are they using for this comparison. When I look at the statistics from the NAEP website, statistically the percentage of students who rated proficient or better (as espoused by the folks in Richmond), Virginia still bests Mississippi in all measures, although only slightly in Reading 4 now. This doesn’t mean that Mississippi hasn’t made significant progress. And this doesn’t mean that they won’t perform better than us in the next go around.

            What I have found is that when there’s a problem, and we shine a spotlight on it, and we make it a priority in real terms (not simply paying it lip service), and we put real incentives in place to make sure the needle moves in the right direction (or disincentives for it to remain stagnant or move in the wrong direction), things usually improve. Apparently Mississippi did these things. While they did this, in Virginia we lowered expectations, made educators individually less accountable for student outcomes, and spent more time contorting the data to make things look good rather than own our data and doing something about it.

            I commend Mississippi for owning their data and making it their priority to ensure their students were more successful. I hope we’re about to do the same thing, not necessarily copying their strategies (as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and some folks do it differently), but rather by making this a priority and ensuring the correct incentives are in place to ensure desired outcomes.


    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Truly an opportunity for Youngkin to actually make good change but likely won’t benefit politically from it.

      And raising the cut scores and accreditation standards won’t make it look better.. it will look even worse. Does Youngkin have the political courage to do that?

      Hold that thought while Youngkin decides if he wants to be Gov or POTUS.

    3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Private equity firms – the Governor was CEO of one of the largest – typically plan on three to five years to turn around their acquisitions. The education system is a bigger company than any he ever oversaw. We need to give him credit for understanding that there won’t be instant results here.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        One key element to Glenn Y’s immediate success is retaining the good teachers on hand. Next would be training and hiring the next generation of teachers. Without this all is in vain. In another time and place a different George Allen once said:

        1. Matt Hurt Avatar

          This is one of my biggest concerns. Unless the economy tanks worse than it has and folks start going hungry, how can we recruit more folks into the field? All potential applicants have been hired, and we still have significant numbers of unfilled positions.

          VDOE released the teacher vacancy numbers for October 2021. When you lined those up with division SOL scores from spring 2022, the vacancy rate accounted for 22% of the variance in SOL scores. To put that in context, the rate of economically disadvantaged kids accounted for 18% of the variance.

          At last check, Virginia is the state most underwater when comparing average household incomes to average teacher salaries. For example, the average household income in New York is $201 greater than in Virginia. Yet the average teacher salary is $32,622 less in Virginia than in New York. Virginia is the greatest negative outlier in this metric in the country. In other words, it is less lucrative to be a teacher compared to other options in Virginia than in any other state of the union.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            The best NAEP tested state in the Nation is Massachusetts where they spend $16K per student.

            In the last 2+ yrs in Virginia, teachers have been demonized and condemned and basically encouraged to seek other work and they have.

          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            How long has it been since we have truly valued teachers? By all metrics, I’m not sure I have seen that during my 25 year tenure.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I’m in a social circle that is dominated by teachers. I hear a lot from them on issues.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            All in all, I think liberals do a better job of supporting them than the you-know-whos.

          5. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well, both our Republican and Democratic politicians and appointees have done an equally good job crapping all over them (and our kids as well), at least as far as I can tell. They just do it in different ways. For example, neither party has seriously tried to fix the serious wage gap problem that causes Virginia to be the least lucrative state in which to teach relative to state average household income.

            I hope something happens to change this trend. I don’t have much hope, as history shows me that government can do two things really well- kill people and waste your money. It’s not so good at everything else.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            I think there is a much better chance of the Ds addressing the wage issue to be honest.

            We actually have folks in Spotsy that advocate higher tax rates to benefit teachers!

            You gotta admit, the steady drumbeat from Conservatives like JAB here in BR – who decry the “Mo Money” for education… and they’d rather have tax cuts and rebates than pay teachers substantially more – equitable to other states.

            Youngkin has an opportunity to break that cycle and do the right thing for teachers

            another subject, NAEP.

            are you familiar with how NAEP testing works ?

            in Virginia? sorry to switch gears…

          7. Matt Hurt Avatar

            The Dems have had 2 years to control the entire game, and both with budget surpluses. How did the teachers fair then? They had many bigger fish to fry, and I suspect when they regain control the same thing will happen. Not that I believe the Republicans will do any better. Unfortunately, teachers are not a large enough voting block to make a difference.

            As far as NAEP, I know a little. NEAP randomly samples small numbers of student from across the state every two years. Their people come in with their computers and they assess the kids. I’m not sure of their methodology for sampling, and I imagine their are some ways that could skew the data in Virginia as well as other states. For example, I doubt seriously that they randomly select by Region, but they target rural, urban, and suburban instead. If the fail to represent Region VII in their sampling, that could skew the data negatively, especially for economically disadvantaged students. Similarly, if they didn’t control for the percent of in-school instruction offered in 2021, that would likely skew the data one way or another.

            Knowing very little, it seems to me that NAEP is a very general measure, and we should be able to see trends. For example, all of our scores dropped last year, but our 8th grade rankings actually improved among the states. 4th grade was a bloodbath any way you look at it.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            I thought Northam proposed a 10% increase. Did it not happen?

            They don’t test every every school, every class or every kid.

            Been doing it since 1969 so they probably do know how to do the data.

            But not sure most folks know they don’t test every kid in 4th and 8th grade in Va.

          9. Matt Hurt Avatar

            It did, but over the biennium. This year teachers got 5%. When you factor in inflation, that means that they can only buy 95% as many groceries as they could a year ago. This is just a drop in the bucket needed to make teaching as lucrative as in other states.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            no argument from me. I’d like to see them get to parity.

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            Matt, have you seen this:


            how do you think they got the data for each county?

          12. Matt Hurt Avatar

            I don’t think they did. It appears that they correlated state assessment results to NEAP performance, and then developed a scale for each district’s state assessment results based on that.

          13. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            The Baby Boomers that are still in the classroom teaching are few in number now. They will all punch out soon. An alarming number of Generation X teachers are punching out as well. The crossfire teachers are caught up in. Well it is just not worth it. Virginia is bleeding too much of it’s best talent. We are going to have to pull out of this with what we have. George Allen did it with the “Over the Hill Gang”. Took only 2 years to get to the Super Bowl with old vets and undrafted rookies.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          Oh I think if Youngkin just stopped with the tip line, the CRT, “grooming”, it would be a step in the right direction …. can’t demonize teachers left and right then make nice-nice and expect all to be forgiven.

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Education is an institution. Teachers are just along for the ride. It has always been that way.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            teachers ARE the institution IMO, especially in Virginia where they are not only underpaid but attacked with lies and misrepresentations about what they do with “tip” lines and accusations of teaching CRT and “grooming”, taking parental “rights” , etc.

            Most teachers I’ve known have gone over and above what their actual job requires.

            And I believe you did too!

    4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      This is a good point. For example, if the state required all kindergartens to begin using phonics to teach reading, the results would not show up on the SOLs until five years later when those kids were fourth-graders. Youngkin would be out of office and his successor could reap the political benefits of higher reading scores. Few politicians have that that much foresight; they want immediate results.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    One thing you can bet on. What Youngkin is proposing is going to cost MORE money! You can change standards and accreditation by saying “make it so”!

    We have spent billions/trillions on Crime and what do Conservatives call for? MO MONEY!

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Larry, I don’t understand why changing the accreditation standards and SOL cut scores would necessarily result in the need for more funding.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Dick. I would think all the paperwork , programs, software and SOLs would have to be updated.

        But more than that, if we change these things to make it tougher – what needs to be done to actually get the kids better prepared to be able to pass the higher standards and in turn, the school itself with enough higher grades to meet tougher accreditation standards?

        In other words, just making the cut scores and accreditation standards higher is going to actually make more kids fail and more schools fail unless a lot more resources are brought to bear to address it.

        I have a question for you about your own experience with home schooling if you are inclined to answer.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          Be glad to try to answer a question about home schooling.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            From your comment I know some of your grandkids were homeschooled,

            I was curious if virtual/remote was part of it and if so what platform(s).

            And what motivated them to be used and did they work?


          2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            My daughter developed the curriculum and taught the material for what amounted to kindergarten and elementary levels. In recent years, there has been more on-line material available for homeschoolers and she has used a lot of it for middle and high school although she still taught some of the curriculum herself. I don’t think there was a single platform. There are lots of sources one can subscribe to. Some of the subjects she used this method for were: French, Latin, American Sign Language, Physics, Calculus, and Creative writing. The instruction provided in these courses seemed to be excellent. I was impressed one year with the amount of homework that my oldest grandchild had for his on-line Latin and physics courses. He is now in his first year in college and taking an advanced level Latin course and seems to be breezing through it, thanks to the preparation he had in his on-line courses.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar


        2. Matt Hurt Avatar

          To change the cut scores, a single Pearson employee would simply need to open the program, edit those values, and they’re done. This might take $100 worth of employee time to get that done. The tests themselves wouldn’t have to be changed, unless the Standards of Learning changed.

          The idea that increasing expectations means that fewer kids will meet those expectations doesn’t play out in most instances. We typically see that when expectations are increased, more educators and students rise to meet those.

          Much of this will be related to collective efficacy and leadership. If we believe our kids can achieve at those levels, we’ll bust our tails to get it done. If we don’t believe they can, why try? We have many examples of schools and divisions that changed the “our kids are so pitiful and can’t do” attitude to “our kids are as smart as anyone else’s and it’s our job to make them successful” outlook. This is really a mental game for educators as much as anything.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I very much appreciate your view and it changes my views at times. But you do admit you’ll have to “bust your tail” to get to a higher level and that’s going to be a big lift for teachers in low performing schools that already are being pushed.

            I’m FOR IT but I’m also for recognizing what will be required. If I recall, trying to , the last time changes like this were made. It was a big deal.

          2. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Right now, we have very low expectations in many places. In those places, teachers are expected to adhere to the practices that have been handed down to them from on high (read that micro-managed). Those places don’t have faith that their teachers can get it done, so they tell them every move to make.

            On the other hand, in successful places, the leadership places a great deal of trust in their teachers. Teachers are allowed to get the job done in the way they best know how.

            In which scenario would you expect teachers expend more effort? It takes very little to follow your programming.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            What I get from my teacher friends is what happens when a new teacher shows up and how they get integrated to the “real world” of teaching!

            And that even with support and mentoring, not every person was cut out to teach the way teaching is practiced these days and the fact that there is significant accountability on an almost per-kid basis depending on the culture and principal.

          4. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Leadership does play a big role. I’ve witnessed teachers perform horribly under one principal, and admirably under another. All those intangibles really make the difference. Sure, there are some folks who really don’t belong in the field, but most should be able to make it work.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            so hard to “define” a “good” principal , codify it in the position description and weed out the ones who should not be doing that – even after they leave a trail
            of damage to the teaching staff.

            I keep hearing that “leadership” is so important but then I also keep hearing that some schools are terrible because they lack “good leadership” – and instead the focus is on the collective teachers performance.

            Back when it was still allowed, I saw VDOE send a “takeover specialist” to a school struggling with academic performance.

            After two years of mayhem to the teaching environment and staff, she was sent somewhere else.

            That school recovered almost by happenstance when a new but excellent principal who supported the teachers showed up.

            He was not sent by VDOE nor “planned” by the SB or administration. He was just hired as never having been a principal to fill that vacancy.

          6. Kathleen Smith Avatar
            Kathleen Smith

            Larry, I remember that time. We had a Governor who thought that a three week UVA program could make a turnaround specialist. Not so. Change like that takes a community of people vested, not hired, but vested in the kids of that school to get better. Not a credential! Leadership matters.

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            Hey Kathleen! Yep, this person was unilaterally described as the “principal from hell”.

            Had good “ideas” but terrible, negative and threatening to staff.

            If you were going to write a position description for a GOOD leader… one that actually permitted an objective performance appraisal… how would it be written?

            what metrics? You, Matt, and James all talk of how important leadership and culture is in a school but apparently no real way to represent it with metrics in a PD and use that PD to keep and weed out.


          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            Kathleen – thanks. My issue is if leadership is so important – and you don’t need to convince me – are there metrics for for it so that we define what good leadership is and is not and have accountability on that basis?

            That failed “turn-around” specialists had some “good” ideas but his/her method of implementing was taxic and intimidating… and was not held accountable but left when asked and went to another school in “need” of a “turn-around” where I’m quite sure the same toxic approach was used again.

          9. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Yes sir, the metric is whatever your desired outcomes are.

          10. Matt Hurt Avatar

            That wasn’t happenstance, that was effective leadership. That new principal likely was a significantly better leader than the “takeover specialist”.

            The performance of the teachers in the building is also a measure of leadership. In my opinion, the following is as well. In a well lead school the scored responses to this survey will likely tally much higher than in a poorly led school.


          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            That “good” principal though was appointed by the same folks who had appointed prior principals that ended up in having the takeover specialist being sent to “fix”.

            My problem is that we say certain leadership attributes are exceptionally important for a school to be successful but we don’t seem to be able to stipulate them as job requirements that can get you removed and replaced if you fail to achieve them.

            A not-good Principal can be worse than 10 not-good teachers and doom an entire school and yet not be evaluated on that basis.

          12. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Yes sir, you are exactly right. There’s also the leadership at the division level who are responsible for hiring and retaining (or not) principals. This is from the School Board on down. A former superintendent I worked once said that if a principal screwed up a couple of years, that was on the principal. If that happened more than that, then he (the superintendent) considered himself the screwup.

          13. LarrytheG Avatar

            Perhaps they DO have metrics.. but it seems that schools that have issues.. continue to… sometimes.

          14. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Yes sir, because other priorities outweigh fixing those issues.

          15. LarrytheG Avatar

            Matt – do you have any thoughts on the measures that Mississippi instituted and is attributed to their improvement – especially the idea of a “third grade gate” and holding them back until they can achieve minimum standards?

          16. Matt Hurt Avatar

            Well, I think this was a strategy that was intended to increase expectations, but I really do believe that it will pay negative dividends in the future.

            Historically, when we have retained students all we have done is to produce dropouts. Many of the kids we have retained have come from families who either don’t value education all that much, or otherwise wouldn’t have the capacity/desire to keep their kids in school once they turned 18. When we retain kids, we create a situation in which they will turn 18 before they would be able to earn a diploma. As soon as those kids turn 18, we have no legal hold on them and many drop out. It seems that the lure of working to buy that truck is greater than that of earning the diploma.

            That being said, this doesn’t work out like this 100% of the time, but it happens with sufficient frequency to cause me not to be a proponent of holding kids back in a grade, at least in K-8.

            If we do our jobs in K-2, this shouldn’t be a problem except for students with disabilities, and they should be provided with extra instruction and supports to improve their reading abilities throughout the years. The problem is that we don’t have a measure of K-2 reading that provides a valid and relevant measure of how our kids or doing, or a way to evaluate our efforts with these kids. The PALs test is OK for teacher use, but doesn’t provide the statistics we need to be able to effectively evaluate teacher, school, or division performance in K-2 reading. I am told the new PALs test to roll out in 2024 will fix that, but we’ll see.

          17. LarrytheG Avatar

            As usual, much appreciate your view so now I’m somewhat more skeptical of the 3rd Grade Gate idea… pros and cons… thanks.

          18. Kathleen Smith Avatar
            Kathleen Smith

            You are so right! The change would cost would be minimal.

          19. LarrytheG Avatar

            I stand corrected and await the impending changes….

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Good thing for telecommuting… Youngkin can phone it in from Iowa, New Hampshire, and the rest of the campaign trail.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m betting that what is known as “blended or connected learning” will become an increasingly important and cost-effective component in the tightening of SOL cut scores and the SOL scores themselves that are part of the accreditation process, despite the angst by some Conservatives that VDOE is
    giving Virtual Virginia an unfair advantage over private companies like k12.com, a Virginia-based company.

    I would expect Youngkin to advocate that k12.com and others be allowed to offer stand-alone Virtual schools funded by the state as “choice”.

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