Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is absolutely relentless.

Defenders in a zone defense in football are responsible for areas of the field, rather than following a specific receiver. Offenses often attack these defenses by flooding a zone — sending three receivers into an area covered by two defenders.  

But at least there are 11 players on both sides of the ball.

VDOE is trying to flood  defenders of traditional K-12 education, not with strategy, but with superior numbers of players.

The enormous staff of VDOE, backed by state-funded University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University ed school professors, attacks traditional roles of parents and teachers on so many fronts simultaneously that they are very hard to defend.

I just read the VDOE Teacher Direct Newsletter published July 14, 2021. 

Below are a few of the headlines along with some of the VDOE guidance for teachers.

Mathematics Standards 

After the first release of a draft version that drew fierce criticism here and elsewhere across the state, the Mathematics Bridging Standards Documents including the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative, were pulled and reexamined. 

The result appears to be significant changes, at least in the public description of that future program.  If this is of interest to you, make sure you have read the updated program description

But caution.

“VMPI is in the development stage, and the changes being proposed are under discussion with a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Board of Education. No final decisions have been made at this time.”

Full implementation is scheduled for school year 2025-2026. So there is plenty of time for more updates.

SEL Guidance Standards Available to Virginia School Divisions 

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is part of the national strategy of the academic left to use the schools to create a social revolution. Take the kids from their parents and teach them the social doctrine of the left.  

From the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), VDOE’s go-to touchstone for SEL: 

“While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can help states, districts, and schools promote understanding, examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism and other isms, (and) build cross-cultural relationships.”

To jump start Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), VDOE appears to have utterly ignored more than a thousand responses on its Virginia Town Hall pages that objected to the implementation of social-emotional learning standards presented to the public for comment.  

As far as I can tell, not a word was changed between the “draft” and the final standards.   

“The vision of social emotional learning in Virginia is to maximize the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring and reflective members of our diverse society by advancing equity, uplifting student voice, and infusing SEL into every part of the school experience.”

  • The social warrior agenda 

An example from 7th grade: 

“I can recognize and describe unfairness and injustice in many forms including attitudes, speech, behaviors, policies, practices, and laws.”

It is “fair” to wonder who is authorized to decide what speech and which policies and laws are unfair and unjust.  Are they required to notify Congress, the Governor and the General Assembly?

  • Early instruction in Intersectionality

First and second graders:

“I can develop an awareness of multiple groups in society.”

Third and fourth graders:  

“I can describe the multiple groups in society that help create my identity.” 

“I can develop an awareness of and comfort with my membership in multiple groups in society.”

  • Dangerous road ahead

Socrates is dead.

So who is to teach life lessons that for all of recorded history have been the province of parents, grandparents, other family members and close friends? As crucially, who will prepare the lesson plans?

The VDOE answer: graduates of our 21st century schools. Think about it. If that doesn’t scare you, you either misunderstand, are fearless, or both.

  • School Boards still have a choice

While the 2020 General Assembly required the VDOE to develop the guidance standards for SEL, it is very important to note that Virginia school divisions are not required to adopt them. 

“Local school boards may choose to adopt all, or portions of, the Virginia SEL Guidance Standards as part of their own local policies, and/or use them as guidance as they implement SEL programming based on the needs of their community.”

VCU 2021 Summer Learning Academy

To show that state funded Ed Schools are doing their part, I offer selections from the VCU 2021 Summer (teacher) Learning Academy recommended in this VDOE newsletter.

The course descriptions sound like they were written for an SNL skit.

Perhaps for a small additional price students can purchase an app with both a woke-English dictionary and woke thesaurus.

  • Racial Identity Development Toward Transformative Pedagogy

Cost: $250

“When discussions arise around race and culture in education, oftentimes youth/people of Color are the subject— or even the “issue.” Lacking is the acknowledgement of White racial identity. Racial Identity Development: Pathways Toward Transformative Pedagogy will workshop critical self-reflection, self-actualization & racial identity development with K-12 professionals. We are working under the premise that this growth in mindset is essential for the practice of culturally sustaining pedagogy in the classroom.

  • Equity & Wellness Institute in Navigating Teacher Clarity

Cost: $250

“This session will encompass practical strategies to assist in the development of practical pedagogy to navigate the terrain of successful equitable differentiated instruction. This institute will allow for a development of wellness strategies to increase equitable differentiation for both the teacher and student as the teacher copes with the current trends of our society. This program will serve as a refresher and an enrichment opportunity for teachers that VCU serves to increase their professional stamina within their respective educational roles.”

Teacher evaluations

Finally, if you need an example with which to illustrate the meaning of the word pedantic to your kids, please see GUIDELINES FOR UNIFORM PERFORMANCE STANDARDS AND EVALUATION CRITERIA FOR TEACHERS.

First read Student Surveys on pages 28 – 36.  Precious.  

Then I urge you to read Rating Teacher Performance pages 56-74 including the SAMPLE: Teacher Summative Performance Report.

If you survive that, you are ready for anything.

Anyone want their kid to teach in Virginia under these policies?

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10 responses to “Flooding the Zone at VDOE”

  1. CJBova Avatar

    Teacher evaluations Finally, if you need an example with which to illustrate the meaning of the word pedantic to your kids, please see GUIDELINES FOR UNIFORM PERFORMANCE STANDARDS AND EVALUATION CRITERIA FOR TEACHERS. (Link on TEACHERS)

    First read Student Surveys on pages 28 – 36. Precious.

    Indeed! The first thing I noticed was the language of the questions, and to check my reaction against something objective, I copied the surveys and took out the instructions and took out the 1234 or agree disagree range of answers. Then I ran readability statistics.You need to read through all the questions but I listed a few that caught my eye.

    Grades 1-2.. reading ease 76.8 Grade level 3.8
    A few interesting questions: My teacher makes learning on the computer fun. My teacher knows how to teach class through the computer. My teacher shows me how to do activities on the computer. (Why so much on computer learning in 1st & 2nd grade?)

    My teacher teaches us about people who do not look like me. (How exactly are they going to do that?)

    Grades 3-5 Reading ease 64 Grade level 6.9
    My teacher makes learning online enjoyable.
    My teacher explains how to use technology appropriately.
    My teacher is helpful with online lessons and my learning.
    (Again the online learning.)
    My teacher allows me to show my learning in a variety of ways. (Is this a signal that standardized tests are on the way out?)

    Grades 6-8 reading ease 53.5 Grade level 8.2 (
    Some interesting questions here: My teacher handles classroom disruptions well. My teacher has routines and procedures for our online class. My teacher handles online disruptions well.
    So disruptions are expected to be a regular event?

    Grades 9-12 Reading ease 41.1 Grade level 9.2

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      The Uniform Student Evaluation Survey.

      Had bunches of them, one per class per semester. Firuging out of 30 per class, there would be one to three helpful, sometimes bitingly so, sudent comments from the 15 students who would bother. The canned question results were meh, but the hand written comments, that was the nugget.

      But they are only worthless to those who are apathetic.

      1. WayneS Avatar

        How many of the 6 and 7 year-olds you taught provided you with good written comments?

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Only one but she was biased toward food.

    2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      “So disruptions are expected to be a regular event?”

      Are you forgetting what Middle School was like?!

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    I get bugged on a regular basis to return to the classroom. People keep saying I retired too young. Reviewing the evaluation guidelines for teachers. Oh boy did I ever choose wisely. Nobody is going to stick around for the absolute avalanche of nonsense that will be dumped on teachers at that first faculty meeting in August. Administrators should provide strong tranquilizers for all of those poor teachers.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      A serious response. See the last line of my column.

      I regret that I think that we are going to see a decline in demand for public schools that will be accompanied by a decline in the supply of teachers.

      It will not be clear for a couple of years whether those two trends will cancel one another out or kids will return to schools without enough teachers.

      See a pre-COVID (2019) report that showed accelerating retirements of other departures from the profession and, “from the 2008–2009 to 2015–2016 school years, a 15.4 percent drop in the number of education degrees awarded and a 27.4 percent drop in the number of people who completed a teacher preparation program.”

      The federal Department of Education projects the supply of elementary and secondary teachers annually but cautions:
      “Factors that were not considered:
      The projections do not take into account possible changes in the number of teachers due to the effects of government policies.”

      If the massive downward trend in new teachers continues, we will need a national service program to fill teacher ranks.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        “I regret that I think that we are going to see a decline in demand for public schools that will be accompanied by a decline in the supply of teachers.”

        I don’t know why that represents a regret.

        When incompetent government officials botch the offering of a government service it is for the best that citizens stop using the service. Ask the Post Office.

        When a government service is no longer being as heavily used as it was in the past government should cut the costs of that service. Ask the Post Office.

        Let’s be honest – it was the teachers who kept the schools closed in much of Northern Virginia while private and public schools outside of Northern Virginia provided in-person learning without major incident.

        Why shouldn’t parents rebel and why should teachers be kept on the payrolls of a declining education system?

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          I agree with you in theory, but for many, there is no realistic alternative. Historically, catholic schools educated

          Perhaps the decline in supply of teachers will be met by a decline in demand. But the public school system will remain the largest educator of America’s. I mostly have put aside other concerns to try to inform Virginians of what is happening.

          But there is no question a younger generation than mine will have to fight the fight. Surrender is not an option.

  3. Perhaps it’s time to start a defund-the-education-schools movement.

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