Flooding the Zone at VDOE

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?