Northam’s Plan for Public School “Equity”

by James A. Bacon

The Northam administration is pushing through the greatest transformation in Virginia’s K-12 public education system since the end of Massive Resistance. Unless you read Bacon’s Rebellion, you likely know nothing about this. The establishment media is not covering the biggest K-12 story of our generation.

Northam’s goal is nothing less than achieving “educational equity,” or equal outcomes for all races and ethnicities. Not equal opportunity for all, not equal resources for all, but equal outcomes.

According to a newly published document, “Navigating EdEquityVA: Virginia’s Road Map to Equity,” education equity is achieved when “we eliminate the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status or languages spoken at home.”

The key assumption underlying this push is that the United States — and Virginia is no exception — is a systemically racist country. Thus, “anti-racism” is a core component of the overhaul of the state’s public schools. However, anti-racism is not defined in a way that most Virginians would understand it: as opposing the expression of bias against minorities. The Northam administration explicitly uses a definition straight out of cultural Marxist theory prevalent in academia. Anti-racism, proclaims the document:

Acknowledges that racist beliefs and structures are pervasive in all aspects of our lives and requires action to dismantle those beliefs and structures. This requires that school leaders hold educators and students accountable when they say and do things that make school unsafe, and that they dismantle systems perpetuating inequitable access to opportunity and outcomes for students historically marginalized by race.

Northam and his education leadership team — Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, James F. Lane, superintendent of public instruction, and members of the State Board of Education — have embraced this mono-causal explanation of what ails Virginia’s educational system and what needs to be remedied. When racism is the root cause of unequal outcomes, racism must be rooted out. Other possible explanations for unequal outcomes — failed pedagogies, dysfunctional administration of failed school districts, the breakdown of traditional family structures, the challenges of poverty, the influx of immigrants with minimal English language skills, many here illegally — are downplayed or ignored entirely.

The potential tragedy is that if the Critical Race Theory (CRT) prognosis of what ails Virginia education is wrong, then the remedies will be misguided, even counterproductive. Thus, rather than address real underlying problems such as ensuring that young children keep pace with their reading and math levels as they progress through school, the CRT wrecking crew is dismantling test-based criteria for admitting children into elite governor’s high schools on the grounds that not enough “marginalized” minorities make the cut.

The pernicious attributes of an ideology that views everything through the prism of race are obscured by language in the report that everyone can accept. “Virginia is for ALL learners,” proclaims a headline on the page summarizing the Virginia Department of Education’s mission, vision and core values. “It is our responsibility to maximize the potential of every student,” writes James F. Lane, superintendent of public instruction, in the introduction to the Navigating EdEquityVa Roadmap.

Of course the public school system should be inclusive and geared to maximizing the potential of every student. But helping every child achieve his or her potential is a far cry from calling for “racial equity” or “racial justice” as defined by cultural Marxists.

As a practical matter, “Navigating EdEquityVa” advocates revamping discipline systems to ensure that black students are not punished disproportionate to their numbers in the student body, to increase the number of African-American teachers, to enroll more African-Americans and Hispanics in advanced academic programs, to create “culturally competent” educators, and to reengineer curricula to make it more culturally sensitive.

The document also describes in vague bureaucratic language the movement to reprogram how people think about race and ethnicity, and how to reallocate human and financial resources to “advance equity and inclusion in school communities.”

There is much more to say, and I will delve into the various initiatives unleashed by the Northam education team in future posts.

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30 responses to “Northam’s Plan for Public School “Equity”

  1. Baconator with extra cheese

    Eliminating the predictability of outcomes based on “ability”? That is too too awesome!

    • I want Richmond to apply the same philosophy and action to VHSL, ODAC, ACC, Atlantic 10, Big South, Colonial, USA, CIAA, USA South, Atlantic East, Capital, and all other school athletic conferences.

  2. Baconator with extra cheese

    I bet Jason Kamras is thrilled! The RVA schools get cover and he keeps that fat paycheck even with failing schools.
    It is all racism and not ineptness… nothing he can do until racism magically ends….
    But unfortunately it is predictable that RVA schools will always suck.

    • You’ve got that right. First, it was too little money. More money would fix the problem! When that didn’t work a new excuse was needed. Too much structural racism. That ought to buy another 10 – 15 years.

  3. One would think if it was really true that ” the greatest transformation in Virginia’s K-12 public education system since the end of Massive Resistance.” – that citizens WOULD KNOW. Could it be they do know
    and don’t have the agnst that some on the right have?

  4. For the Northampton, Lane, et. al., plan to work, doesn’t everyone ultimately need to come from equal environments and equal backgrounds with equal parental support and equal resources.? Is there any state or nation on our planet where that occurs? Come to think of it, our planet has advantages that the other planets don’t have. How is that fair? Guess that last point is moot anyway since the lefties think we’re about to kill our planet.

  5. Education can be measured. It’s called “attainment” and we can test it in each person to ascertain their level of education.

    But the thing is, we all start out uneducated at birth and it becomes a process of how we gain education.

    So, no we don’t all come from the same background and that is actually the mission of “public” education and that’s WHY they actually have SOLs to measure progress.

    Take away the parents and ask how an orphan might be educated.

    Would you just write him/her off because they do not have parents?

    No, you would not but we play that game when they only have one parent or the parents are themselves poorly educated and low income.

    Public schools start with the child and try to get them to their potential.

    Nothing about that is wrong.

    • This little piece of nonsense shows you have no idea the lengths that schools already go to to help the disadvantaged. None.

    • Education is a two way process in which the student plays the major role. We don’t ‘write off’ an orphan without parents or any other student. We provide the school and teachers. How much effort the student puts into studying will be the most important factor in the level of their ‘attainment’.
      The Alexandria City Public Schools had a tag-line – “every child succeeds” – before adopting the more Woke “racial equity will be at the center of everything we do”. Their plans listed all of the responsibilities of everyone at the school, especially the teachers.
      What ACPS consistently omitted were the responsibilities of the students, things like “Study hard”, “Come to class prepared”, “Do your homework”, “Show respect to your teachers and classmates”.

      • When a student is well-behaved and he/she tries hard but they just cannot get it without more help…….. should it matter whether they have “good” parents or not if the school is supposed to give them additional help until they do get it?

        What “every child succeeds” means is that the school will try to help the kids that need it by helping to figure out what concepts they are having trouble with and working on those.

        This is what Title 1 teachers are trained in Masters Degrees to do.

        Even kids of “good” parents can have trouble with concepts.

        The problem is that it’s the Feds that fund Title 1 and schools use whatever Title 1 resources are available to them but they are not authorized to hire more Title 1 resources even if there are more kids than one Title 1 teacher can help. In some schools, in low-income neighborhoods, a majority of the kids need extra help.

        Yes, it does take more money for reading and math specialists .

        Just like it takes more money for college prep and STEM academies.

        And how many parents with their kids at home, can’t “help” them?

  6. Why would any thinking person assume that each person can do equally well in each activity or academic subject? Let’s take something non-controversial. When I was in high school, I was a sprinter. I did reasonably well. But I struggled on the endurance runs. Decades later, I had an app test my DNA for my ability for endurance or power activities. Guess what? My DNA favored power (i.e., sprinting) over endurance (a mile run).

    Two of my brothers are quite good at math. Me, not so much. But I think on my feet much better than either of them.

    So why would this buffoon of an attorney general assume that everyone should score the same on every test? And he ignores personal effort. My son, who was born in Korea, wanted to take Korean language in high school. For two years, he had to rearrange his schedule to be able to take a bus from Langley HS to Fairfax HS where the Korean classes were held. That took personal effort. How much personal effort is expected for kids to succeed?

  7. The obvious outcome to this is first a two tiered system and then a three tiered system.

    The only way to guarantee equality of outcome is to dumb down the definition of “success” to such a low level that everybody “succeeds”. The proposed lottery system for TJ is a good example. In the past students admitted to TJ had to be truly exemplary. The vast majority of students could not make the cut. In part, this selection process made TJ the best high school in America. A lotto system that considers the top 25% of all students to be exemplary dumbs down the standard. TJ will have to dumb down their curriculum in order to avoid failing out most of the students. TJ will no longer be the best high school in America. It might not be in the Top 100.

    The parents of the truly exceptional students will scrimp and save in order to send their children to a school with such high standards that only exemplary students can gain admission. That school will rise in rankings and prestige just as TJ will fall. Within 5 years TJ will be as irrelevant as it was when the original Thomas Jefferson was just another Fairfax County high school.

    Virginia’s two tier system will be the same as exists in DC. Deplorable public schools alongside excellent private schools. There’s a reason that presidents and other high ranking federal officials who live in DC don’t send their children to DC public schools. The public schools will become lower income, black and hispanic. The private schools will become higher income, white and asian. A small percentage of lucky (and athletically gifted) children of parents who can’t afford private schools will get scholarships to those schools. More money won’t make the public schools better. It never does.

    The third tier will happen when enough people who can’t afford private schools demand school choice. Publicly funded charter schools will spring up with stronger disciplinary rules and academic standards than the non-charter public schools. Students who are truant, unruly or who fail to try will be expelled from the charter schools and end up in the non-charter public schools.

    In the end, the children in the non-charter public schools will largely be doomed to a poor education and limited career opportunities.

    • If a kid in the lower grades has potential, (but no money for private prep), is there a way for him to get to a point where he/she can successfully get into TJ or the Loudoun Academies? Is there a path in the public schools for him/her to get there?

      • Fairfax County Public Schools has had a program to assist lower-income kids in elementary grades with math/science aptitude and interest prepare for TJ. https://www.fcps.edu/activities/enrichment-and-test-prep-classes

        I’m sure it helped some kids make it, but not everyone. Maybe the former worked harder than the latter. I suspect that a lot of the middle school math teachers are also willing to work with kids.

        • If such programs are available and parents widely informed as to that opportunity – then it’s much harder to claim that such opportunities did not exist.

          The point is to have those opportunities – widely across the school divisions and make sure all parents are aware of their availabililty.

          Some parents will remain clueless but on the wider scale,enough of the others will acknowledge that the programs do exist and the opportunity is there.

          • It wasn’t a lack of knowledge of the opportunity. Hundreds of black and Hispanic children applied and were unable to compete successfully with the Asian kids. Same with white kids, which by percentage are actually underrepresented in Loudoun Academies more that black and Hispanic kids.

            Sometimes that is life. There is certainly a life lesson there. Unless a kid is born with a trust fund that will finance his or her life, he or she will have to earn what they get in life. The radical educational community wants to delay that lesson until they are out of school. Wonder how that will work out.

            By the way, the Asian kids’ excellence is why many school districts have eliminated valedictorian awards.

            I say hooray for excellence. It is for the other kids to catch up, not to lock the Asian kids out of the opportunities and awards they earn.

          • It depends on how and where additonal help/tutoring was obtained. Was it availble through the public school system or did it have to be obtained outside the public school system through private for-profit means?

  8. This new “equity” program doesn’t really demand that every kid gets a good education, just that every kid gets the same trophy.

    The proponents of the new “equity” system have demonstrated that they will change every measure of performance and every program for high achievers in education – testing, grading, AP classes, magnet schools, everything – until there is no way to measure educational attainment and no way to offer advanced learning opportunities because the lottery kids won’t be ready for them, even if those programs retain their current titles. That is when they will declare equity to be achieved.

    The hurdles they will fail to clear with this are teacher recruitment and retention.

    Part of that is their insistence on no standards for discipline in the classroom. Without discipline, there will be no learning, and then no dedicated teachers. I’m not saying that they won’t be able to pay someone to sit behind the teacher’s desk, but no learning will happen.

    Another part is that white teachers, currently 84% of Virginia’s public school teacher cadre, are in this new system considered racist until proven anti-racist. Who would put up with that? Would you?

    This is utterly destructive of the public school system and will ensure its quick downfall. It won’t take 5 years for the schools to collapse as learning institutions if this is implemented.

    Give yourselves a minute and figure out which kids will be hurt the worst. Time is up – answer is poor kids. That is the biggest atrocity committed by the people who advocate the new system. Some don’t know better. Some pander for popularity at the campus cocktail parties. The rest are so woke their emotions have overtaken their brains.

    • This is new corrected version of below comment:

      That’s an accurate bottom line that Jim suggests above.

      In short, public K-12 education in Virginia, now will be without meaningful standards, and without demands and discipline imposed on students. Hence their education will destroyed. And along with it, their competence and confidence, their learning skills, and their civic and emotional skills and stability, will for most students be destroyed. Upon graduation they have have a bogus and impostor education, that for most of them will doom their future. These Virginia public school kids then will be reduced hapless, angry, frustrated and irresponsible kids who have been intentional set up to fail in life, and do so far worse and be more numerous than those we increasingly see today.

      Many of these kids will turned into rabble. Kids who riot, loot, intimidate, shoot up streets and people, and live homeless on America’s city streets, if not living angry, drug addled and alone, Peter Pans frantically tapping away on computer games in their parent’s basement, if not roaming mean streets akin to Chicago’s and Baltimore’s today. Athens’ fate, the fate of all the Greek city states, will be ours.

      This is not a prediction. It’s happening now, and imposter public school only make this harm we do to kids far worse.

  9. Just for reference for those keeping score at home. The National Education Association (and its affiliate VEA) and the American Federation of Teachers favor this destructive path because their leadership is radical left by any definition of the term.

    Those organizations have donated over $650,000 to Governor Northam. That amount of money allowed them to “recommend” Northam’s pick for Secretary of Education.

    Northam chose the radical anti-Asian racist Atif Qarni . He had no other qualifications for the post other than being a middle school teacher. The rest is history.

    Always follow the money, especially in Virginia.

  10. That’s an accurate bottom line. In short, public education K-12 education, now without standards, demands or discipline in Virginia will be destroyed totally. So will the competence, learning, and civic and emotional skills and stability, for most all of the students who attend these imposter schools be destroyed. These Virginia public school kids then will be reduced hapless, angry, irresponsible Peter Pan kids who have been intentional set up to fail in life, and do so far worse and more numerous than those we increasingly see today. Kids turned into rabble. Kids rioting, looting, intimidating, and living homeless on America’s city streets, if not living angry, drug addled and alone, frantically tapping away on computer games, in their parent’s basement, if not roaming mean streets akin to Chicago’s and Baltimore’s today. Athens’ fate, indeed the fate of all the Greek city states, will be ours.

  11. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The thing that gives this 52 page document the teeth it needs is authority. The blueprint explicitly demands that the state and local director of equity and the equity conversion team, of hand picked people, have the Authority to do as they please unchecked.

  12. This gave me the vision of bussing NoVA students to Richmond schools, via Zoom/Blackboard of course. I will check with our family to see if any concerns. Seems to me anything wild the NoVA students mothers/fathers will be tearing apart the school board. When we stopped school abruptly Mar-13 that was parent pressure which forced 11.99 th hour decision of closure. The super had to change his publicized decision.

  13. Alexandria City Public Schools leads the way!
    You might think that education would be at the center of whatever the school system does. But you would be so wrong!
    “Going forward, racial equity will be at the center of every decision that the school division will make.” https://www.acps.k12.va.us/Page/3141
    I have no idea how this will improve the educational attainment of the students, but at least our high school is getting a new name.

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