Virginia’s Student “Growth” Model Stunts Achievement

by Matt Hurt

Virginia’s system for accrediting public K-12 schools has engendered some concern since the release of  school accreditation data on September 19. While  students exhibited lower proficiency during the 2022 school year than in 2019, as measured by Standards of Learning test scores, the percentage of schools meeting the requirements for full accreditation barely budged.

Table 1 below demonstrates the rates at which Virginia schools obtained a Level 1 rating (the highest available in our accreditation system) for each of the key metrics. Table 2 below displays the overall pass rates in Virginia for each of those content areas. (The English accreditation indicator is a composite of reading and writing results.)

Note that the English and math SOL pass rates dropped from 2019 to 2022, but Virginia schools didn’t realize similar declines in accreditation ratings. English (a composite of reading and writing) pass rates fell 4.27% but schools awarded the Level One accreditation rating increased 0.83%. Math SOL pass rates plummeted 15.56% but schools slid only 0.88%.

Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

From The Bull Elephant

Slick Selling of Child Gender Transitions at UVa Children’s Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Virginia Children’s Hospital offers a Madison Avenue-quality sales pitch for child gender transition.

As written and smoothly delivered, it deflects any reservation parents may have in supporting such transitions by telling them they have been misled or are being selfish or both.

It helps parents decide by blaming their reservations on myths.

I offer below both a video and a transcript of that sales presentation.

The presenter uses a variation on the closing technique called the “question close.” In this one she both asks the questions — identified as myths — and answers them. The presentation carefully avoids mention of the word sterilization.

I expect that, given the sensitivity of the subject, it is very likely the best technique for closing the sale. Brilliant even.

If that is your goal.

The reputation of UVa hospital likely will be damaged by this exposure of how it sells this particular product. They have earned it. Continue reading

Addressing the Spiral Effect in Learning Loss

by Dr. Kathleen Smith

During the COVID-19 pandemic educators did what they had to do in a short amount of time (five months in the case of Virginia) with little resources (extra funding came long after September of 2020) to keep kids learning through the 2020-2021 school year. A wholesale shift to remote and hybrid learning had never been tried before. Perhaps the challenge could have been handled better, but educators did the best they could under trying circumstances.

Rather than panic over the gap between the pre- and post-pandemic Standards of Learning pass rates, educators should focus now on catching up. The good news is that they know what they need to do, and they have many resources to get the job done.

Here is the bad news: teachers have only a finite amount of time to sequence what needs to be taught, and the scope of recouping lost learning is more than can be accomplished in one school year. Their job is made more challenging by the phenomenon of “spiraling” — in which a student must master one skill level before moving on to the next.

For example, in mathematics, the student first learns simple multiplication and then moves on to more complex multiplication. Continue reading

Bacon Meme of the Week

Some Things Never Change

I am reading a recent biography of Patrick Henry and I came across a quote that just begs to be shared on this blog. One of Henry’s neighbors and friends in 1759 was Thomas Johnson, a member of the House of Burgesses from Louisa County. In the journal of the House, Johnson is recorded as describing the General Assembly as a place of “Plots, Schemes, and Contrivances” where “one holds the Lamb while the other skins.”

Don Rippert, with his criticism of the “plantation elite,” and Thomas Johnson would have gotten along quite well together.

Of Monocans and Manumissions

The Natural Bridge, as rendered by German artist Edward Meyer in 1858.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s history is endlessly fascinating. A study of the state’s past illuminates many issues that still confound us today. Such is the case with a monograph that reader Kemp Dolliver has brought to my attention: “Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the Natural Bridge of Virginia.”

This article, written in 1997 by David W. Coffey, then a history professor at the Virginia Military Institute, touches upon two issues that are relevant today: (1) the dispossession of the lands of the Monocan Indians; and (2) Jefferson’s attitude towards race.

Monocan Indians. The Monocan Indians, as we are repeatedly reminded, inhabited the territory now known as western Virginia during the pre-colonial era, and the land where the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are located was taken from them. This history, usually told in a manner to suggest that the European settlers of Virginia were uniquely rapacious and unjust, is devoid of critical context.

Citing an earlier source, Coffey’s article notes that the Natural Bridge held a special place in the hearts of the Monocans. In their mythology, the geological wonder proved their salvation. “Long, long ago,” the Monocans were set upon by the Shawnees and the Powhatans. Many of the Monocan braves fell in battle. As they fled their pursuers, the Monocans came upon a high chasm. As they cried out for deliverance, the Great Spirit created the Great Bridge for them to cross. Then, standing against their enemies on the narrow crossing, the Monocan braves turned to face their enemies and fought victoriously. Continue reading

Schrödinger’s Schools? Are Virginia’s Schools Good Or Not? Yes.

by Andrew Rotherham

In the tiresome debate about our schools, here in Virginia and nationally, questions like “Are schools as good/bad as people say?” dominate.

These are the wrong kind of questions.

The big story of American education is variance — in everything from funding to outcomes. School performance is mixed overall and here in Virginia. That’s why Virginia at once has schools that are the envy of the world, and also fewer than one in five Virginia low-income and/or Black 8th-graders are proficient on the highly-regarded NAEP assessment and there are big gaps on our state assessments and a lot of underperformance. Often the schools producing those disparate outcomes are in close quarters to one another.

Yesterday, Virginia released school accreditation ratings based on the most recent student achievement data. Because Virginia doesn’t have any sort of accountability system or much in the way of school choice, these ratings take on a lot of substantive and political weight. They also pretty consistently lead to a lot of confusion. This year is no exception. The new rankings show that almost all Virginia schools are accredited and doing OK, even though we know there were problems before the pandemic — and that the pandemic was a disaster for a lot of kids. Continue reading

Youngkin Admin Questions Value of School Accreditation Standards

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

A Virginia Department of Education press release issued yesterday contained a vitally important message: Virginia’s school accreditation standards are failing to do their job. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points.

“These ratings call into question the effectiveness of our accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency,” stated Superintendent Jillian Balow. “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

And how did the legacy media treat this story?

The Washington Post ignored it. Instead, it published a story headlined, “Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent.” As far as I can tell from the round-up of clips in the VA News aggregator, not one of Virginia’s major metro dailies covered the announcement. The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Harrisonburg) Daily News Record, and WSLS (Roanoke) and WTOP (Washington) were the only legacy media outlets to mention it. Only the two TV stations included the Balow quotes in the body of their stories. Continue reading

The Social Emotional Learning Establishment Seeks Progressive Reordering of Society

by James C. Sherlock

Social emotional learning is based on a good idea. The underlying concept is to train adults (teachers and staff) in child psychology with a goal of shaping learning environments that optimize development of children to societal standards of behavior.

To teach them how to act.

The rub: who decides on the target societal standards of behavior?

Virginia’s vision for SEL is published as:

intended to center equity in this work, which is key to VDOE’s vision and mission.

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.

You can figure out where the educational establishment is going with that. But if you cannot, they have told us in no uncertain terms.

They intend to integrate issues of race, class and culture into academic content with a primary goal of making social justice warriors out of America’s children; to bring down capitalism, individualism, and what they call neoliberal democracy.

To lead our children to help redistribute power in America.

Not my words, theirs. Continue reading

UVa Rules Out a “Pattern” of Hate Crimes

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the Grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.

One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.

“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.

The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading

Please, Governor, Focus on Virginia First

Glenn Youngkin. Photo credit: New York Times

by James A. Bacon

Virginians are still trying to decipher the intentions of Glenn Youngkin in traveling to so many Republican campaign events around the country. The Governor been in office about eight months. He’s barely gotten started in undoing the damage of his predecessor’s four-year term. He couldn’t really be thinking about running for president, could he? 

There doesn’t seem to be much question in the minds of the national media that he is. Donald Trump remains the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination should he desire it even though the metaphorical walls have been “closing in” on him for six years now. If Democrats finally succeed in taking out the former president, then Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems the most viable alternative. Yet Youngkin’s name is frequently invoked as a possible presidential candidate.

“It’s obvious. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia, wants to be president,” writes New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

Most of Bouie’s lengthy column is a tiresome rendition of the narrative that the Republican Party and the MAGA movements are extensions of Dixiecrats and segregationists. (New York Times columnists have zero clue about what makes Republicans tick.) But he does cite actual evidence, which has gotten little play here in the Old Dominion, that Youngkin does, in fact, have national political ambitions. Continue reading

Some School Divisions Successfully Mitigated COVID Learning Losses in Math

by James C. Sherlock

Congratulations are in order.

Some school divisions, spread around the state, did a terrific job in mitigating mathematics learning losses during COVID.

I picked math for its baseline importance in school and in life and the relative inability for students to advance in that subject without instruction, compared to reading and writing.

In trying to measure those losses with available data, I have compared division math SOL pass rates in 2021-22 to those in the last pre-pandemic year of 2018-19.

I believe it to be a good measure of successful teacher instruction, the learning environments at home, and in school and student effort.

That standard produced an eclectic and in some ways surprising list of divisions with the lowest learning losses.

Continue reading

Virginia Missing Children: 400

Each year, more than a half million children go missing in the United States. In Virginia, 2,500 children have been reported missing (presumably this year) and 400 are actively missing, according to a press release touting a National Child ID partnership to be announced today by Attorney General Jason Miyares and Virginia Tech football coaching legend Frank Beamer.

One quarter of all human trafficking cases include a child, and minority populations are three times more likely to go missing or be abducted, says the press release.

Parents’ Rights Are On The Virginia Ballot. Again.

by Kerry Dougherty

Good news. Virginia’s Democrats have taken the bait.

So far at least four liberal school districts in the commonwealth have declared that they will defy Virginia’s Department of Education model policies on parental rights that were unveiled late last week.

You know, policies that contain “radical” ideas such as these:

“Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to their children”

“Schools shall respect parental values and beliefs.”

Oh, and here’s the new definition of “transgendered”:

The phrase “transgender student” shall mean a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school.

This means that students who present themselves as a gender other than the sex they were given at birth without their parents’ permission will not be allowed to change their identities in school. Continue reading