Qarni’s Agenda for Virginia Schools

Atif Qarni. Photo credit: Free Lance-Star

Governor Ralph Northam may have run as a political moderate, but his Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, embraces the proposition that America is profoundly racist and supports policies that would transform Virginia’s educational system accordingly.

Speaking at Brooke Point High School in Stafford County yesterday, Qarni called for schools to move away from standardized testing and focus on deeper learning. He wants to expand access to preschool in the Commonwealth. He wants to pay teachers more. He wants to hire more resource officers, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. And he wants to pay experienced teachers as much as 15% to 20% as incentive to teach in “high needs” schools.

Who would pay for all this? Virginia has concentrations of great affluence as well as great need, he said. State government should play a role in helping to ensure students all across the state have equal access to quality education, he added, as reported by the Free Lance-Star“It’s very, very critical to look through an equity lens.”

Underlying these sentiments is a view that America is systemically racist. Here’s what Qarni, who moved to the U.S. from Pakistan with his family at the age of 10, wrote last month in Blue Virginia:

We have a long way to go to address systemic racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of biases and hate that exist here at home. The root cause of this is power inequality. People in power have the ability to shape policies that impact certain communities of color or marginalized groups from seeking power. …

For 8 years, our country had a black President—arguably in the most powerful position in the world. The image of a black man representing the face of America was a threat to the very power structure that kept people who looked like him from reaching such a height.

Today, black and brown people are mobilizing and reclaiming the power that was stolen from them or systematically denied to them. Every group deserves to have a voice and fair representation in society—that’s what Democratic societies believe but what we practice doesn’t reflect this belief. This idea of shared power is most radical ONLY because it threatens the status quo. During transitions of power, someone is always losing while the other is gaining. There will always be individuals or groups opposed to that level of inclusion, but we must continue to struggle until the status quo is a fair representation of our society.

Qarni was an 8th grade civics teacher in Prince William County before Northam selected him as education secretary. He had gained prominence in Democratic Party circles when he ran run unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2013 and the Virginia Senate in 2015.  Speaking yesterday, he said his work as a middle-school teacher prepared him for a role in government. “If you can teach eighth grade, you can essentially do anything,” he quipped. 

He called Virginia’s standardized testing model “toxic.” “In some situations, standardized testing is necessary, but we need a better way to understand what kids are learning,” he said. “End-of-year assessments have handcuffed us to some degree.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The Qarni formula for Virginia schools in summary: (1) Increase inputs (more money for teachers, staff and school systems); (2) modify, in ways not made clear, the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests that measure outputs and hold schools accountable; and (3) redistribute the wealth, in ways not made clear, to pay for it all.

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6 responses to “Qarni’s Agenda for Virginia Schools

  1. Sooo…a fairly traditional liberal in today’s environment? I will listen with respect to the views of anyone who served as a Marine in Iraq, as he did, but have no requirement to agree. I expect after this, he runs for the Assembly again. Islamophobia post 9-11 is a very real problem, with too many unaware of the military service of folks like him (were you aware?). His complaints about the SOLs are hardly unique, his desire for more pay a Democratic theme song since Chuck Robb…..and extra pay for teachers in troubled schools is an idea I would support.

    • I’m in favor of NOT having a high-stakes environment for testing but it’s downright dumb to not measure and use those results to better calibrate your efforts.

      People get confused about this but the basic premise of those against the SOLs is not much different than opposing testing in general and yes there are some folks who would not have testing at all in school but I wonder if those same folks would have the same attitude towards professions such a Medical, or Engineering or airline pilots, etc.
      Do you really want that gal doing laser surgery on your eyes not “tested” because it would stress her out?

      • Agree with your comment about Medical, or Engineering or airline pilots. Lawyers too. They are pretty high stakes tests. This iscoming from a guy who had to take two bar exams in two separate states. My company transferred me to a different state that required one more year of experience in order to waive into the bar.

        The educational establishment does not want accountability. Just more money.

        • “Licensing” alert. Who decides what needs licensing, what needs a COPN, and what doesn’t? Of course it’s the GA, which of course acts in the pubic interest. Are the results encouraging?

  2. So the interesting thing is not that he’s a tax & spend liberal – big surprise!, but that he wants to get rid of the SOLs which actually has some bi-partisan support.

    SOLs, however, are the crucible for critics of public schools in Virginia. They go back to that well over and over to show “failures” of the public school system – AND to advocate for non-public school alternatives – without measuring SOLs for them of course.

    I LIKE the idea of a 20% incentive for teaching in the troubled schools but many localities would not put extra money on that – they have traditionally NOT done that and instead relied on the Feds for “Title” money. Without that money, we’d have even more problems with kids with “needs”. But we’re also back to how do we know that paying teachers a 20% incentive is “worth” it if we don’t measure results?

    And just the money alone will not fix the problem. It takes a different kind of teaching to deal with at-risk kids from poverty and problematical parental and family circumstances.

    We need targetted courses and certifications for this kind of teaching in Community Colleges – much like the Feds require for the “Title” programs that often require a Masters in that field, and the tuition needs to be free if they get the certificate.

    Then this needs to be incorporated into the statewide funding formula the composite index.

    I’m not in favor of teaching “harder” and “better”. I want to see results for the money spent or else no deal.

  3. Does this quote below tell you all you need to know about Atif Qarni, and Va. Governor Ralph Northam, who appointed this ill educated race baiting ideologue to be Va. Secretary of Education?

    “Here’s what Qarni, who moved to the U.S. from Pakistan with his family at the age of 10, wrote last month in Blue Virginia:

    “We have a long way to go to address systemic racism, Islamophobia, and other forms of biases and hate that exist here at home. The root cause of this is power inequality. People in power have the ability to shape policies that impact certain communities of color or marginalized groups from seeking power. …

    For 8 years, our country had a black President—arguably in the most powerful position in the world. The image of a black man representing the face of America was a threat to the very power structure that kept people who looked like him from reaching such a height.

    Today, black and brown people are mobilizing and reclaiming the power that was stolen from them or systematically denied to them. Every group deserves to have a voice and fair representation in society—that’s what Democratic societies believe but what we practice doesn’t reflect this belief. This idea of shared power is most radical ONLY because it threatens the status quo. During transitions of power, someone is always losing while the other is gaining. There will always be individuals or groups opposed to that level of inclusion, but we must continue to struggle until the status quo is a fair representation of our society.”

    Qarni was an 8th grade civics teacher in Prince William County before Northam selected him as education secretary. He had gained prominence in Democratic Party circles when he ran run unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2013 and the Virginia Senate in 2015.”

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