Tag Archives: James Sherlock

Pre-COVID Test Results Show a Failed Public Education System

by James C. Sherlock

I have questions in my own mind about the quality of Virginia public schools.

In search of answers I invested several weeks full time in building into a spreadsheet what I consider some of the critical metrics among both Virginia public schools in general and ten different school districts that I chose.  

For each of those districts I recorded data on: 

  • demographic groups by racial cohort, economically disadvantaged, and English learners;
  • school investment; 
  • chronic absenteeism; 
  • SOL reading and math performance of each demographic group in each district; and  
  • Compared them to state averages in each metric.

I chose and paired the ten different school districts (of 133) in an attempt to get a cross section of urban, suburban and rural districts in Northern Virginia, the Richmond area, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads and Southern Virginia.

I used the 2018-19 school year, the last year before COVID, to provide a baseline for learning losses and what those schools need to do going forward.  

The data reveal enormous problems with the basic building blocks of education.  Continue reading

A Gift to VDOE From a Critic

by James C. Sherlock

I write about education in Virginia.  

I think VDOE is going down the wrong rabbit holes in some of its programs, but I want to be able to see what the data says.  

There are vast troves of state and federal government education data, but I have been frustrated by the lack of useful visualization tools for assessing the true academic performance issues in our K-12 schools.

So I have built one. Hardly perfect, but it works.  And no, you have not seen this one before from me in a previous post. I had to change and expand it to make it work the way I wanted.

It now does.  I offer it to VDOE for free. Continue reading

Removal of Cops on Richmond School Board Agenda

by James C. Sherlock

The City of Richmond School Board tonight has as an agenda item its strategic plan “Priority 3 – Safe and Loving School Cultures” tonight at 6 PM.

Meeting Jun 07, 2021 – Richmond City School Board Meeting – 6:00 p.m. Category New Business Subject New Business. Type Procedural Goals
Priority 1 – Exciting and Rigorous Teaching And Learning
Priority 2 – Skilled and Supported Staff
Priority 3 – Safe and Loving School Cultures
Priority 4 – Deep Partnership with Families and Community
Priority 5 – Modern Systems and Infrastructure

That is where Superintendent Jason Kamras’ proposal last summer to remove school resource officers (SRO) from the schools in which they currently provide security is the biggest issue.

Some teachers in those schools are concerned about their safety and the safety of the children if Kamras’ proposal is adopted. So inevitably are some of the parents. Other parents and teachers support the change. Non-profit lawyers of course support it. Continue reading

Virginia Local Ability-to-Pay Calculation and State Contributions to Public Schools — Some Surprises

by James C. Sherlock

Some things are very important that the average citizen knows little to nothing about.

For example, a complex state computation, the Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay, determines how much state money per student goes to your school district to maintain an overall state ratio of 55% state and 45% local.

The lower your district composite index of ability to pay, the more money per student your district gets.

You will find some big surprises in the list of school division indexes, or at least I did.

My home division of Virginia Beach did not make the top 20 highest indexes, while the City of Richmond did. Fredericksburg is a top-20 division. Stafford County is in the lower middle group. Bath County has the third highest index out of 133. Continue reading

An Expanded View of the Extraordinary Chesapeake Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Yesterday I wrote about the six school districts in South Hampton Roads. At the request of a reader, I expanded the data for Chesapeake.

The data show a white minority (43%), multiracial school system that in 2018-19  (last year before COVID disruptions) exceed state SOL passing averages for every major racial grouping in both math and reading.

The racial groups for which I examined SOL results were white (43.1% of students), Black (32.4%), Hispanic (10.9%), multi-racial (8.2%) and Asian-American (2.8%). That comes very close to matching the statewide school demographics.

The results are amazing. Continue reading

First Get Kids in School, Then Offer Educational Theories, Then Pilot Them, and We Might Believe You

by James C. Sherlock

The wisdom of Occam’s razor has seldom been more fully realized than in modern educational theory.

Friar William of Ockham in the 13th century proposed that simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they tend to be more testable. And usually more accurate  It has been true a long time.

The left hates that.

I have wondered for years why educational theory has avoided pilot studies. I think I have figured it out. Educational theories are the least scientific of disciplines. Education schools are historically the least disciplined of researchers, and favor full immersion instead of field trials.

They cannot stand pilot tests that will not only possibly, but likely disprove their theories.

One example close to all of us is that the ed school prescriptions for drastic overhauls of educational policy do not seem ever to reference the enormous amount of data that we have on Virginia schools. Continue reading

North Carolina AG takes on Hospitals That Fail to Publish Shoppable Prices

by James C. Sherlock

Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina, fresh off killing the Sentara-Cone merger, on his very busy day yesterday had an Assistant AG send a letter to North Carolina hospitals.

It demanded that hospitals comply with federal hospital pricing transparency regulations that require that hospitals make publicly available a machine-readable file containing a list of prices for all items and services as well as a consumer-friendly list with prices for shoppable services.

He told them that he looked forward to their cooperation — by the end of the month.

This is the second time today I have wished Virginia had an Attorney General.

North Carolina AG Investigation Quashes Sentara/Cone Health Merger

by James C. Sherlock

In the big merger equivalent of “spend more time with our families,” Cone and Sentara issued a joint statement on June 2 that they “have jointly decided not to move forward” with their planned merger.

“As this work progressed, we realized that each of our communities and key stakeholders require support and commitments from our respective organizations that are better served by remaining independent.

“The decision was a difficult one, but both organizations remain committed to advancing our common goal of providing outstanding care for our respective communities.”

There was that.

But then we discovered that North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein — unlike Virginia, North Carolina actually has an AG — clearly threatened to sue to stop it. Continue reading

Sentara, Cone Health Call Off Merger

From Virginia Business:

“Sentara Healthcare and Greensboro, North Carolina-based Cone Health mutually called off a merger Wednesday, according to a statement by the Norfolk-based health care system.”

The Sentara Healthcare Board of Directors and the Cone Health Board of Trustees came to the mutual agreement to end affiliation plans late last week, according to the announcement.

In Wednesday’s statement, Sentara officials said, “As this work progressed, we realized that each of our communities and key stakeholders require support and commitments from our respective organizations that are better served by remaining independent. The decision was a difficult one, but both organizations remain dedicated to advancing our common goal of providing outstanding care for our respective communities.”

The outcome was right, whatever the reason. It will be interesting to see where Sentara trains its gaze next.

— J.S.

Some Northern Virginia Schools Get Failing Grades on Black Student Literacy and Numeracy

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

We spend a lot of time here documenting the raging debates at Northern Virginia school board meetings over Critical Race Theory in schools. Raging is the right word.  

Yet those same school systems fail to educate the kids they claim to care about most.

Consider what we see from VDOE and them instead:

  • the teacher strike threats;
  • the elimination of competitive tests for magnet schools and AP courses;
  • the ongoing attempt to recall Loudoun school board members;
  • the lawsuits;
  • the “too many Asians” idiocy of the Secretary of Education and the new rules that will push most high achieving Asian American students out of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the name of “equity”;
  • the Virginia Board of Education taking over as the regulator for child care, writing a 24-page draft regulation on transgender students and working every day to write regulations to create little social activists starting at birth.

It is past time for Northern Virginia school systems and VDOE to get to work doing something a little more basic.  

I have a thought. Start by teaching the far too many Black students who, pre-COVID, had failed to achieve literacy and numeracy at or even near grade level.  

Hope I’m not out of line. Continue reading

An Agenda for High Quality Primary Care

by James C. Sherlock

The Business of Healthcare

I have written columns here and in various newspapers across the state for a number of years supporting health enterprise zones (HEZ’s) in underserved areas of Virginia.

I drafted and Republican Attorney General candidate Jason Miyares sponsored legislation of that title in the General Assembly.

It lost. Like night follows day, Democrats killed it. Fast forward.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released an implementation plan May 4 for the U.S. government, recommending it provide high-quality primary care to all Americans. The program proposed is simply too large in my view to be run effectively in 50 states by the federal government and its one-size fits all regulations.

But it contains good ideas — action items that Virginia can and should legislate without waiting for federal legislation that may never see the light of day. Continue reading

Martinsville and the Reversion – Part 2

by James C. Sherlock

Dick Hall-Sizemore yesterday gave us a rather bloodless, bureaucratic, and relatively positive description of the upcoming shotgun marriage between Martinsville and Henry County. He could not seem to understand the angst on the part of Henry County.

I’ll try to help him out.

It was good to have the historical perspective that Dick always brings, but I am going to take the opportunity to offer a bit of the human side of that merger.

First, these are two profoundly poor areas. The people, white and black, are also much less healthy than the rest of the state. The tale, however, doesn’t stop there.

Selected differences

Martinsville

  • The 2020 population of Martinsville was 13,821. The median age was 42.7 compared to the state average of 37.8. The population was 53.5% female. Percentage in civilian workforce 54.9%.
  • The median household income in Martinsville, VA in 2019 was $35,405, which was 115.9% less than the median annual income of $76,456 across the entire state of Virginia.
  • The FY 2021 budget for Martinsville was $103 million, of which $27.6 million is school-related for 1,881 pupils. Totals: $7,452 per citizen, $14,673 per pupil. Black student 2019 SOL pass rates: Math, 74%, Reading, 59%.
  • Persons under 18 years: 25.4%
  • Persons over 65 years: 18.1% because of much lower life expectancy
  • Building permits 2020: 1

Continue reading

The One-Sided Decision in the Reversion of Martinsville – the Start of a Trend?

by James C. Sherlock

The Martinsville Bulletin, perhaps the best remaining newspaper in the state for local coverage, published a must-read article on the reversion of Martinsville from city to town and joining Henry County.

Overview

Martinsville’s current city logo, above, was perhaps prescient. Martinsville has been hemorrhaging population, losing more than 18% in the past 10 years, and was financially stressed before that loss.

Reversion in Virginia is a one-handed game. The small cities hold all of the cards.

Henry County is vocally opposed but feels helpless to stop it. The Henry County Supervisors voted to skip the legal process to avoid the costs. They called the reversion MOU “the best we could hope for and voted for it to avoid years of court battles”.

They are right  What they avoided was the special court that would have overseen the reversion under Virginia law had they not come to an agreement. The county would have been a defendant in a trial.

The rules for that court specified in that law give the small cities every advantage in a trial. That same special court would have overseen the transition for a decade. Every decision.

The changes reversion portends for city and county residents are massive. Now that his has happened, does anyone think this will be the last reversion? Continue reading

Math and Reading Remediation Coming to Richmond Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

I spent the past couple of days writing about thousands of human tragedies playing out in Richmond Pubic Schools (RPS), their complexity and the large bureaucracy responsible for fixing it.  

Half of the Black kids in fourth grade in RPS schools could not read in 2018-19.  Nine year olds. Half could not multiply. Discipline problems were severe. Ten percent of black RPS middle schoolers who started school in the fall of 2018 were arrested for in-school violations of the law. Large numbers of kids, 13% on the average day, were absent. Now two school years interrupted by COVID.

Someone has to start somewhere. RPS is starting with a program to mitigate deficient student reading and math skills. Continue reading

Teachers’ Unions Frightened by Implications of Remote Learning

by James C. Sherlock

Well, never mind.

Mayor de Blasio announced Monday that New York City schools will be all in person this fall with no remote options.

Surprised?

If you haven’t been keeping up, the teachers’ unions have discovered that a lot of their members are replaceable by remote instructional content from commercial sources.

A lot of schools nationwide tried it this year and found it was not only better content, but way cheaper to pay for these services from commercial vendors than to pay their own teachers to provide it.

The National Guard won’t be able to keep many formerly stay-at-home teachers from their classrooms next year.