Tag Archives: James Sherlock

HB 2094 Poses a Risk to Objective Assessments of Virginia Public Schools and Students

by James C. Sherlock

Dungeness School House

HB 2094, Public schools; Standards of Learning assessments poses a risk that Virginia parents will be left without an objective measure of their children’s progress in school. That is likely a risk unforeseen by its patrons.

The bill has been introduced by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, with support from co-patrons Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, Del. Will Wampler, R-Abingdon, and Sen. Todd E. Pillion, R-Abingdon.  

I hope that they will consider redrafting the bill to eliminate this risk.

Current Virginia law

“The Standards of Learning assessments administered to students in all grades three through eight shall meet but not exceed (a) reading and mathematics in grades three and four; (b) reading, mathematics, and science in grade five; (c) reading and mathematics in grades six and seven; (d) reading, writing, and mathematics in grade eight; (e) science after the student receives instruction in the grade six science, life science, and physical science Standards of Learning and before the student completes grade eight; and (f) Virginia Studies and Civics and Economics once each at the grade levels deemed appropriate by each local school board.”

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Virginia’s State Health System Will Continue to Kill its Citizens If We Let It

by James C. Sherlock

Dr. Northam

Virginians of every political stripe have grown very tired of watching the Northam administration obfuscate repeated, very public failures to carry out its role in protecting the health of its citizens since the onset of COVID.

But that is an effect, not a cause, of the massive and continuing failures at the state level to protect the public health.

A parade of failures

The bigger problems — incompetence in the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), lack of management oversight by the Governor and his appointees and political indifference driven in part by political corruption — go back as far as I can remember.

The very latest is COVID vaccinations. VDH has known for 9 months that it would have to lead the internal distribution within the state of vaccines and oversee a program to make sure they get into peoples arms. That is going so well that we are 48th in efficiency of vaccinations.

Before that it was the state’s failure to read much less practice the state emergency pandemic plan that was written at federal expense by federal contractors more than a decade ago; failure to maintain the state emergency stockpile that it called for; failure to effectively inspect for hospital and nursing home pandemic readiness prior to COVID; failure to appropriately manage COVID personal protection equipment distribution; delays and corruption in the program for COVID testing in nursing homes; failure to even acknowledge the attempted hostile takeover of EVMS; failure to support Health Enterprise Zones to improve access by the poor to primary care; VDH’s use of its role in COPN to create regional hospital monopolies and restrict the number of beds; severe and very costly restriction of the establishment ambulatory surgical centers under COPN; the list goes on. Continue reading

Everything Here Is Exactly As It Seems

James Lane
Superintendent of Public Instruction

by James C. Sherlock

I just reviewed the newest Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) CYA buck- passing disguised as K-12 school reopening guidelines. Interesting.

It consists of a page of “indicators” followed by two pages of “considerations” and then seven pages of multivariable decision matrices called “steps” which together can help produce a decision. Or not. But it is carefully tailored so that whatever decision is reached, it cannot be blamed on the VDOE.

What could go wrong? And what would we do without a Department of Education? Continue reading

Live by the Sword

Del. Jerrauld C. Jones. Credit: Washington Post

by James C. Sherlock.

This is a follow up to Jim Bacon’s story about Levar Stoney, his contributor and city statue removal contractor, credible accusations of corruption and Attorney General Herring.

From the Washington Washington Post:

“In what may become a heated Democratic primary contest for Virginia attorney general, state Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones Friday attacked Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) Friday for authorizing an investigation into allegations of impropriety surrounding Richmond’s mayor — a standard move in an ongoing court case that Jones called a Trump-like abuse of power. “Using the office of the Attorney General to investigate your political opponents is the same tactic employed by Donald Trump,” Jones (D-Norfolk) said in a statement, referring to the fact that Richmond Mayor Levar A. Stoney has endorsed him, and not Herring, for the Democratic nomination for attorney general this year.”

Welcome to the quicksand of the left, General Herring.

You are now officially accused of abuse of public office for “authorizing an investigation” into allegations of corruption on Stoney’s part. Not indicting, investigating. As is your job. Continue reading

General Assembly Legislation of Note: Education, Schools and Health

by James C. Sherlock

As bills affecting education, educational institutions or health get filed and make their way, or not, through the General Assembly in 2021, I will occasionally make note of them here.  I will certainly not list them all, but will highlight the ones of interest to me and I hope to our readers.

Education and Educational Institutions

As of this afternoon, these are the education bills I find interesting.  There are no bills yet filed under the heading educational institutions.

Del. Terry L. Austin, R-Buchanan, has introduced two bills to ensure professionalism and regional representation within the Board of Education (not a minute too soon).

  • The first is HB 1826 Education, Board of; qualifications of members. Requires the nine-member Board of Education to include at least one member with experience or expertise in local government leadership or policymaking, at least one member with experience or expertise in career and technical education, and at least one member with experience or expertise in early childhood education, all of whom are appointed by the governor. My take: good idea. Not sure that special education should not be added. It is a bigger deal than the other specified qualifications.
  • The second is HB 1827 Education, Board of; geographic representation of members.  Requires the nine-member Board of Education to include at least five members, appointed by the governor, who each reside in different superintendent’s regions in the Commonwealth. My take: good idea long overdue.

Sen.William M. Stanley, Jr., R-Glade Hill, has again submitted his annual bills to rehabilitate school buildings. These are SB 1106 Public School Assistance Fund and Program; created. Creates a fund to repair or replace roofs. And SB 1109 Voter referendum; issuance of state general obligation bonds for school facility modernization. My take: good ideas long overdue. Continue reading

Anyone Think They Understand Hospital Pricing?

by James C. Sherlock

Having written yesterday about the newly appeals-court-certified HHS rules on hospital price transparency, I will use this opportunity to provide some real examples of the gargantuan Rubik’s cube that is hospital pricing.

I will be talking about hospital prices only, not the much lower prices of non-hospital alternatives including  ambulatory surgical centers and office-based practices for some hospital procedures.   

These examples are meant to give the reader an understanding of the enormous differences in hospital payments for identical procedures. Don’t try to make more of them than that. I won’t entertain detailed questions on individual charges because I simply don’t have the information to provide those answers.

I will use the term diagnostic-related groups (DRGs). A DRG is how government insurers and many health insurance companies bundle hospitalization costs to determine how much to pay for your hospital stay. 

So, rather than pay the hospital for each specific service and consumable it provides, these insurers pay a predetermined (government) or negotiated (private insurers and individuals) amount based on the DRG under which they were billed. They then entertain charges for services and consumables that were provided but were not included in the standard bundle.  Continue reading

Important Changes in Healthcare Billing and Price Transparency

by James C. Sherlock

A lot happened right before the New Year to change the rules for healthcare billing and pricing.

Balance Billing

In one of the events, new federal law buried in the end of year, 5,600-page $900 billion COVID-19 federal relief legislation bans balance billing to patients.

“Surprise” billing for the balance due after an insurance company pays its contracted providers occurs when patients are presented with unexpected bills from out-of-network providers who practice in in-network hospitals.

ER physicians in particular have been very active in forming practices that contract with hospitals, effectively reducing the supply of ER physicians available to work as hospital employees. Continue reading

The Gray Lady Backs School Testing

James Lane
Superintendent of Public Instruction

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote in a column not long ago that it will be impossible to create plans to make up for COVID-related learning losses if we cannot benchmark those losses and their subsequent mitigation.

I recommended standardized testing as the only readily available and proven way to take those measurements.

For most readers of this space, the concept that standardized testing (SOLs in the case of Virginia) is required this spring to establish a baseline for learning losses is simple common sense. For the national teachers unions and for much of the woke left, standardized testing is considered unfair to the poor, a vestige of systemic racism and a violation of dogma.

What is unfair to disadvantaged children is to mask their educational needs by burying the evidence.

That is why it is good to see that the editorial board of the New York Times, in this morning’s lead editorial, has written that we need standardized testing for benchmarking of learning losses. Continue reading

The Race Industry Can Never Declare Victory

by James C. Sherlock

Karl Marx

I read an op-ed by Scott Johnston this morning in the Wall Street Journal: “Revolution Consumes New York’s Elite Dalton School.” The subtitle wasTeachers of $54,000 Zoom classes demand a lowering of standards and hiring of a dozen diversity staffers. It is very much worth a read. Told of an eight-page list of demands by most of the faculty and staff of the Dalton School, a hyper-expensive Upper East Side school. One of its insights was:

“It is telling that the manifesto begins with a quote from a Marxist professor named Robin Kelley, someone who professes admiration for Trotsky’s “permanent revolution.” Should the Dalton administration give in to every last demand, there will be a new list tomorrow. The goal posts move quickly in this racket.”

It reminded me that there is a secret about the race industry that corporations, government agencies, universities and school systems must understand. Most of them actually do understand but either support Critical Race Theory or seek what they think is the path of least resistance whose costs can be contained with other people’s money. Those in the “least resistance” camp are fools.

The race industry in America is in the grievance business, a very large and profitable enterprise. It is self-justifying, necessary because it says — loudly and backed with a combination of shaming and threats — it is. It is expanding daily and providing six-figure jobs for people who learned nothing positive, creative or otherwise useful in college, only grievance.   Continue reading

COVID Has Exposed Massive Failures in Governance

by James C. Sherlock

In a comment to my previous post, we saw a statement “most parents are happy with the education their kids are getting.”   That is no longer true. Polls say overwhelmingly it is not.

On a personal note, my two grandsons in Albemarle County schools, twin seniors, haven’t set foot in their high school this year. Albemarle County has during this same time period declared itself the state’s first antiracist school district. Excellent timing. Shows where the superintendent’s head was. The school board rubber stamped that policy. No one noted that black students were and are unable to go to school.

COVID has exposed a fatal lack of government imagination, planning and execution in good times. It simply did not do the blocking and tackling.

Remember my story about the decades-long lack of hospital and nursing home inspectors? Remember the nursing home deaths that resulted?

Remember the University of Virginia Board of Visitors more than a decade ago fired the president of that school in part because she would not invest enough in distance learning? Remember that the board itself was then threatened with firing by the Governor and she returned triumphant? Now remember what happened when that school and others had to switch to remote learning under COVID? Continue reading

School Superintendents Are Accountable for Special Ed Compliance

by James C. Sherlock – Updated 23 Dec. with division-by-subject table of bad SOL results for students with disabilities.

Old School House Photo by Steve McKinzie

I just finished reading the December 14 JLARC Report. “K–12 Special Education in Virginia 2020.”

The report is highly critical of public school special education in Virginia, but it misses the mark on its findings as well as its recommendations.  

The major problem with the findings is that the report does not specify which school districts do a good job in special education and which districts do a poor job.  

The major problem with the recommendations is that the bulk of them recommend new regulations by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) and additional oversight by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The current regulations, especially federal regulations that come with the federal money for special education, are quite specific. And not uniformly followed.

As big a critic as I have been of VBOE and VDOE — they need to do better — but the biggest culprits are the superintendents of Virginia’s school districts. Those men and women are highly educated and experienced in the requirements of their jobs and highly paid to execute them.  Continue reading

Mitigating COVID-Related Learning Losses – Conflicted Advice Gets an Airing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Old School House Photo by Steve McKinzie

by James C. Sherlock

Any attention given to learning losses is welcome, but some are more welcome than others.

Data published in an op-ed by Kristen Amundson in the Richmond Times-Dispatch give preliminary evidence of the destruction of K-12 learning that has been going on since last March.

“A new poll from Christopher Newport University found that 75% of Virginia parents are worried their children are falling behind in school because of disruptions caused by COVID-19. More than half (53%) are “very worried.”

They’re right.

Nine months after the pandemic led to school closures, we have data on how well students are learning. The answer: Not well.

This past month, Fairfax County Public Schools reported an 83% increase in the number of middle and high school students receiving an “F” in two or more classes. Unsurprisingly, students with disabilities, English learners and economically disadvantaged students did even worse, with jumps of more than 350%.

The nonprofit testing organization NWEA reported in November that students’ math scores dropped five to 10 percentage points from this past year. While reading scores roughly held constant, even students who are making some progress show smaller gains than in the past, “resulting in more students falling behind relative to their prior standing,” NWEA says.

Her data are illustrative. I think even those predictions will prove optimistic under SOL testing.

Continue reading

Healthcare Spending Drives Growth in Virginia Budget over Last 10 Years

by James C. Sherlock

On December 16, the Director of the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget provided a briefing for the Joint Meeting of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and the House Finance Committee.  

The subject was the Governor’s proposed amendments to the 2020-2022 Biennial Budget. The Governor submitted the revised budget discussed in that briefing and it was introduced as matching bills by the chairpersons of the Senate and House appropriations committees on December 16.

There is plenty of information of interest in there.  Continue reading

Year-Round School in Virginia until COVID Learning Losses are Made Up

by James C. Sherlock – revised 20 December 2020

This essay will recommend that each school board implement what the title suggests. The concept is far from fanciful. COVID-related learning losses are extreme.  Summer learning losses are also a big factor on traditional school calendars.  Year-round schools are acknowledged to improve student learning, and Virginia is on board with year-round schedules.

It is up to each school board to decide. There is no slack in the schedule to decide. Each needs to make a decision in January for the decision to gain funding support by the Governor and General Assembly.

Year-round public school is not an experiment

From Public School Review:

“Data from the National Association of Year-Round Education  shows that schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a year-round format and that nearly 3 million K-12 students in the U.S. attend a year-round school. While this figure represents only about 4 percent of all K-12 students in the U.S., it is significantly higher than it was 30 years ago, when less than 400,000 U.S. students attended school year-round.

The point is that a school board in Virginia may not know how to make the transition but there are school boards, and their consultants, who have done it successfully. Continue reading

Orwellian Aspirations, a False Alumni Association Narrative, and Adult Supervision at UVa

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes things come together that confirm one’s worst fears but improve hope for the future simultaneously. Such a turning point happened with me not long after UVa’s alumni magazine, Virginia (Winter Edition 2020), arrived at my house earlier this month.  

The first story in the magazine was a piece written by Richard Gard (Col ’81), alumni association vice president for communications and editor of Virginia. It was titled “BOV Blesses Racial Equity Plan — More Diversity, Less Confederacy.” Catchy.

It purported to update alumni on “Audacious Future: Commitment Required,” the report of the University’s racial equity task force, and the Board of Visitors’ specifically partial and entirely unfunded endorsement of that report.

The members of that task force were:

  • Kevin McDonald, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships 
  • Ian H. Solomon, Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
  • Barbara Brown Wilson, Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning and co-founder and Faculty Director of UVA’s Equity Center

All three were smiling in the pictures that accompanied the article. Hard to say why. Continue reading