The Post-COVID World: More Home Schooling

by James A. Bacon

The Home Educators Association of Virginia has seen a dramatic increase in inquiries about home schooling since the advent of the COVID-19 epidemic. In the past three months there have been 3,000 new members to the association’s Facebook page and 2,000 new requests to join through the website.

“Since [the pandemic], people are trying to figure out what to do. They’re very concerned now that the regulations and procedures on classrooms have been announced,” Anne Miller, president of the Home Educators association, told WYDaily. “Many parents are concerned about anxiety in the classroom and the threat of resurgence in the fall.”

Perhaps most notably, home schooling among African-American families is on the rise. Home schooling, say many African-American parents, helped their children learn about black history and culture. Home-schooled black children also out-perform their peers nationally, scoring above the 50th percentile in reading, language math and other core subjects, according to a 2015 National Home Education Research Institute study.

By accelerating the acceptance of the work-from-home norm, the COVID-19 epidemic may give parents more flexibility to home school their children. “I don’t believe as many people are going to want to go back to the office,” Miller said. “If you want to home school, there’s almost always a way to make it work with a working parent and working from home.”

Home schooling is not for everyone, and it likely never will be. It requires significant parental involvement, which may be more than many working single mothers or families reliant upon two paychecks can provide. Fewer than one-third of married-couple households in the U.S. with children under 18 had a stay-at-home parent.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 32.7% of Virginia’s 2.7 million households had children under 18 at home, and married-couple families accounted for 52.8% of all households. This particular Census source did not break out the number of married-couple households with children at home, but an order-of-magnitude guesstimate would be around 500,000 in Virginia. The number of home-school children in the state, 32,282 in the 2019-20 school year, has almost doubled since 2002-03. Clearly, the home school movement has considerable room to grow. 

Among the greatest virtues of home schooling is the ability to mold teaching methods to a child’s individual learning styles, and to progress at a pace matching the child’s ability to absorb and master new concepts. The conventional schooling model at both public and private schools, of moving all children in lockstep leaves many children behind. 

Home schooling is far more innovative and flexible than stultified, bureaucratic, and politicized public school systems. More and more educational content is available online, and many home schoolers form Web-enabled cooperatives like the Historical Triangle Classical Conversations organization in the Williamsburg area. The flexibility provided by work-from-home will open up even more possibilities.

Another accelerant for the home school movement could be the increasing emphasis in many districts on a leftist view of racial inclusion and equity. The leftist narrative, pushed by the Virginia Department of Education and gaining increasing traction locally, goes far beyond making schools welcoming to students of all racial/ethnic backgrounds. It teaches a doctrine of white privilege and white guilt, and it allows no dissent. Submit or be shamed into silence.

Because no dissent is permitted, many parents keep their mouths shut. But don’t be surprised if many decide to educate their children at home where they can raise their children in a manner consistent with their own beliefs and values. As Virginia public schools begin to resemble re-education camps, inculcating a leftist, social justice ethic while neglecting math, reading, writing, and analytical thinking, the trickle of Virginia families to home schooling could become a torrent.

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16 responses to “The Post-COVID World: More Home Schooling”

  1. Tom Banford Avatar
    Tom Banford

    There is no evidence that Virginia schools are resembling re-education camps and are neglecting math, reading, and writing. In fact the criticism is that they are focused too much on this due to standardized testing and are ignoring critical thinking and long term learning. Further, you have yet to explain what “restorative justice” means in a school setting. Home schooling is a very good alternative for some parents. It would be nice to hear from people that actually have experience in Virginia’s public schools.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Hair on fire crowd forgets that Virginia schools were closed for a year 1958-1959.

      BTW, the effect one me of the closure, and a transfer to Europe midways between the next year, was that I did not receive lessons in cursive writing. I print. The only cursive writing I do is my signature.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        and not a whimper about the 1958-1959 “closures”. Nope.. It was
        an “emergency”.

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          Meh, give ’em a break, Larry. The children never knew “hard times”. Hell, and even Dick and Steve no longer remember them.

      2. “one me” grammar Nazi?

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Banford says:

      “There is no evidence that Virginia schools are resembling re-education camps and are neglecting math, reading, and writing. In fact the criticism is that they are focused too much on this due to standardized testing and are ignoring critical thinking and long term learning. Further, you have yet to explain what “restorative justice” means in a school setting. Home schooling is a very good alternative for some parents. It would be nice to hear from people that actually have experience in Virginia’s public schools.”

      As to Virginia public school K -12 rampantly expanding reeducation camps see Uva. curry school of education website for details. (Note School by now may have renamed itself to rid itself name Curry).

      As to many Virginia K – 12 public schools neglecting math, reading, and writing:

      Please remember that Virginia Board of Education falsified achievement tests of Virginia high school students by upward of 40% so as to falsely claim these kids qualified for a college education when of surely knew that these students did not qualify.

      This conclusion is based on a related series of earlier articles on Bacon’s Rebellion, including for example, these comments of mine, under post titled : Virginia Reading Test Scores Plunge, dated Oct. 30, 2019, namely:

      “Reed Fawell 3rd | October 31, 2019 at 11:06 am | Reply

      Here is an important question on this NAEP reading Proficiency Chart that shows that ONLY 33% OF VIRGINIA’S EIGHT GRADERS ARE ABLE TO READ AT OR ABOVE THE NATIONAL 8TH GRADE LEVEL.

      If that is true then why should we believe that its true that 12th grade kids in Virginia pass Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) at far more than double the NAEP rate (at 8th grade), namely:

      “Reading: 78% pass rate, down 2 percentage points from the previous year.

      Writing: 76% pass rate, down 2 percentage points.”


      In fact, what normally happens after the 8th grade is that disadvantaged kids and other poor learners (whether advantaged or not), fall even further behind their grade level achievement after the 8th grade. This happens for well known reasons. Thus the majority of American kids are no where even close to “college ready” after they “graduate” from 12th grade, assuming they did not drop out altogether from schooling before then.

      In short, what do 12th grade NAEP proficiency charts tell us about Virginia students who graduate? And how do those figures compare to Virginia’s own SOL charts, and what do the latter have to do with telling us about College readiness? Can we believe them? If so, why?

      Reed Fawell 3rd | October 31, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Reply

      “2015 12th graders reading at 12th grade level nationally per NEAP tests – In 2015, thirty-seven percent of twelfth-grade students performed at or above the Proficient achievement level in reading, according to NEAP test results.

      These test results include following percentage breakdowns for students whose parents had variant educational levels:

      18% pass rate for students whose parents did not finish high school.

      24% pass rate for students whose parents did finish high school.

      36% pass rate for those whose parents had some education after high school.


      What a remarkable record of gross failure. No wonder most kids learn nothing in college. Now, if we compare Virginia students proficiency rates in 12th grade to their grade level, we will see how honest or dishonest Virginia’s SOL testing is. Good luck finding it.

      Now too, we know why 12th grade NEAP testing results are so hard to find, and often are not published at all, including since 2015.


      Reed Fawell 3rd | November 1, 2019 at 8:32 am | Reply

      Given these NAEP test results, the key question is can Virginians trust the reported results of the Virginia Department of Education’s SOL tests? The answer is a resounding NO. This tests cannot be trusted. Why? Because they are grossly inflated.

      For example, compare the following SOL results with NAEP results reported in Jim Bacon’s August 13, 2019 post entitled “Latest SOLS: More Declines in Reading, Writing”:

      “Here are the top-line results for the state:

      Reading: 78% pass rate, down 2 percentage points from the previous year.
      Writing: 76% pass rate, down 2 percentage points.
      Math: 82% pass rate, up 5 percentage points.
      Science: 81% pass rate, unchanged
      History/social science: 80% pass, down 4 percentage points

      Asians, as usual, out-performed all other racial/ethnic groups, followed by whites, Hispanics, and blacks. Despite a heavy emphasis by the Northam administration to address racial inequities in schools, the black-white achievement gap grew wider last year in reading and writing, while remaining the same for science.

      VDOE instituted two main changes to its testing. First, it reduced the number of tests high school students must pass to graduate. Under the revised regulations, explains the VDOE press release, “students who meet the testing requirement in a content area do not have to take another test in the subject unless additional testing is required for the school to comply with federal testing requirements. Previously, high school students continued to take end-of-course tests even if they had already earned the credits in the content area necessary to graduate.”

      “The reduction in high school testing is most apparent in history where there is not a federal requirement that students take at least one test in the subject in high school,” VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle told Bacon’s Rebellion. The Every Student Succeeds Act “requires that students take at least one test in reading, math and science during high school.”

      Second, VDOE introduced new tests and standards for math. Some educators have expressed concern that the math standards were watered down. (See “Did the State Reduce the Rigor of Math SOLs?”)

      School Superintendent James Lane said VDOE staff will collaborate with school divisions to address the achievement gaps in reading, especially in the elementary grades. VDOE will work with schools and divisions that did not see declines in reading performance in order to identify best practices and successful strategies for improving reading skills. The effort will include a review of the effectiveness of interventions to assist young readers not reading at grade level.

      “School divisions must ensure that all children receive research-based reading instruction — beginning in kindergarten — that addresses their specific needs, and that students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade,” Lane said. “This includes making sure that students read a variety of challenging content, including non-fiction and literature that expands vistas and vocabularies. We must meet students where they are, but we must also move them to where they need to be: reading at grade level or above and ready for success in the 21st century.”

      Obviously, VA’s SOL numbers are bogus. They inflate real test results by a factor of two. Surely this is an effort to buttress repeated claims within VA’s educational cartel that some 70% of Virginia’s high school graduates are “college ready” when only some 37% could possible meet that test even under NAEP’s watered down definition of “college ready.”

      Simply put the Virginia Department of Educations SOL test results grossly mislead parents, students, and the public paying the bills that support a failing system.”

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    As I have mentioned in my comments on this blog, my daughter home-schools her three children. The oldest will be 17 this fall and has been home-schooled since the pre-K stage. The kids thrive in this environment. One of them is less enthusiastic about school than the others. A few years ago, when this child was being especially resistant about “doing” school, my daughter said: “Look, you have a choice: regular school or home school. No school is not a choice.” The child then settled in.

    My daughter spends a great deal of time planning the curricula, preparing individual lessons, searching for and obtaining teaching materials and books, actually presenting the lessons, trying to find new and interesting ways of presenting the material, and supervising the kids as they do their lesson assignments.

    The kids like home school. Their parents have told them they can go to regular school if they wish, but none have made that choice. There is a great deal of flexibility. They have assignments to complete, but they can do them within their own time frame (within reason). They do not have to sit at a desk or table all day during school. They have been known to do their assignments while sitting in the bathtub, lying in a hammock, stretched out on the floor with the dog, or lying on a bed.

    They have access to other resources. The oldest has used on-line courses for several subjects, including Latin and creative writing. They are members of long-established, well-organized coop, which they attended one day a week until it closed due to the coronavirus.

    My daughter enjoys some advantages that might not be available to other parents who may want to home school. She is a pediatrician whose practice has let her work part-time from the time she began home-schooling her first child. Similarly, her husband’s architectural firm has let him work part-time so that he could be at home when she was at her office.

    Homeschooling is not easy and is not something one should go into without a great deal of thought. It takes the full attention of a parent, especially if there is more than one child and especially during the years prior to high school. Some children like school and have self-discipline; others have different personalities. Perhaps most importantly, the parent has to like being around his or her children all day and like teaching. I do not think it would be possible to properly home-school one’s children while simultaneously trying to work from home.

    As for your gratuitous concluding comments, one could conclude that only “leftists” supported racial inclusion and equity and non-leftists (conservatives?) believed in while privilege.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yes.. it’s like a Jekyll-Hide blog post… starts out on homeschooling then abruptly turns hard right and zooms to “leftists”…

      Your daughter sounds like she was well-raised! 😉

      She could probably afford private school if she wished.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    here’s an interesting chart about NAEP. Note that it goes back to 1992 and it apparently includes private schools also:

  4. Tom Banford Avatar
    Tom Banford

    Fawell says: “Simply put the Virginia Department of Education SOL test results grossly mislead the parents, students, and the public paying the bills that support a failing system”.
    Some valid criticisms of the heavy reliance on standardized testing that I was alluding to. You would be hard pressed to find a handful of teachers that were fans of the SOL tests.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Well, instead of complaining about tests, why don’t you and your colleagues learn from highly competent schools and teachers who actually teach their kids successfully, turning them all into scholars who ace their tests, scoring at the highest achievement levels city and state wide, proving without doubt that all of America’s kids, including those most disadvantaged, can be great learners and scholars if given a fair chance by caring, accomplished and competent teachers, and a school system whose quality has been proven time & again.

      That way, learning from the proven success of others, the Virginia’s public schools, and its school systems, will stop grossly failing their kids, and many Virginia public schools with stop ruining the futures of the vast majority of disadvantaged kids who now sit and suffer year after year after year in the failed and collapsing public schools in Virginia.

      You can start right here:
      Those methods and reasoning behind the success of the Success Academies are described in Robert Pondiscio’s book How The Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, And The Battle Over School Choice after he spent a year closely observing Success Academy Bronx 1.

      To quote Mr. Pondiscio:

      “At the end of the school day, Syskowski and Matt Carnaghi empty their classrooms of their kindergarten-size chairs and arrange them in three rows in the open area adjacent to Liz Vandlik’s office. The children are held for dismissal, forcing parents to come upstairs and listen to the teachers before picking them up.

      At 3:45 p.m. sharp, Syskowski launches in. “The reason we’re having a meeting together is because there’s a lot of work to be done. We need to come together as a Bronx 1 community and figure out what’s going on and set goals.”

      She scans the thirty adults seated before her in chairs meant for five-year-olds. “As you can see, right now we have a meeting for ninety children and this is the parent turnout. It’s not good.”

      Syskowski walks them through the reading benchmarks for kindergarten. “It’s January. A number of our children are still Level A or pre-A, which means they don’t know how to read.”

      The kindergartnerers will be tested again in February, by which time they’re all expected to be at Level C.

      If the point is lost, Syskowski lays it out plainly. If their children are not at Level C by the end of February, they are unlikely to reach Level D by the end of the school year. “If they do not reach D, they do not go to first grade,” she says, “Do not. Period.”

      She pauses to let the message sink in, then repeats it. “They will not go to first grade if they’re not a Level D. That has been said before, and I’m just restating it.”

      Now that she has the parents’ full attention, Syskowski pivots from reading levels to school culture and expectations—for adults. “A lot of you are brand new to Success Academy. We know it’s a new world,” she tells them. “We want you to ask questions. We know what we teach here is a little different. It’s different than the way you learned and the way we learned. We received a lot of training and we know this is the best way that children learn. If there are things that you need, you need to ask. So, this is us reaching out, having that parent meeting and saying, ‘Here we are. This is our space. And we need to talk because we’re not meeting benchmarks.’”

      The benchmarks Syskowski is referring to are not only the reading-level chart in her classroom but achievement levels of the kindergarteners relative to dozens of other Success Academy schools.

      “Other schools within our network over in Brooklyn, in Manhattan and Queens, their children are reading at benchmarks,” she says pointedly. “All of us in this room are not doing enough for our kids. The children in Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan can do it, and our kids can’t, even though we all have the same curriculum, we all have the same training.”

      There are no secrets in a Success Academy school. Classrooms and hallway “data walls” leave little to no doubt which children—by name—are at, above, or below academic standards. This can be off-putting to some parents and has been attacked by critics outside the network. On the other hand, it is the rare student in any school who isn’t aware of who the standouts and strugglers are in class. Success Academy puts it on the wall for all to see.

      Syskowski begins to spin a sobering tale of the trajectory children can find themselves on in the absence of energetic efforts. “First grade is a huuuuge literacy year,” she says. “If we don’t set them up in kindergarten, they will drown.”

      The parents sit silently. “We need to step it up.”

      Carnaghi has been standing alongside Syskowski, nodding stoically. He introduces himself as a “first-year LT,” or lead teacher, then adds almost apologetically, “I’m pretty resourceful and here for you guys.”

      But it’s Syskowski’s intervention, and she’s just getting started. Her tone is unfailingly warm and encouraging—she wants to win the parents over and make common cause, not alienate or antagonize them—but her words are unsparing.

      Standing behind the rows, I cannot see all the parents’ faces, but most appear to be nodding along. If there’s discontent with Syskowski’s brand of tough love, there’s no sign of it. “If your children are late or they’re not here, we can’t teach them,” she says. “We really need you to get your children here by 7:45 if not 7:30.”

      The first moments of each day, kindergarteners have breakfast with their class, and teachers do a “re-teach,” working with individual children on skills in which they’ve fallen behind. “If they are not here on time or not here at all, we can’t do that,” she says. “We have some children in this grade who’ve already been absent eleven times. Anytime I’m sick, I come here. I can’t afford to lose that day with your children. At the same time, your child cannot miss that day with any of us. We’re here, we need to be here, we want to be here, and every second is really . . .”

      A toddler starts crying loudly, drowning her out, and without breaking pace, Syskowski orders the toddler’s sister, Rama B., one of her students with a serious, almost adult face, to take her into a nearby classroom.

      Syskowski is rolling now and doesn’t want to lose her audience, which now fills all the chairs and spills down the hall. “You want your child to go to college. You sent them here to a college-bound school. Our philosophy is that every single child goes to college and it starts when they’re five. I know that you want that for them, because that’s why you brought them to Success Academy. At the same time, it’s a daily grind. You need to put that work in to get them there.”

      Syskowski asks for a show of hands. “Whose child is reading at a Level A right now?” A few hands go up. If the parents are aware of their child’s reading level, many more hands should be in the air. Carnaghi scans the room and jumps in. “There’s one,” he points and calls out. “Two. Anyone else? There are plenty here.”

      It is impossible to tell if the parents don’t know, don’t want to reveal that their child is below benchmarks, or are feeling called out and embarrassed. “We want to get it out there. You’re not alone!” Syskowski implores, trying to encourage more parents to own up and join in.

      “Level B?” More hands go up. “There’s three, four, five,” Carnaghi counts off. By the time she gets to Level D, only one hand is up. “So that means out of everyone here, we have one child who is ready for first grade,” Syskowski says, growing quiet. “We’re a community of parents. Use each other to help each other. I know you guys have daily struggles as parents. I’m not a parent, so I don’t know that struggle. I know that struggle as a classroom teacher when I’m with your scholar and really pushing them, and they’re like, ‘Ms. Syskowski, this is hard,’” she says plaintively. “And yeah, it’s hard.”

      Syskowski’s urgency is not misplaced. By January, the children should be learning to read. Midway through kindergarten, they should recognize and be able to name and write upper- and lowercase letters. They are acquiring those “print concepts,” such as understanding the basic structures of a book and that text moves from left to right, even if they are not fully able to decode the printed word.

      Five-year-olds are also developing phonological awareness, such as recognizing syllables, rhymes, and “phonemes,” the forty-four units of sound that make up every word in the English language. An essential literacy building block at this age is beginning “sound-symbol relationships” and the ability to read consonant-vowel-consonant words like “cat” and “dog.”

      Syskowski and her colleagues do not expect parents to be surrogate reading teachers or to have a nuanced understanding of these skills or progressions. But they nonetheless put a heavy lift on parents to read nightly with their children and to monitor and ensure that they are reading at home—something affluent parents tend to do reflexively, often without even knowing why.

      “We’re seeing two really big issues,” Syskowski says. “Your reading logs still have your scholars’ books on them. They can read those books by themselves. Those are not the books that go on the reading logs,” she instructs. The reading logs are for books that parents read aloud. Very young children can understand even sophisticated texts when they are read aloud, which, research indicates, helps them develop as readers by exposing them to new vocabulary and allowing them to hear mature readers’ fluent pronunciation and expression. Kindergarteners should also spend twenty minutes reading independently at home each night. “That doesn’t mean they read on their own, you go do laundry. It. Is. Challenging. I hear you. We need that patience and excitement to tell them, ‘You know what? You are a great reader, and you can do this.”

      Carnaghi has been largely silent, but now it’s his turn to take the lead. Reading logs must be completed 100 percent of the time. “If we look cross grade right now? Ninety percent. Ninety-two percent. Eighty-six percent,” he says, indicating the compliance rate in each of the kindergarten classrooms. “It’s not getting done.”

      If any other elementary schools in the neighborhood asked parents to maintain reading logs, 90 percent compliance would be a cause for celebration. Here it’s a crisis. “The reason we’re so on you about these reading logs is because it sets up routines, right?” he continues. “These routines help build up memory skills, problem-solving skills. These are all cognitive skills. If you’re not at home constantly building those, your child will not be successful.”

      There is a long pause as Carnaghi and the parents stare at one another. “Really cold, hard fact. You really need to listen. You need to hear it. Like hear it.”

      This is one of the first times I’ve seen Carnaghi “on.” While few restrictions have been placed on my observations, Vandlik asked early in the school year that I “give Mr. Carnaghi some room.” As a new teacher who expected to be an associate, not lead, teacher, it seemed an undue burden to be under an outsider’s microscope, unhelpful to him and a distraction to his students. As a result, I’ve barely set foot in his classroom. Like so many of his colleagues, he radiates earnestness, even as he tries to play bad cop to Syskowski’s good. “One in six children in our community who are not proficient readers by third grade—forget about college. They’re going to have a really hard time passing high school,” he says.

      It’s suddenly hard to hear over the delighted squeals of kindergarteners playing in the classroom behind me, unaware of the high-stakes conversation we are having about them. But the grim urgency Carnaghi is trying to communicate is not misplaced. Failure starts early in communities like Mott Haven. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. first graders who struggle in reading are still struggling in fourth grade; three out of four third-grade readers who are below grade level are still below grade level in ninth grade; and one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time—a failure rate four times greater than among proficient readers.

      If the ninety-odd kindergarteners of Bronx 1 steer clear of this grim vortex of failure that has been all but inevitable for children in this community for generations, it will be in no small part due to what Syskowski, Carnaghi, and the rest of the kindergarten teachers are doing this year—aided and abetted by fully engaged parents.

      “I assume right now that every single parent in this room knows exactly how to teach that kid because nobody comes up to me and asks me, ‘What can I do? How can I help my child? Is there anything else I can do?’” Carnaghi is making demands, almost hectoring, but his tone is plaintive, nearly pleading. “We’re here for your kids. But you’re not showing us that you’re here for your kids right now, because these routines are not getting set up. If you need to know what to do, raise your hand now.”

      Syskowski takes up the call. “Any question at all!”

      Now there are lots of hands. Parents ask about how to handle behavior problems at home. One says she has a hard time getting her child to focus. Another mother expresses frustration at how poorly her child is performing on sight-word quizzes. “When he’s in the house, he does the work perfectly fine. But when he comes here, I guess he gets a little bit scared. Whenever we do words in the house—‘they,’ ‘were,’ ‘was’—he does it perfect. When he gets here, he usually gets one right or two right. Sometimes he gets all three right. So, I’m a little bit . . .” She trails off.

      “Think about environment, right?” Carnaghi replies. “At home, your child is in such a relaxed environment. Do you time him?” Mom says no. “Start timing him. Get him used to timing in both environments. When he’s at home, he gets all the time in the world, he’s relaxed. That’s not a problem. But if you really want to see something different, put on a timer.”

      In other school settings, the suggestion that parents time their children, conduct weekly tests of sight words at home, or be forced to sit and listen to their child’s teacher lecturing them that they’re not living up to their parental responsibilities would cause an insurrection. But none of the parents raise an eyebrow, whether out of deference, intimidation, a shared sense of urgency, a reluctance to make waves, or some combination of these factors.

      Carnaghi adds, “Being timed makes anybody anxious, right?” He turns to the crowd. “Silent thumbs-up if that’s what makes it anxious for you?” and many turn their thumbs up while several chuckle audibly. “It’s not easy!”

      “We have an open-door policy here,” Syskowski reminds them, returning to her main theme. “Tell us the time you’re scheduled to be off from work. Tell us the time you want to come in. Schedule some time. Please!”

      Syskowski calls on a mother who is having trouble keeping her child’s frustrations in check. “Nyelle has that same problem. If she doesn’t know a word like ‘what,’ she actually gets angry. She cries and then we have to end it,” she explains. “I feel like she’s a little behind. I know she’s got a C, but I feel like she should already be at D. But the last, maybe, two weeks, we had to shut down early because she gets so emotional.”

      Syskowski senses a teachable moment. “You said something really awesome I wanted to get out in the open. Nyelle is very much a high-flier in my class. It’s very hard for me to challenge her, because she gets it in a snap,” she explains, pointing at the mother, but directing her comments to the whole group. “Right now, Nyelle’s mom is saying she’s really not doing her best. Yes, a C is past where we need to be right now, but knowing your child and saying, ‘That’s not good enough,’ keeps that bar high. Yes, it is going to be frustrating, and we will give you strategies to handle that frustration. They totally get frustrated here.”

      “We had a visitor in our class today, and he was like, ‘That’s the first time I saw tears’ today,’” Syskowski adds, and I realize she’s talking about me. She tells the parents what happened with the little boy who won’t be going to blocks tomorrow. “That was really tough for him to hear. At the same time, did I say, ‘It’s OK if you don’t finish your book review?’”

      Now it’s Syskowski who starts to tear up. “No. It’s not OK. Because why would I let him fail when other kids are surpassing it and they’ll go to first grade? You would not want me as your child’s classroom teacher. You would not want Mr. Carnaghi or Ms. Skinner to be your child’s teacher if we were like, ‘You know what? You’re right. It is really hard. Let’s just let them be a B.’” How about if they get two out of the four sight words correct? ‘That’s good enough.’ Where are they going to be in thirteen years? Then we won’t talk about college. And that’s something that . . .” Syskowski lowers her gaze to the floor. “I get chills. That’s something that’s really hard for me to . . .”

      Syskowski doesn’t finish the thought. She can’t. She’s crying. “I do get emotional. Because your children are amazing. They are absolutely amazing. I try to . . .” She quickly gathers herself. “We will never lower that bar because it’s too hard. We will figure out other paths to get to the destination.” She hammers every word—“Other. Paths. To get to the destination.” She adds, “We will not lower it.”

      Syskowski is spent. The meeting breaks up with a smattering of applause from the parents, who pull on their coats, collect their kids, and begin to melt away down the hallway. Vandlik emerges from her office and shoots me a smile as she heads down the hall toward the main office. It’s the biggest tell of the afternoon. In most schools, this kind of whole-grade, all-hands-on-deck meeting would be a major event. At Bronx 1, the principal didn’t even participate.” End Quote.

      For more of this fine book on how a serious and highly successful school for mostly all disadvantaged kids in the Bronx teaches kids extraordinary learning and success, please read How The Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, And The Battle Over School Choice (Avery, 2019, $27, 384 pages), by Robert Pondiscio.

      Note that at end of 2018-2019 school year, the students at Success Academy Bronx 1, 100% percent black or Hispanic and 84% economically disadvantaged, and all chosen by lottery, earned proficiency rates of 89.9% in English Language Arts and 98% in Math. Of these, 41% scored at the highest level in English Language Arts , as did 83% in Math. Thus these kids exceeded the performance of two of New York State’s highest preforming schools, Scarsdale and Bronxville where no students are disadvantaged and most are from highly affluent families.

      Also see 2015 article “What Explains Success at Success Academy” wherein, among many things, one finds:

      “Elementary students complete two “project-based learning” units in each grade, where students read and write about a particular subject for six weeks. In 4th grade, for example, children learn about the American Revolution. This year, Success is piloting two additional two-week “mini Core Knowledge” project-based learning units. “We love [Core Knowledge founder] E. D. Hirsch,” says Michele Caracappa, Success’s director of literacy.

      In middle school, Success adds independent reading time and includes a literature class. Students receive iPads loaded with books. Middle-school students must read seven key texts, typically comprising four novels, two nonfiction books, and one of poetry. (I saw middle-school students in Harlem reading The Block, which combines poetry of Langston Hughes with paintings of Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden.)

      Writing skills are emphasized in daily workshops from kindergarten through 8th grade. In later grades, students produce longer pieces across several genres, going through the entire writing process. Much focus is on revision; teachers are trained to give targeted feedback.

      Success’s children’s literature expert, Sara Yu, fills the schools with rich, engaging books at all levels. Yu worked for many years at the highly regarded bookstore affiliated with the Bank Street College of Education. She notes that books aren’t selected only to produce competent readers, but also to expose children to “relevant, important, beautiful material … diverse cultures, economic backgrounds, settings, and characters.”

      This devotion to content pays off. At the Success Academy in Bedford-Stuyvesant (one block the public housing complex where Jay Z grew up—still a tough neighborhood), 81 percent of 3rd graders were proficient in ELA last year (98 percent in math!). A 4th-grade English class dissects How My Parents Learned to Eat, the story of an American sailor learning to use chopsticks to impress his Japanese girlfriend. …” End Quote.


  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I know a bunch of teachers and not a one of them likes the SOLs. They want to measure academic progress but not in a high-stakes environment.

    NAEP is a national test but it is not given to every student. The have a process where they select representative samples.

    The NAEP tests are supposed to align with world testing called PISA.

    and we do poorly compared to most other developed countries – and only about 1/3 of students meet proficiency standards. It’s been this way for decades – across the country and to include DOD schools.

    I’ve seen some studies that say if we took out the scores of the economically disadvantaged, we’d compare well against other countries.

    Those other counties don’t seem to have that leftist dogma issue…


  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Fork Union Military Academy is running non stop radio ads on WMAL. Limited number of new slots available for the fall. How much you wanna bet that every slot is full by Friday?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      are they going back to 100% in person instruction and dorms on campus?

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        It is my understanding that Fork Union will submit a plan for in person instruction to the Virginia Council for Private Education who reports to the Virginia Department of Education. If their plan is approved they will proceed. Randolph Macon Academy is doing the same.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    looks like Success Academy also went virtual: ” Success Academy Goes Virtual: New York City’s Largest Charter Network Shares How It’s Restructuring to Provide Online Learning”

    Maybe they’ll have better luck than others?

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