Virginia’s Self-Perpetuating Schools of Education

by James C. Sherlock

We are in the midst of a series of articles examining Virginia’s system of schools of education. In this one we will look at how the rules for licensure of teachers and other school staff have changed and impacted teacher education.

Those answers are found in the laws of Virginia and in the Board of Education’s regulations and comprehensive plans. All are political documents written by political organizations.

As we examine them below, we will see that the politicians, on the advice of the schools of education, have made the business of traditional schools of education a sinecure.

In Virginia, those schools have become an integral part of the system of laws and regulations that make them a self-perpetuating system that has no apparent purpose other than to sustain itself.

And the politicians in the General Assembly and the Board of Education have totally overhauled public preK-12 education since 2020, upending not only what teachers must teach but what education preparation programs must teach their students.

Ninety-six percent of new teacher production in Virginia comes from traditional teacher programs in the state’s schools of education.

Senior representatives of those schools of education have controlled the Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure (ABTEL) for years under Boards appointed by Democratic governors.

ABTEL drafts for the Board of Education regulations:

  • under which their own schools of education now teach, and
  • for which teachers new and experienced must turn to the schools of education for training in the new regulations, their methodologies and performance indicators.

That is how it works.

Let’s see what the politicians, including the politicians on the Board, have done to make teacher education, licensure and evaluations much more complex since 2020.

During COVID.

Laws. Education laws themselves have changed a great deal.

Following the 2019 election, the Democratic Party held a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1996. They were sworn into office on January 8, 2020.

With Ralph Northam as governor, they re-wrote virtually every existing law on public education and added new ones. They completely re-envisioned and re-stated public education.

For a single example of interest in a series about education schools, look at Virginia’s law on the regulations for licensure of teachers and other school personnel.  The regulations that the ed schools have to teach to get their undergraduate students licensed.

And existing teachers need to access to get their licenses renewed.

Look at the changes to Code of Virginia  § 22.1-298.1. Regulations governing licensure, made by the General Assemblies in 2020, cc. 513, 640, 870; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, cc. 23, 24, 451, 452; 2022, cc. 545, 546, 549, 550, 656, 657.

They created a whole new teacher qualifications regime. Does anyone think that the legislators came up with all of those changes themselves or perhaps had inputs from the leading education schools?

Regulations. The Board of Education provided the details in the 99-page Chapter 543. Regulations Governing the Review and Approval of Education Programs in Virginia and other fast-tracked regulations.

It was written by the Board’s Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure (ABTEL).

Chaired at every level by ed school staffers.

Let’s look at how the comprehensive plan priorities have changed.

2018 – 2023. The latest comprehensive plan was written for 2018-2023. It was adopted November 16, 2017, by a Board of Education fully controlled by McAuliffe appointees. Its execution was overseen by increasingly progressive members appointed by Governor Northam responding to changes in law starting in 2020, detailed earlier.  

The vision of that plan is perhaps where the state first started to use the term “educational equity,” defining it as equality of opportunity. Only after the 2020 General Assembly came to Richmond did equity turn to equality of outcomes.

The priorities in that comprehensive plan are focused on students, teachers and new paperwork:

  • Priority 1: Provide high-quality, effective learning environments for all students;
  • Priority 2: Advance policies that increase the number of candidates entering the teaching profession and encourage and support the recruitment, development, and retention of well-prepared and skilled teachers and school leaders;
  • Priority 3: Ensure successful implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and the accountability system for school quality as embodied in the revisions to the Standards of Accreditation.

The first two priorities have not been achieved. Starting in 2020, the Board of Education has blamed racism. With a dash of COVID.

On June 18, 2020, that fateful year, the Virginia Board of Education unanimously adopted a statement regarding systemic racism, racial justice and education. At the height of COVID.

It was the first we had heard officially that the schools were “systemically racist”.

Systemic racism and discrimination still exist in public education, and too often, a student’s skin color or socioeconomic status predicts the quality of their educational opportunities.

It laid the poor performances of Black and other economically disadvantaged students of color on racism. They were victimized by their “skin color and socioeconomic status” that predicted their educational outcomes. The Board of Education would rescue them “with intentional action to dismantle racism and eliminate achievement gaps”.

No word on how so many kids with non-White skin color and low “socioeconomic” status succeeded in that racist system prior to the rescue. But elections have consequences, and the Board of Education is one of them.

That Board’s Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards for Teachers performance standards approved by the Board on March 18, 2021, added a new one, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Equitable Practices.

The teacher demonstrates a commitment to equity and provides instruction and classroom strategies that result in culturally inclusive and responsive learning environments and academic achievement for all students.

The Sample Performance Indicators for culturally responsive teaching and equitable practices include:

6.1 Disaggregates assessment, engagement, behavioral, and attendance data by student groups and identifies and applies differentiated strategies to address growth and learning needs of all students with specific attention to students within gap groups.
6.2 Fosters classroom environments that create opportunities for access and achievement by acknowledging, valuing, advocating, and affirming cultural and social diversity in all aspects of the learning process, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.
6.3 Builds meaningful relationships with all students anchored in affirmation, mutual respect and validation utilizing culturally responsive teaching practices, and by modeling high expectations for all students.
6.4 Utilizes inclusive curriculum and instructional resources that represent and validate diversity from all rings of culture that include generational, gender, religion, class, nationality, race, ethnicity, native language, ability, and sexuality by connecting classroom curriculum and instruction to the cultural examples, experiences, backgrounds, and traditions of all learners.
6.5 Analyzes, selects, and integrates texts, materials, and classroom resources that reflect cultural inclusivity and the needs of all students, including for gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.
6.6 Uses communication strategies that are inclusive of the language, dialects, cultural, social and literacy needs of all students (including gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities).
6.7 Teaches students the skills necessary to communicate and engage with diverse groups in ways that support the eradication of discrimination and bias while mitigating against classroom power imbalances (based on race, ethnicity, gender, identity, ability, and/or socioeconomic status) that perpetuate fear and anxiety of difference.

I decided to just quote that. Whatever else it is, it surely represents a massive new requirement for teacher education.

2012-2017. The prior Comprehensive Plan was for 2012-2017. It was written when Bob McDonnell had been governor for a couple of years. Winsome Sears was on the Board.

The Board’s priorities in that Comprehensive Plan were focused on students, teachers and their communities.

  • Priority 1: Accountability in Student Achievement
  • Priority 2: Educator Professionalism
  • Priority 3: Community Engagement

The challenges noted by the Board in its 2013 report to the Governor and General Assembly were:

  • Persistent achievement gaps among groups of students
  • Chronically underperforming schools
  • Professionalism of the teaching profession

The challenges remain. Certainly the terms of reference have changed. So have the teacher licensure laws and regulations. It was in 2020 that the revolution began. Presumably to address the challenges  And improve the cash flows of the ed schools. From existing teachers.

2007. To show us what pre-history looked like, the annual report to the governor and General Assembly in 2007 had as one of its performance measures:

Promoting Parental and Family Involvement
The family and the home are both critical education institutions where children begin learning long before they start school, and where they spend much of their time after they start school. It stands to reason that involving parents in their child’s education is conducive to learning. Such involvement is critical if we are to improve the educational achievement of Virginia’s students and eliminate the achievement gaps. Such involvement is critical if we are to improve the educational achievement of Virginia’s students, promote safe and healthy school environments, and eliminate achievement gaps. To do this, schools need to promote and enhance cooperative partnerships in which families are allies in the efforts of teachers and schools.

The Board measured itself by parental involvement. In the schools.  Unimaginable today  In so many ways.

Unspoken Lack of Productivity. Back before the ed schools took full control of the process, the 2014 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia was submitted to Governor McAuliffe in his first year in office and to the General Assembly by a Board of Education dominated by McDonnell appointees.

One element of the report

Approximately one-third of current Virginia teachers are over the age of 50 — prime candidates for retirement. Yet, Virginia schools of education produce only about 3,800 new teachers a year.

In 2019-20, Virginia teacher preparation programs completed only 2,995 new teachers. Twenty-one percent fewer than “only” 3,800 in 2014. There was not one word of that in the annual report. Or in the report for 2018-19, when 3,167 new teachers completed.Or in 2017-18, with 3,208 completers.


Circle of Life. The ed schools drafted the new licensure laws and regulations,  to which they now must train new teachers. Who take standardized tests that virtually everyone passes. And get wildly varying amounts of student teaching for the same degree and license. All within the boundaries of the regulations they wrote.

And for which experienced teachers must come to the ed schools for training for their license renewal. Training required by 99 pages of regulations. That require ed school instruction for endorsements.

Required endorsements include early/primary education, elementary education and middle education endorsements.

There are 43 different endorsements available in pre-K, special education, secondary grades 6-12 endorsements, and adult education. Take just one. 8VAC20-543-340. History and social sciences.

UVa’s School of Education and Human Development, probably by happenstance, asks and answers:

Do you want to be a Social Studies teacher in middle or high school, teaching history, civics, economics, and geography?

The School of Education and Human Development is proud to offer a Master of Teaching (M.T.) degree and teacher licensure with an endorsement in History and Social Sciences (grades 6-12). This is a post-graduate program for those who have already completed an undergraduate degree.

Good to know. Which came first, the course or the regulation requiring it?

In case you were wondering, you can be assured that it is part of a comprehensive post-graduate program:

Program: Post-Graduate Master of Teaching (PGMT) Degree: Master of Teaching
License: Upon successful completion of all degree requirements, students will be eligible for a post-graduate professional license in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Students will be endorsed in one of the following areas:
• English
• Mathematics
• Science – Biology
• Science – Chemistry
• Science – Earth Science
• Science – Physics
• History and Social Sciences
All secondary endorsements prepare teachers for instruction in grades 6-12.

Administration, supervision and support personnel, including not only school leaders but also math specialists, reading specialists, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and vocational evaluators, require post-graduate endorsements and/or dedicated Masters degrees – from the schools of education.

Accreditation of Ed Schools. Virginia education preparation programs (EPPs) must, by regulation in Virginia, get national accreditation. Which is a paperwork drill. For which they are given 9 months to prepare the paperwork for a 2-day visit.

Which a lot of the non-traditional teacher preparation programs can’t pass because they can’t afford the staffs for the paperwork. Which drives up the costs and prices of teacher preparation. Which is a barrier to entry. Which limits the competition to the traditional ed schools.

Which is an unspoken point of the drill.

Bottom Line. It’s great being an ed school in Virginia.

  • You get to help write the laws and regulations that require teachers to buy more of what you are selling;
  • You get state funding to advise it on the programs you develop and sell;
  • The rules and costs of entry drive away competition;
  • Your own accreditation is a paperwork drill for which you get 9 months to prepare;
  • And you are never mentioned by the politicians as a source of the catastrophic problems facing K-12 education, including your own lack of production of new teachers to help with the critical shortages, much less the policies you have pushed that have resulted in chaos in the schools.

Is this a great Commonwealth or what? If you are a school of education. (Or a regional monopoly hospital system- – but I digress.)

But put yourself in the place of the teachers at the end of this whip.

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8 responses to “Virginia’s Self-Perpetuating Schools of Education”

  1. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    It’s much better to be a law school and member of the state bar. The union of lawyers is far more nefarious than anything the education establishment has created. BTW, you are in the midst of a series of articles notwithstanding your employment of the royal “we.”

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Thanks, Mr. McCarthy. Your fellow believers have voiced the same objections when I have used the first person singular. So I switch back and forth. It is fun.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Thanks, Mr. McCarthy. Your fellow believers have voiced the same objections when I have used the first person singular. So I switch back and forth. It is fun.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Y’all ought to heed the comments of readers.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          That comment worthy of a “Yogi” award. Remember: “When there is a fork in the road, take it.”?

  2. So, these relations including conflicts of interest are “never mentioned by the politicians” for the catastrophes and chaos facing K-12. The big Q is, why is the omerta so pervasive? If other leaders, whether electoral, administrative, private, journalistic, et al can’t spot and campaign on such “under-served” issues, the problem is even bigger than we thought.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Your question is well stated.

      The only answer I can give is that politicians know relatively nothing about many issues upon which they vote, and this is one of them.

      The ed schools, located in many legislative districts, red and blue and purple, have organized to provide the same advice to both sides, trailing their tassels and doctoral degrees in both cases. And they get away with it because both sides assume they have the best interests of teachers as a lodestar.

      They do not.

      Which is what I am about the business of illustrating.

      1. vicnicholls Avatar

        I and others are grateful for your light.

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