Virginia’s Worst Public Schools and Districts for Black Children

by James C. Sherlock

I have competed a study of Virginia’s worst-performing schools in the education of black children.  The results presented in this essay represent a scandal of the first order and demand explanations, both from the school boards and the Virginia Department of Education.

In my next post I will review two books by prominent black academics with polar opposite views on what to do about it. But this is about the abject failure of many of Virginia’s schools to educate black students.


Bear with me while I explain how I arrived at my conclusions.

  1. I used the testing statistics provided by the Virginia Department of Education for the 2018-2019 school year. I started by downloading the testing statistics for every school in every district in the state.  I then selected the subset Black students.
  2. I then reduced the types of tests down to English Reading (elementary), English Writing (middle and high schools) and mathematics. That choice was not because the other subjects tested, history and social studies in one case and science in the other, are not important, but to reduce the size of the sample to be assessed and because of the absolutely fundamental nature of English and math.
  3. I then further culled the list by eliminating all results in which Black students had at least a 34% pass rate on the selected subjects. I eliminated all of the special schools for adults or otherwise special student populations. That left me with a depressingly long list of sixty five schools more than 2/3 of whose black students had failed either math or English or both. I will name many of the schools below. The rest can be found here — Black english and math less than one third pass.
  4. With that list, I sorted by school division and with the worst division, Richmond, added the data for how many black students were tested in each school. I multiplied that by the failure rate in each subject to determine the number of black children in those specific Richmond schools who demonstrably had been denied an education.

Districts and schools with more that 2/3 of black students tested as failing in English, math or both

The list below contains school systems and their schools with either more than one school among the sixty-five worst for educating black students in either English or math; or a single school whose black students failed both English and math. In all cases failure rates exceed 2/3 of black students.

  • Albemarle County – Scottsville Elementary (reading) and Red Hill Elementary (math)
  • Arlington County – Barrett Elementary (reading and math)
  • Charlottesville City – Buford Middle (writing) and Greenbriar Elementary (math)
  • Danville City – O. Trent Bonner (writing and math),  Woodrow Wilson Intermediate (Grades 4 and 5) (writing and Math) and Westwood Middle (math)
  • Franklin County – Snow Creek elementary (reading and math)
  • Montgomery County – Gilbert Linkous Elementary and Prices Fork elementary (both math)
  • Newport News City – Newsome Park Elementary (reading) and Mary Passage Middle (writing) 
  • Norfolk City – Jacox Elementary (reading) and Lake Taylar Middle, Southside STEM Academy at Campostella and William H. Ruffner Middle
  • Richmond City – Armstrong High (writing); Elkhart Thompson Middle (writing);  Fairfield Court Elementary and George W. Carver Elementary (reading and math);  Martin Luther King Jr. Middle (reading, writing and math);  Thomas Boushall Middle (writing and math); Henderson Middle (writing)
  • Rockingham County – J. Frank Hillyard Middle (reading) and River Bend Elementary (reading)
  • Shenandoah County – Stonewall Jackson High (reading and writing)
  • Waynesboro City – Wenonah Elementary and Westwood Hills Elementary (reading)

The cities and counties with one school in which more than 2/3 of black students failed one of the tests include: Allegheny County, Bedford County, Botetourt County, Bristol, Covington, Fairfax County, Fauquier County, Greenville County, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Madison County, Northampton County, Nottoway County, Page County, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Powatan County, Pulaski County, Rappahanock County, Roanoke County, Smyth County, Staunton City, Washington County and Williamsburg-James City County.

Richmond City Schools

The Richmond City School District is a failed enterprise and has been for a long time. 

Breaking the percentages down to actual numbers of black students failing tests in just the Richmond schools with over 2/3 black failure rates — the worst Richmond schools — the data show:

  • Black students failing English reading in just three Richmond schools: 702
  • Black students failing English writing in just five schools: 1,559
  • Failing math in just four schools: 958

It is highly unlikely statistically that these children will ever have a real chance in life.

I will develop the total number of black students failing tests in Richmond at some point. It will be much higher than the totals above, but this makes the point.  

I have no idea why some organization has not sued the Richmond Public Schools in federal court under the civil rights laws requesting a federal judge oversee the improvement of those schools.

The State Board of Education, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni  and State Superintendent of Public Instruction James F. Lane owe Virginians an explanation of what they have done to fix (or exacerbate) the broken education of black children. 

They must answer one question to start the discussion: Why does the City of Richmond still have control of its schools?   

Charter Schools in Virginia

The eight public charter schools in Virginia include:

  • Two in Albemarle County 
  • Two in Loudoun County 
  • Two in Richmond: Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, Established 2010-2011, Grades K-5 (black student pass rates reading 58% and math 65%); and Richmond Career Education Employment Academy, Established 2013-2014, Grades 8-12 (school for children with disabilities – no statewide standardized test results 2017-18 or 2018-19)
  • One in Virginia Beach
  • One in York County

Virginia has set up rules that a charter application, if from any source other than the local school board, must be approved by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE). 

It is fair to say that, under Governors McAuliffe and Northam, VBOE is not amused by the concept of charter schools. Because the teachers unions hate them.

Of the six charter schools applying for approval by the state and local school boards since 2010, only one, Green Run Collegiate in Virginia Beach, has been approved. 

What to do?

There are two schools of thought in what to do to fix this.

One side yells “kill the umpire.” Eliminate standardized tests. Don’t try to teach black children proper English.Two plus two equals four is a white construct.

The school “abolitionist teaching network” movement is led by Professor Bettina L. Love of the University of Georgia Ed school. In 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She was the keynote speaker at an online seminar for K-12 teachers recently sponsored by the University of Virginia ex-Curry School of Education.

I will review Dr. Love’s book, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom in a later post alongside Charter Schools and their Enemies, the latest book by Professor Thomas Sowell of George Mason University.

Dr. Sowell represents the other side in this debate. In his book he not only utterly rejects Ms. Love’s policy recommendations but also with exhaustive data attempts to prove their fallacies, concentrating on the astonishing academic results of charter schools in New York City and elsewhere with very high enrollments of poor minority students.  

I recommend readers wait to read what each side as represented by the books of these two prominent black professors offers before deciding what to support.  

The Virginia Department of Education and ex-Curry School of Education (ex-Curry has a longer and more pretentious title. I have blocked it out of my mind.) have already picked a side — Ms. Love’s.

There are currently no comments highlighted.

63 responses to “Virginia’s Worst Public Schools and Districts for Black Children

  1. Baconator with extra cheese

    I feel so bad for these kids. I really do.
    It truly sucks that it seems the answer from the leadership in these localities is to double down on grievances/ wokeness instead of focusing on the basics from which these kids can build on.
    It sucks because they deserve better and my taxes will go up to pay for more and more social programs and/or jails to deal with these kids once they become old enough to have kids and perpetuate the same cycle.
    Dr Governor and the others should hang their heads in shame.

  2. Qarni and White have already explained how to fix Virginia’s broken schools — spend more money. Accordingly, Northam put $150 million (my recollection) into this budget for schools with poor/minority student bodies. I’m not sure if funds are being spent due to COVID-19 budgetary precautions, but that’s the answer. More money. Always more money. Subsidize failure.

    • As you relate, the money will go to the same clueless and care less people who have screwed this up for decades. The Governor needs to answer my basic question: Why does the City of Richmond still have control of its public schools?

    • Kids of parents who do not have good educations are harder and more expensive to teach. That’s just harsh reality. Even if you have Charter schools do it, it’s going to take more money because these kids are simply not “school-ready” because their parents never had success at school either.

      We got lots of blame but blame aint going to fix it.

      • That is empirically false, Larry. The data show that public charter schools in NYC and elsewhere educate kids at the same cost or lower than their unionized counterparts.

  3. Jim – you did a good job on the data! Thank You.

    And I agree with you on the “scandal” – it is.

    I’ll also point out that it is the Government that does require SOLs and that’s why we have the data.

    AND also point out that more than a few of these schools are in school districts that have other schools that do much better, even top notch on the SOL scores at those schools.

    This pattern is true in many school districts in Virginis from Fairfax to Henrico, Chesterfield, Loudoun, etc.

    Finally, I agree that Richmond is a basket-case.

    What to do? I’m curious to hear what others say. I don’t think Charter/success are going to fix it especially if we don’t hold them to the same SOL score standards. We’d just be doing a disservice to these kids if we put them in another school and it does no better. I’m NOT opposed to doing that – to using public money but it must be on the same demographic basis and with the same SOL score standards.

  4. Jim – I’ve read enough of Sowell to know from where he comes from.

    When I say data – I mean objective data – not cherry-picked data.

    It has to represent the truth not someone’s beliefs.

    That’s why I LIKE the data you generated. You did not taint it.

    And the Data on the Success Academies needs to be true data also not PR data – who is generating the Success Academy data? Is it New Yorks version of VDOE or who?

    • “I’ve read enough of Sowell to know from where he comes from.” Classic Larry, rejecting the views of a person of huge import and educational attainment, because of his politics. Of course, Sowell is doubly rejected because he is a Black conservative.

      • Sowell is a hard core Conservative who has a reputation for cherry-picking facts. I don’t completely reject his thoughts but I don’t consider them mainstream or objective either.

        I would not cite him nor folks on the other end of spectrum in discussions about education, black, white, yellow, or purpose.

        He just has a well-deserved reputation as a hard right guy.

        And I’ll take transparency, data, and accountability any day over folks who demonstrate ideological beliefs.

        And that’s what I say for Virginia. Let’s do more non-traditional pubilc schools with public funding but hold them fully accountalble instead of listening to Mr. Sowell for results.

        Now those that call that a “left” stance – what can I say? I just don’t consider Sowell to be a middle-ground guy who is truly objective.

        What we cannot do and what folks like Sowell do is lay out what they say is the way to do it – and if it doesn’t work for all or most then it’s the fault of the parents and walk away. Too many on the right have that attitude. If the parents fail, then the kid is screwed and it’s okay to walk away blaming the kid for having bad parents.

        That’s not an answer. That’s more ideology than rationality.

        And no, I do not consider the NEA “objective” either… so THERE!

        Oh… an sorta glad to see you have not gone away… I think… 😉

        • Like of the conservatives looking at this issue, including Sowell, I care more about these kids than most liberals who want to keep them poor and dependent on government programs. Sherlock is just re-plowing ground already covered by Cranky, who we don’t hear from much now.

  5. Jim,
    Are there any programs in Richmond aimed at the parents of the children who are not passing the SOL’s? If they don’t have the basic skills, they can’t help their children acquire them.

    • I don’t know about Richmond, but Success Academies and KIPP Academies have extensive parent “orientation” training that make it clear that parents are as responsible for student achievement as the schools. And they hold them to it. They are not responsible for teaching their kids, but rather for helping make sure they do the work and maintain the personal discipline it takes to succeed.

      Without discipline in the school rooms, no child can learn, not just the disruptive child. So they make sure that the parents, who after all have volunteered through a lottery to get their kids into these charters, know, accept and support that.

      • You have to deal with the reality of poorly edthucated people – of ANY race and that is they struggle financially, and they often lead chaotic lives because they do not have stable work lives much less careers.

        When you lack a decent education, you often end up at low-paid jobs with no real opportunity to advance and become financially secure.

        Trying to force these folks to be “responsible” for “educating” their kids is often a loosing battle. They can barely keep their own lives together with a minum of chaos.

        “Forcing” them to do something is about as realistic as those who say if they don’t help their kids, then their kids deserve to be screwed.

  6. re: ” Charters have grown the most in school districts that were already struggling to meet students’ needs due to longstanding, systemic and ingrained patterns of institutional neglect, racial and ethnic segregation, inequitable school funding, and disparities in staff, programs and services. The result has been the creation of separate, largely unaccountable, privately managed charter school systems in those districts that undermine support and funding of local public schools. Such separate and unequal education systems are disproportionately located in, and harm, students and communities of color by depriving both of the high quality public education system that should be their right.”

    I think NEA has at least some of it right.

    You yourself wrote this article about how black kids are suffering in the public schools – especially Richmond.

    Why do you think that is?

    How can one school in a district do terrible with black kids and the other schools in the same school district do well?

    Do you think that happens because of unionized teachers?

    And yes, over and over, some of those who point out the disparities that they actually can see because of the transparency of the public schools in reporting results – they want unaccountable charter schools to take over.

    Have I every heard you SUPPORT the idea that Charter schools would need to meet the SAME standards of Public Schools in both demographics AND reportinging academic results?

    • Geeze guy, You begged to stop and then.. couldn’t yourself?

      I actually AGREE with you on the data but I just don’t buy your Conservative theology about Charter schools. They have a very mixed bag of success across the nation WHEN we actually have comparative data.

      Ther are no teacher unions in Virginia. In many counties in Virginia, a good number of them actually do not even belong to VEA much less get involved in advocacy with regard to Charter Schools.

      That narrative about teachers unions is just wrong on the facts.

      It’s more Conservative boogeyman foolishness… and it just don’t work.

      it’s just foolish to keep claiming it.

      If you want Charter Schools in Virginia, you have to get the School Board to do it and they ARE elected.

      Nowhere in Virginia have I ever seen teachers organized and publically opposed to Charter Schools.

      I begging you to stop making claims that simply are not true!

      • Larry, have you ever heard of NEA (National Education
        Association)? This link is from our public school district’s webpage.

        If you go there, they actually do refer to themselves as a union:

        “Our unified structure means that wherever you are, your union colleagues are here for you. Here’s how to connect and join. ”

        And here’s a testimonial quote from the same page:
        “Having a network of aspiring and current educators has opened my eyes to new opportunities, relationships, and ideas. While the union offers so many resources and opportunities, finding my union family has been the greatest benefit of joining. “

        • Carol. Yes I am, and Virginia has VEA. But I also know which states have actual teacher unions that actually do negotiate for wages and benefits and the way that Virginia works which is different and I’m no fan of folks who try to describe it as a union because it’s simply not – and in a lot of school systems in Virginia, the number of teachers who are members of VEA are not a majority by a long shot.

          So trying to depict them as a union – where teachers across a school district or the State as organized against Charter Schools is imply untrue and a disreptuable place to argue from but that does not disuade those that do – which in my mind reveals that they are really not legitimate on the issue if they are not willing to admit the truth from the start.

          Nowhere that I know of, in Virginia do teachers show up in organized groups opposed to Charter Schools.

          Most teachers that I know – and I know quite a few – personally – are not opposed to Charters and private schools at all.

          I’m NOT opposed to Charters as competitors/alternatives to public schools – which don’t do a very good job at disadvantaged kids – as long as the Charters meet the same standards for acceptance of low performing students and are transparent about their academic performance with those students.

          I keep asking Jim if he agrees because if he did – we would agree but, so far, I’ve not hear it from him nor others here like Bacon.


          What would be worse than sending disadvantaged kids to a Charter schools on the premise of better results but the results would not be provided so we could actually confirm they do better?

          It’s all based on a myth that some folks want to believe but will not deal with the reality of providing the results being mandatory as a condition?

          That’s just a totally bogus position in my view for Conservatives to take.

  7. I’m not talking about charter schools. That’s not what unions are about. I’m saying NEA may not be the official negotiators, but they act like a union as they advertise to, advise, and influence teachers and parents and lobby the public and our BoS. They even brought the kids into the Red for Ed campaign. It’s not about improving schools and outcomes, only getting more money. And our school districts buy into it.

    Our local student enrollment’s been dropping for years and our budget keeps climbing.

    Sols 2018-19 Reading 77 all students, Black students 64, Hispanic 77, White 78, Economically disadvantaged 70.

    Math all students 73, Black students 59, Hispanic 80, White 74, Economically Disadvantaged 67.
    $13,746 per child per VDOE Superintendent’s Report with an enrollment of 1059. 20-21 enrollment: 960 with a $15.12 million budget. (VDOE doesn’t have the per pupil breakdown posted yet)

    More money hasn’t raised scores.

    • Well they act somewhat like a Professional Association – like other professional associations. I don’t see them out in front of a school with signs demanding higher wages or whatever.

      Ok, so , so far, more money has not raised SOLs for ED , I agree.

      It’s a question of where and how the money is spent and it may take more than we are doing right now – to move the needle.

      Charter and other non-public schools don’t have to take special needs kids nor provide other programs like vocational education, transportation.

      But that’s why I also support competitors to public schools as long as they do produce results.

      but when someone brings this back to the idea that non-public/charter/voucher schools can do better then fine, do so and if they can do the job that public schools cannot – I’m all for it.

      But I won’t demonize teachers – not an ounce.

      I DO think the School Systems – District Level – have failed the economically disadvantaged kids – but educating them successfully is not going to be cheap. The schools are set up to educate the kids of well educated parents not ill-educated parents who cannot or will not provide support for their kids but the answer is not to demonize teachers or walk away because it’s “too costly”.

      A child grows up to be an adult and that adult will cost us taxpayers 3o-50K a year – for 50 or more years if he/she lacks an economically-viable education. It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish – and no, we cannot save all of them but it’s not an all or nothing proposition either. We can educate a lot more than we are.

      Title 1 teachers ARE effective. The problem is there are not near enough of them – they have Masters Degrees in reading and learning disabilities but no all kids get one.

      • Larry, you are correct. It depends on how the money is spent. But much of it is wasted. Fairfax County Public Schools, for example, neglected to update software for three years, with the result that kids couldn’t get online teaching for about 6 weeks. The CIO was allowed to retire.

        Despite private schools being open this fall during the pandemic, FCPS has not yet been able to bring special ed and vocational arts students back to school.

        A retired middle school math teacher (40 years) now teaching at a private school in Tysons has offered to develop an entrance exam for TJ that is not coachable. But instead of looking to people like him, the administration has decided to eliminate the entrance exam and use a lottery for admissions. The argument against TJ admissions was that kids from wealthier families can get extra prep classes.

        How do people break the back of this employment juggernaut and put our tax dollars to work educating children efficiently and effectively?

        • I’ll agree that it is wasted sometimes… it’s just the nature of the beast sometimes. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your work also.

          When it comes to software – it’s a real crap-shoot. I had to spend a significiant amount of time to convince my superiors that software licenses need to be kept in force and that not doing so could lead to disaster. Same deal with backup systems. Truth is that people that get to be bosses are sometimes good at some things and bad at others.

          Fairfax is not the only system to stay virtual in Virginia or for that matter across the nation… And the ones in Virginia that went to in-person are now seeing COVID. Caroline County had to close a school the other day because of it.

          Public schools are like VDOT and traffic congestion or the Police and crime. You’re never going to get to zero and you will continue to spend money – and waste some of it.

          I don’t know anyone who has not wasted money by the way. We all do it but some of us won’t admit it or we expect perfection from institutions. They can do 99 things right but the one they don’t the critics are on them like a dog on a bone….

          The critics are just waiting in the wings to pounce these days. One misstep and they’re on you. Terrible way to try to get work done.

  8. Two words come to mind be when reading this tragic Richmond school results: 1)Stoney 2) Northam

  9. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Not every school in Richmond is a disaster. Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary has performed very well. Designated a high poverty school. Mostly black and Latino enrollment. The school has a capable leader. Most of the staff has a master’s degree and has been there for a while.

    Aunt Liz would be proud. She was the principal from 1954 to 1970. First female educator in Virginia to have a school named after her.

  10. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The average cost per pupil for the past 13 years in Fauquier County Public Schools is about $8,000. K-12 or 13 years that figure comes out to $104,000. Why not hand that money over to parents in Kindergarten? Let them decide what kind of education should be paid for. Whether it is public school, private, school, on line school, or home school. That money has been set aside and dedicated to that student every year. It belongs to that student’s parents. Let them decide how to spend.

    For Fairfax County. Average cost per pupil over the last 13 years is right at $14,000. K-12 or 13 year total is $182,000. Now we are cooking!

    I wonder what TJHS parents who are bumped out would do with such a sum of money? It is their money. Is it wrong for them to decide how it should be spent?

    • How do we assure that the parents spend that money wisely and effectively instead of squandering it on a for-profit scam school?

      I’d support this if the schools had to meet standards to get the money.

      But obviously, they’d not get all the money up-front – that would be even worse and the tax revenue system doesn’t work that way anyhow.

      Just remember, this money is not Govt money. This money comes from people who earn it and don’t necessarily have kids. If you look at how much the average household pays in taxes annually and compare that number to the cost of educating one child for a year – what does that look like?

      In a lot of cases, people pay about 2K a year in taxes and their kid costs 10K – so the money comes from others also.

  11. re: ” Not every school in Richmond is a disaster. Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary has performed very well. Designated a high poverty school. Mostly black and Latino enrollment.”

    Very true and you’ll not hear the critics giving Stoney and Northam for it’s success, right?

    This school illustrates the perverse nature of the problem. Within the same school district – whether it be Fairfax, Henrico or Richmond – you will find good schools and awful ones.

    If the very same School Districts can actually produce “good” schools like Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary then why do we need Charters? Why can’t RPS use Redd as a model for it’s other schools that need to improve rather than Charters?

    Can we give credit to RPS for Redd Elementary?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      They have not figured out how to clone Dr. Wharton yet. She really is a terrific school leader. I contribute on a annual basis to the PTA in memory of my great Aunt Redd. Dr. Wharton is lucky. Good staff and a true neighborhood school. The building is run down though. That is true for many Richmond schools. It goes to show though it is not a fancy building that makes a school but the staff and community that really counts.

    • “Why can’t RPS use Redd as a model for it’s other schools that need to improve rather than Charters?”

      Doing so would require that principals and other school administrators who are not good leaders be fired – and we can’t have that…

  12. Jim, thank you for all the work you have put into this project. All this back and forth about unions and charter schools ignores the basic fact that a lot of Black kids are getting shortchanged.

    The answer does not lie in what kind of school setup is used: union, charter, or Success Academy. It lies in how kids are taught to read. And most teachers are not utilizing the best tool for teaching reading: phonics.

    Research has shown that the best way to teach reading is to teach kids how to decode the printed words. (I know that from experience. My wife used phonics to teach our daughter how to read by the time she was 2 1/2 years old.)

    One state has used this research to make great strides in bridging the gap between reading scores of Black and white students. It used this science to teach its teachers the best way.

    Last year, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi) led the nation in improvement in student test scores. Over the last few years, Mississippi has trained teachers in the science of reading and provided assistance to teachers in using that science in the classroom. “Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.” So, there is a way to do it, which can be used by teachers in any form of school organization.

    The state Department of Education needs to stop just asking for more money and start looking at the way local schools should be teaching kids (all kids) how to read.

    • You are welcome. I am just beginning with this series. My next efforts will be reviews of two books, the latest by Dr. Sowell and Dr. Bettina Love.

      They provide a window into the utterly contrasting, directly opposing views of black educators on the right way to educate poor black children.

      As a hint of what is coming,
      – One thinks that bringing order and discipline to the classroom is a sine qua non of education. The other does not.
      – One thinks that the common core of math, reading, writing, science and history is the key. The other rejects that root and branch.

      There is a lot to unpack in the books of each author, and I will try to do it faithfully.

  13. “Azerbaijani forces had taken Shusha, known as Shushi in Armenian.”

    Wow. And I thought we were big-ender versus little-enders in this country.

  14. It’s almost inevitable that discussions about the achievement gap for black kids between Conservatives and others, often degenerates into disagreements about unions and Charter Schools.

    It does not have and should not especially if there is agreement that Charter Schools be held to the same standards that public schoools are held to in terms of demographics accepted and reporting of academic results.

    But let me further point out in Virginia’s case that reading IS phonics-based through the use of the UVA PALS approach:

    ” PALS

    Early literacy screening is the key to providing effective literacy instruction and preventing future reading problems. The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) provides a comprehensive assessment of young children’s knowledge of the important literacy fundamentals that are predictive of future reading success. PALS is the state-provided screening tool for Virginia’s Early Intervention Reading Initiative (EIRI) and is used by 99% of school divisions in the state on a voluntary basis.

    PALS consists of three instruments, PALS-PreK (for preschool students), PALS-K (for kindergartners), and PALS 1-3 (for students in grades 1-3). PALS assessments are designed to identify students in need of additional reading instruction beyond that provided to typically developing readers. PALS also informs teachers’ instruction by providing them with explicit information about their students’ knowledge of literacy fundamentals. Mid-year assessment and PALS Quick Checks allow for ongoing student progress monitoring throughout the year.

    PALS 1-3 and PALS Plus are leveled instruments that are used to (a) screen and identify students in need of additional instruction based on their Entry Level task scores, and (b) diagnose specific skill deficits in students whose Entry Level scores do not meet a benchmark that represents minimum grade-level criteria. Those students then proceed to subsequent diagnostic levels of PALS (Level B tasks, and Level C tasks).

    Students are asked to spell lists of words representing phonics features necessary to be successful at each grade level. Teachers score spelling based on the specific phonics features that are represented in each word.”

    Here’s the problem.

    Though many schools in Virginia say they “use” PALS AND phonics – the question what do they do once they test a childl and identify shortfalls especially when there is a classroom of kids and some are on grade level or better and others are behind?

    Some schools have Title 1 teachers – teachers with Masters Degrees in the paricular areas of reading and learning disabilities and they actually do help the kids – they can but some schools don’t have enough Title 1 teachers for the numbers of kids that need that help.

    Is it a money problem?

    It depends on how one wants to view it.

    Some of those same schools systems with significant numbers of kids who underperform and have AP and other College-prep programs for the kids that do proceed on grade level and higher.

    In the same county school system – you can have some of the best educated kids in the state and headed for college – at the same time there are schools in poverty neighborhoods where most of the kids are behind and will never catch up.

    The schools allocate the money to both needs – as much as they have money for, They will not divert it from the College-prep areas to the low achievement areas. Each gets a share.

    If a school does not have enough Title 1 help – what can it do if the school system does not pay for more Title 1 teachers?

    Now, some folks don’t care about this and they believe that no matter what Charter Schools do about these issues that “somehow” they solve these problems and produce results.

    I am not one of those people. I have a trust but veify approach.

    We do not give tax money to Charters on a premise that is not verified – period.

    So if the Conservatives will agree to hold the Charters just as accountable as public schools – I’m totally on board, I have no qualms of having legitimate competitors to the publics schools that are failing to educate these kids.

    But it is irresponsible to advocate for Charters that do have accountability – and especially so for folks who identify themselves as Conservatives.

    There is no magic. Kids of low-income/ill-educated parents are harder to teach – and I’m toldl by educators that it’s not a one-shot deal where you catch tem up and from then on they stay on grade. The support for them must remain all through school if they are to be kept on grade level.

    And this DOES HAPPEN in some schools – like the one that JW highlighted in the Richomond Public School system. There are others also – Fairfax, Henrico, Chesterfield have some high-scoring blaack kids in their schools also but they have many more black kids – actually economically disadvantaged of all colors that chronically are behind and never catch up.

    For me – I reject ideology and ideologically approaches to this. We know what works and we know it costs money and choices and priorities are made – and we have the results of that. Unless Charters have enough money to properly help these kids they’re are going to have the same problems and that’s why I advocate for accountability if they are going to be responsiblel for these kids.

    It’s grossly irrresponsible to not mandate accountability for ANY school – public or Charter, especially for those who say money is an issue. We don’t like spending more money but on this issue, it may well be a problem.

    Kids who do not have parental-support – for whatever the reason – need more help.

    • Which, of course, is funny since neither Unions nor Charter Schools are cause/solution to the problem at hand.

      “There’s a huge fire at Walmart. See, it’s because of all of the cheap goods from China and backing local merchants would have prevented that!”

      • And without accountability for both public and Charter we will not know what works and what does not.

        Throwing more money may not work but also throwing kids to Charters without accountability may not work either.

        Blind advocacy for unaccountable Charters is not a cost-effective solution either.

        It just seems like most Conservative “solutions” to point at teachers unions as opposed to Charters while not requiring accountability for Charters.

        That’s not a soution – that’s just pure ideology.

        Require Charters to also be just as accountable and I’m on board – Thomas Sowell and company believers or not.

        Just the accountability and data please – I don’t care about your ideology.

        • Virginia law authorizes the establishment of public charter schools within school divisions. Those schools must meet state educational standards, to wit: “Pursuant to a charter contract, a public charter school may operate free from specified school division policies and state regulations, and, as public schools, shall be subject to the requirements of the Standards of Quality, including the Standards of Learning and the Standards of Accreditation.” Sec. 2.2-212.6, Code of Virginia.

          That chapter of the Code goes on to say that the school division must fund a charter school and provide it a proportionate share of any state and federal assistance received by the district.

          The rub is that the Code makes it difficult to establish such schools. And the source of the difficulty is set out in the section I quoted: “may operate free from specified school division policies and state regulations” and in this provision in another section: “a public charter school shall be responsible for its own operations, including, but not limited to, such budget preparation, contracts for services, and personnel matters as are specified in the charter agreement.”

          School divisions do not like having a public school operating within its jurisdiction that is not subject to its control. Nor does the teacher association like having a public school that can hire teachers outside the certification standards of the state. In short, it is possible to have an independent, public charter school operating that is accountable under state student achievement standards, but there is strong resistance to having a public school that does have to hew to all the local and state requirements. The history of the establishment of charter schools in Richmond is evidence of that resistance. In response to the effort to establish a charter middle school, Mayor Stoney said, “What we’re going to focus on as a city is investing in our public schools. I think that’s necessary and that’s my No. 1 priority.” But, Mr. Mayor, charter schools in Virginia are public schools.

          Despite years of obstruction, including lawsuits, financial audits, and relocation, it was reported in 2018 that the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, a public elementary charter school, “has met the state’s full standards of accreditation for the past three years.”

          For more discussion of charter schools in Richmond and the difficulty in establishing public charter schools in Virginia see:

          • I don’t have a problem with Charters not being subject to the local School Boards but they still should be subject to VDOE and have full transparency and accountability and I invite folks to go to the VDOE build-a-table site and look for the Loudoun Aacademies data of which I have been unable to find.

            Go to the VDOE site and show me the Charters assessments.

            Here’s the thing. Why would anyone, most of all Conservatives be opposed to full transparency and accountability for Charters and other non-traditional schools funded by tax dollars?

            It always seems to be advocacy for Charters and either no mention of accountability or opposition to it.

            Charters have been around now for a number of years and if it were actually true that they are superior to public schools, there would be tremendous demand for them AND changes in the Va General Assembly as a result of more people – including taxpayers – wanting them in spite of VEA and those stealth teacher unions.

            Public Schools are basically set up institutionally to cater to the kids that have supporting parents and not as much as kids who do not have supporting parents.

            One of the big initiatives from Northam is Pre-K schooling – which is a tough sell apparently to some in the GA . Why would someone support Charters but oppose Pre-K funding? What kind of sense does that make?

            The only thing I can get out of it is that there are people who basically oppose public schools in concept …and favor using tax money for non-public schools without equivalent accountability. What kind of sense does that make if one claims to be a fiscal conservative?

          • Dick – your post hit the nail on the head and drove it into the board with one strike.

            Fairfax County has fought charter schools since they became lawful. Screw the students. Screw the parents. Screw the taxpayers. It’s all about power, politics and money.

            Fairfax County Public Schools is the most dishonest organization with which I’ve dealt in well more than 40 years of practicing law. And I’ve seen some real crooks.

  15. I have some new data to share;
    Word counts:
    – My essay: 1323 words
    – Commenters other than Larry: 1704 words
    – Larry’s comments: 3,404 words (and counting)

    So congratulations, Larry, I guess. Your words of wisdom, if I may use that word advisedly, have exceeded the combined contributions of the author and all the rest of the commenters combined.

    • There has always been an inverse relationship between insight and verbosity. Larry ain’t the only one.

    • Recount required… bet I know who took silver.

      • Reasonable question. The bulk of the non-Larry comments to the point of my count above:
        – Jay Whitehead and I about 320 words each
        – Carol Bova and Dick Sizemore about 290 words each.

        No one reached 10% of Larry’s comments.

        • Data to share? Yep… word counts but not results from Virginia’s existing 8 charter schools? Took some time to get the data on Virginia’s under-peroforming schools, good for you Jim, but then you bailed on the data from the Charter Schools and instead chose Thomas Sowell blatherings for your “proof” that Charter Schools are better.

          Why not the actual data from the 8 Charter schools to make your point?

          Methinks what you really want is that standard old Echo Chamber. If I did not comment , all you would get would be the same old pats on the back for parrotting the standard right wing mythology.

          Sorry, “data” from Mr. Sowell is not the same as data from VDOE…

          How about it? Would you consider getting the data for Virginia’s 8 existing Charter schools and showing that they actuall are better in exchange for the Sowell blather?

    • The benefits of copy-paste commenting…

  16. Jim S says:
    “I have some new data to share;
    Word counts:
    – My essay: 1323 words
    – Commenters other than Larry: 1704 words
    – Larry’s comments: 3,404 words (and counting)…”

    My response is:

    As so often happens, Larry’s performance is not aimed at finding solutions or otherwise engaging others in intelligent discussion that enlightens all readers. Instead Larry’s chronic stream of Dr. Irwin Cory nonsense is cleverly designed to distort facts, create red herrings, raise long discarded ghosts, over politicize a vitally important topic on which human lives depend, and to muddy up beyond all recognition all the important insights contained in Jim Sherlock’s original post.

    In addition, Larry’s “commentary” works hard to destroy other people’s intelligent discussion and participation in all topics raised on Bacon’s Rebellion, while he obsessively and compulsively seeks to dominate the blog himself on each and every topic with his nonsense and garbage.

    This is unfair to Jim Sherlock here and to all other serious readers and participants in this blog. It drives them away. It is particularly unfair to others who care deeply about the topic and those whose lives depend on solutions to the problems raised by the topic, and so want to participate in an intelligent dialogue concerning it on this blog, and thereby draw additional readers into intelligent discussions on Bacon’s Rebellion, so insights into the subject and their solutions may be found.

    In short, Larry’s chronic irresponsible behavior prevents all that. It despoils fine posts like the one at hand, while driving off other readers and writers from the blog. This is nothing new. Larry has been doing this for years. This plague needs fixing.

    • My frequent suggestion to Larry. “Less writing and more reading.”

    • re” : ” This is unfair to Jim Sherlock here and to all other serious readers and participants in this blog. It drives them away. ”

      On the contrary – there are more commenters and more comments than ever on BR and more important, there is some balance between only the echo chamber types.

      And in terms of the length of blog posts – pot, kettle, black – Reed is the kind of endless inane blather IMHO.

      Echo chamber pablum IS fair game but Reeds stuff is too much even for me! 😉

      And I recommend the same response. If you don’t like the comment or think it is iane – then drop down to the next one. I do it ALL THE TIME with Reeds stuff!

      “This is nothing new. Larry has been doing this for years. This plague needs fixing.”

      Yes, and Reed likes to take votes to vote someone off BR.

      How about another one Reed?

      • Actually, I had him pegged for silver in verbosity (always; can’t scroll fast enough), but then I really wasn’t paying much attention to the specificity of the data set. Given time, I suspect I can take the gold on total comments with a DFL in word count. The best snark is short.

  17. One of the books I will review in a coming essays is Thomas Sowell’s “Charter Schools and Their Enemies”. It has been widely reviewed as a major contribution to ongoing discussions of public policy in education.

    All you need to know about how compelling Dr. Sowell is in his assessments is that neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times nor the LA Times has never reviewed it. As a matter of fact, none of the three has ever mentioned it.

Leave a Reply