What Do We Do “For the Children” Now?

by James C. Sherlock

Flickr: Don Harder

I just read Jim Bacon’s column. In it he revealed:

“Most Virginians (64%) said they were somewhat or very satisfied with how school officials have handled instruction this fall. Only 22% were dissatisfied.

At the same time, an even larger majority is worried that their children will fall behind:

53% very concerned
22% somewhat concerned
8% not too concerned
16% not at all concerned

Really? Wanna bet?

That will last until the Spring 2020 SOLs currently required by the federal government. The SOLs themselves will be a dumpster fire. Parents will look for the arsonist, and they won’t look in the mirror to find him.

Now the cynic/realist in me says that in the first two weeks of the Biden administration the federal law requirement for progress testing will be cancelled for Spring 2021 just like it was for Spring 2020.  The teachers unions and Democratic Governors will insist.

But the SOLs do not fix a problem, they just measure it.

Even without them, nearly every study we have seen says that many K-8 children doing online instruction, especially the most economically, mentally and physically disadvantaged, have not only missed what they were supposed to learn since last March but have lost some of the knowledge they acquired before the school lights were turned out.

So, I hope the SOLs are administered, whether the feds require it or not. If President Biden folds, the decision will fall to Gov. Northam. I hope he has the courage to do the right thing.

Even without SOLs to measure the damage, we will need to deal with the outcome.

What will Virginia’s Governor, Board of Education, VDOE, the school boards and the teachers’ unions do? Anyone who has seen a new chapter in Profiles in Courage from the teachers unions or Democratic elected officials the past nine months should speak up.

Pretending normal learning happened will sentence an entire generation of students, especially the most disadvantaged, to lives permanently challenged by the education they missed but were credited for.

How are the rest of their school careers supposed to go? Virginia’s math syllabus, for example, requires children to learn to multiply in the third grade. What if this year was their third grade year? Are they supposed to go to 4th grade math in the fall not knowing how to multiply?

Acknowledging that learning did not happen and making plans to make up a grade for a huge number of students is the right thing to do. Depending how many more years students have left in K-12, the makeup year either will need to be repeated immediately or, alternately for younger students over the course of a longer period of time with, say, year-round school.

But most politicians who closed the schools will likely consider it political suicide to even acknowledge what has happened. So will the teachers unions.

It never was “about the children.” and it won’t be now.

Whatever is done or not done will change political alignments nationally for the next 40 years. It is going to be interesting.

I side with the children.

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16 responses to “What Do We Do “For the Children” Now?”

  1. VDOTyranny Avatar

    “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Just watched the Governor do his usual two-step on this, avoiding taking a stance. Up to local leaders….He got a question from the AP reporter wondering why he doesn’t shut down private schools, in areas where the publics are virtual, and he basically sang a chorus of “Que Sera, Sera.” Of course the state is going to avoid any measurement of failure or revelation of the educational damage done, the gaps widened. And if the vaccine really is resisted by half the population, bye bye to the Fall ’21 term as well….

      Biden at least is sounding a bit more interested in getting the schools open at the end of this “Hundred Days” effort (May 1? How much of the term is left?) but he too will be pressured and will collapse under that pressure. The gaps within the US are one thing, but most of the overseas economies have stayed with real school and they will benefit for a generation.

      1. “Biden at least is sounding a bit more interested in getting the schools open at the end of this “Hundred Days” effort …”

        Mr. Haner,

        Biden’s Hundred Days vaccination promise is about finding a way to claim credit for other’s work, nothing more. A leopard cannot change its spots. That’s what Biden has been doing his entire life.

        Below are some examples taken from “Joe Biden’s Plagiarism Problem”
        Tim Murtaugh 7/23/2020

        Biden acknowledged that he had plagiarized during his time at Syracuse University Law School. The law school had him repeat a first-year class, after initially flunking him, for copying at least five pages from a published law review article.

        Thirty-three years is a long time ago. The problem is that Joe Biden has never really stopped. In 2008, then-Sen. Biden copied an entire paragraph from a Time magazine story on then-newly elected President Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea and used it for a speech, without attribution. Biden had the stolen language read into an official congressional resolution in February 2008.

        His problem with copying the work of others is so widespread that a 2019 incident, in which the Biden campaign released a climate plan using exactly the same language as outside left-wing groups, without attribution, barely made news.

        The most egregious example, as described by Maureen Dowd when it happened, occurred Aug. 23, 1987, during a debate at the Iowa State Fair. Biden had been lifting entire lines of his stock stump speech from Britain’s then-Labor Party leader, Neil Kinnock, who was campaigning for prime minister across the pond.

        “He [Biden] lifted Mr. Kinnock’s closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech,” Dowd reported for the New York Times.

        As reporters dug deeper, they found more. Biden didn’t just steal Kinnock’s political rhetoric, he appropriated his life story, including a coal mining grandfather. This was worse than it looked: Kinnock’s Welsh grandfather did work in the mines. Biden’s, although he lived in Pennsylvania coal country, sold cars. Did Biden believe that British politics was so removed from Americans’ experience that he could get away with it? Maybe, but if that were the case, Biden wouldn’t have ripped off lines almost directly from John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy.

        Referring to the gross national product during a Feb. 3, 1987, speech in California, Biden said, “This standard is not a measure of how we can evaluate the condition of our society. It cannot measure the health of our children, the quality of our education. The joy of their play.” His words closely mirrored those of Robert Kennedy, who said the following during a March 18, 1968 speech in Kansas: “the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.”

        There’s more here:


        1. “A leopard cannot change its spots.”

          I thought that saying was: “A leopard cannot change its shorts.”

          [obscure Discworld reference]

      2. djrippert Avatar

        NoPlan Northam rides again! It wasn’t a local decision back in March when Northam shut down all the schools in the state. Now it’s simply chaos. With no tie to health conditions in the regions where they operate some schools are open, some closed and some hybrid. Random Ralph doesn’t care. If the kids fall behind – so what? It was a local decision. If the kids falling behind are disproportionately from low income and minority homes – so what? It was a local decision. NoPlan Northam is busy reimagining the sites of former Confederate statues.

        In fairness to NoPlan, Hogan is playing the same game in Maryland insisting that “state law” makes the operation of the public schools a local matter. Of course the US Constitution says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” However, Hogan can ignore that but still fall back on “state law” regarding public school education.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I don’t have a dog in the fight. My youngest graduated from FCPS in 2013.

    What I find outrageous is the failure of Fairfax County to have opened for any kids. What about the kids with major special education needs? FCPS argues that it wants to provide an extra high level of special ed services to help kids in need even though it attracts kids with costly needs from around the U.S. and, often, further. It also takes away from general ed kids. But when it comes to giving them the in-person services they need even two days a week, it’s hell no.

    What about the kids who are taking vocational education? They are supposed to learn auto mechanics or autobody skills online, for example. So what if a high number of these kids are Hispanic. It’s better to signal virtue by screwing with TJ admissions than to actually help kids get marketable skills.

    What about the low-income kids that FCPS claims need extra resources? Let them learn at home.

    But so long as parents are willing to accept this, it will continue. But the progressives will still tell you that they care about the poor, the downtrodden, the children of color. My &&&, they do.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Like you, I don’t have a dog in this fight. My grandkids live in Fairfax County, but they have been home-schooled their whole lives (the oldest is now a high-school senior). More and more research has shown that young children pose a minimal risk of transmitting the virus. Even the New York Times and the Washington Post (both widely distrusted on this blog) have reported on these findings. The schools should be open for K-3 and special needs kids, at least.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      I do have a dog in this fight. My youngest son is a dedicated football player and wanted to transfer from his private to school to FCPS at the start of his high school career. He and I felt that the local high school (Langley) had excellent academics and a more complete athletic program. He would have started at Langley this Fall. Given the attitude of the Fairfax County teachers and their insistence on virtual-only learning and the willingness of his private school to make the effort to provide hybrid teaching I had to insist that he stay in the private school.

      Where is the “science” that progressives claim to love when it comes to schools opening? The schools in Europe have been largely open all year. Is anybody seeing catastrophe from that effort? Are the hallways filling up with the sick and/or dead students and teachers?

      As Dick writes, ” More and more research has shown that young children pose a minimal risk of transmitting the virus.”

      So, where is the Progressive outcry to reopen the schools in the name of “science”?

      Gotta love the two faced rhetoric of America’s liberals. They’re all for following the “science” until the “science” conflicts with one of their constituencies – like the teachers associations / unions. Then it’s science be damned. And women should be believed until the accusation concerns the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, then it goes from #metoo to #nothim.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    SOLS will not be administered. Not happening. My bet is even Fairfax will not release an internal study of grades again either. Election season comes sooner than you think.


    1. Mr. Whitehead – Check out this quote and my post below about Lily Eskelsen García who may become Secretary of Education.

      Do you see yourself staying in the education world?

      It’s my life, it’s my love. I’m a power freak, I am a control freak, and I believe that the most powerful people on the planet are educators…


  4. We should expect things to get MUCH worse under a Biden administration. Apparently he’s considering Eskelsen García, who was president of the National Education Association until September, as possible Secretary of Education.

    “Eskelsen García is one of the most vociferous opponents of education choice…She has compared choice for poor kids to ‘snake oil,’ and has argued that ‘everything about school choice leaves students out in the cold.’ The folly in Eskelsen García’s commentary and the policies she supports, and what makes her the wrong person to lead today, is that the majority of students who are actually being educated during the pandemic are in schools of choice.”

    “Not only did these schools work for students and families before the pandemic, but they are providing a full service, full time education. Contrast that with the many school districts the NEA union represents, like Fairfax County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland, where lack of focus and bad decision-making has resulted in massive failures in remote education.”

    So, exactly what’s her agenda, and what should we expect to be her priority should she be appointed?

    “People in the progressive movement have to realize that regardless of the particular fight they are engaged in, it starts with education. Whether you’re fighting for environmental causes, women’s rights, voting rights, all of these causes – and the very foundations of democracy and how our society makes decisions – start at a schoolhouse door.”
    – Lily Eskelsen García

    “It might come as a surprise to Lily that most parents are not sending their kids off to school to become progressives, but to be educated, with the basics and then some. Perhaps that explains in part why schools are not succeeding in delivering on that promise – they are being dominated by a school of thought that has nothing to with the most basic of educational principles – that knowledge is the foundation of civilized society.”


    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      One thing I love about teenagers. They are wired to rebel against the conformity of their times. Garcia is in for a surprise!

    2. djrippert Avatar

      Socialists hate choice. Their elite view themselves as smarter and more moral than the average citizens or the free market. Socialists think the government should own, or at least control, the airline industry, the healthcare industry, the education system, etc, etc. The only “snake oil” in America’s educational system regarding poor kids is the failed efforts at education coming to them from the public school monopoly.

  5. Maria Paluzsay Avatar
    Maria Paluzsay

    If only this could be the coup de grace for SOLs and we could go back to a full school year of teaching our kids… but more to the topic… I have 2 dogs in the fight, a middle schooler and a high school junior. Thank God I don’t have an elementary kid – although they at least are back in school part time. Neither teachers nor parents need SOLs to tell us what our kids aren’t learning. We never have. SOLs are just learning time wasting metrics for overpaid administrators and politicians to throw around. York County middle schools are already giving frequent assessments to determine what students are not learning in virtual school and adjusting lesson plans. Our schools are providing tutors and scheduling in flex time for teacher-led individualized work to remediate the virtual school created potholes before they become craters. SOLs will be too late to stop the damage and will take away 8 weeks of educational time our students cannot afford to lose. Let’s dispense with them now and not waste any more bureaucrats’ overcompensated hours on the topic.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Disagree, Maria.
      Parents know how their kids are doing, but that is a one-off. The people of Virginia and our government need to know how all kids are doing. Otherwise, where is the accountability?

      If you think that “teaching to the test” is time wasted, then you should complain about the composition of the tests.

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