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.