Where in the Virginia Department of Education is the Kids’ Interests Division (KID)?

by James C. Sherlock

James Lane
Superintendent of Public Instruction

There have been two iterations of relaxation of Virginia SOL rules issued so far this school year by the Department of Education.  They offer perfect roadmaps to the future under the current leadership of that Department.

School Accreditation Waived and Refusal to Take SOLs Authorized

The first step was potentially the most consequential. On November 6, 2020, the Superintendent of Pubic Instruction issued the following memorandum:

SUBJECT:  Additional Details regarding Standards of Learning (SOL) Testing in 2020-2021:

“The purpose of this memo is to share additional details regarding Standards of Learning (SOL) testing in the 2020-2021 school year. As previously announced in a press release dated August 4, 2020, annual school accreditation has been waived for the 2021-2022 school year. It is important to note that this waiver does not affect requirements for standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year. The Virginia Department of Education anticipates at this time that SOL tests scheduled for the 2020-2021 school year will be administered.

“As local plans are developed for administering SOL tests to students in 2020-2021, school divisions must consider that all SOL tests are to be administered under secure, standardized testing conditions in the presence of school personnel. SOL tests are not to be administered remotely to students in a virtual school environment.”…

Additional Fall 2020 Test Administration Details

“In the event a student is scheduled to take one or more SOL tests in fall 2020 and parents refuse to have the student participate or the student refuses to participate in the test due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a refusal (i.e., testing status 50 or 51) is not to be recorded and a “0” score will not be assigned to the student’s test.” 

“If the (high school) student was scheduled to a take an end-of-course SOL test, school division staff are encouraged to communicate with the parents and student regarding the student’s graduation requirements and future plans to attempt to earn the needed verified credit (i.e., future spring, summer, or fall SOL test administrations; a Board-approved substitute test).”…

“For an end-of-course SOL test that is not required for federal accountability, school divisions may offer a Board-approved substitute test for verified credit in lieu of offering the end-of-course SOL test.”

We have no idea currently how many refusals “due to the COVID-19 pandemic” there have been, but that is obviously a hole potentially big enough to invalidate the SOLs as a test of student learning losses.  We also don’t know what any new Spring rules may be. 

But it is reasonable to expect that students who have gotten lost academically will not want to be tested to expose that fact.  

It will fall upon teachers to make up for that deficit in standardized results by quantifying learning losses in their classes. We are left to hope that administrators don’t “curate” those reports on the way to the school boards whose job it is to address remediation of learning losses. I am not hopeful.

High School Students Passing SOL Scores Lowered

The second memorandum from the same source on December 4 was explained as an attempt to reduce the effects of COVID on high school graduation. It reduces the passing score on end or course SOLs from 400 to 350 (out of 800) as long as a student “demonstrates mastery of the standards, competencies, and objectives of the entire course through a locally-determined verification process.” The same memo eliminated the SOL requirement entirely for history and social science courses.

SUBJECT: Update to the Emergency Guidelines for Locally Awarded Verified Credits

At its November 19, 2020 business meeting, the Board of Education approved an update to the Emergency Guidelines for Locally-Awarded Verified Credits. The revised Emergency Guidelines remove barriers to earning a verified credit for students who continue to be impacted by ongoing pandemic conditions and meet the enumerated conditions. These guidelines are available for immediate implementation.

The Emergency Guidelines establish two pathways to earning a verified credit through an amended locally-awarded verified credit process. 

Option one applies to those students enrolled in any high-school credit bearing course that was eligible for verified credit in the fall of 2020. These students may earn a locally-awarded verified credit if they: (1) pass the corresponding high school course; and (2) attempt the associated Standards of Learning assessment and receive a score within the 350 – 399 range; and (3) demonstrate mastery of the standards, competencies, and objectives of the entire course through a locally-determined verification process.

Option two applies to those students enrolled in a high-school credit bearing course in history/social science that was eligible for a verified credit in the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021. The locally-determined verification process for these students must include the student’s responses to performance assessment tasks, however, there is no requirement that the student must have taken the associated history or social science Standards of Learning assessment.

In addition to providing flexibility to students, option two encourages school divisions to build and/or grow their capacity to administer performance assessments in history and social science, allows teachers to assess in dynamic ways, and creates a foundation for the use of this type of assessment model in the future.

That last sentence is key and reveals where VDOE is heading. This isn’t really about COVID. It is all part of the long-term plan.  

  • Step 1. The educational left hates standardized testing. It wants local assessments to replace standardized state-wide tests.   
  • Step 2. Leftist-run school districts starting with Albemarle are full speed ahead to make those local assessments victims of equal outcomes grading.  

Many students won’t learn but every one will get a trophy. Eliminate the evidence and there is no problem to solve. No measurable issues.  

The left hasn’t grasped yet that if every kid gets the same reported results the justification for the “equity” bureaucracies will evaporate. But I trust them to offer a different rationale – -racism would come roaring back into control if they left.

For the kids themselves — and where in the Department of Education is the Kids’ Interests Division (KID) — what could possibly go wrong?

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34 responses to “Where in the Virginia Department of Education is the Kids’ Interests Division (KID)?

  1. Virginia’s top educrats know that SOL scores will be a disaster, and they’re doing everything they can to hide it. We can kiss good-bye to accountability, and children in failing school systems can kiss good-bye to any hope for a decent education. But they will have one consolation: Their curricula will be “culturally relevant.”

    • Great post J Sherlock, as it marks the total destruction of public K-12 education in Virginia so as to achieve equality for all kids, namely, total ignorance. This completes the final formula of the Orwellian State.

  2. As I have heard before – No S_it Sherlock! 😉

    Yes.. they will be bad but I don’t see any hiding per se and my understanding is that Northam is talking about all-year school when they get back not withstanding the doomsayers and anti-public school talking heads.

  3. Frankly, the Virginia Board of Education could change the cut score required at anytime. This would essentially be the same as allowing a failing score of 350-399. I think that dropping the cut score would be less forthcoming to the public. In the 350-399 scenario, the Board is appearing to admit that students may not pass the SOL, but have an okay chance of being able to graduate if they can show they have mastered certain criteria. For the most part, seniors should have already received their verified credits, but those juniors last year were really short changed by having no assessments provided. I am worried about the locally verified credit being consistent from locality to locality (Petersburg is the same as Prince William, say).

    I do see the Kid’s Interested Division with these policies. What would happen to those seniors needing a verified credit if these weren’t put in place? Should they put their life on hold until next year? Is it Kid’s interest or accountability that you want? or both? In this time, I am not sure you can have both. Some parents want kids back to school, but some clearly do not.

    This may be upsetting, but it appears fair. I am not going to make a kid fail to graduate due to “necessary” virtual learning (government school closure) in their junior year not providing a certain desired outcome on one and only one assessment. Let the kid show the knowledge in multiple ways in their senior year and move on. Period.

    We are talking about the English 11th grade SOL for the most part. Juniors last year didn’t get to take the test. I think they can prove they have mastered the skills — didn’t we do so before SOL assessments?

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I believe VDOE is slated to spend 25 million on SOL testing. If no tests are to be administered then what happens to that money? 350 cut score, what a mess!

  5. Just about everyone on all sides of the issue of virtual learning had low expectations but it’s not that much better for in-person given the social distancing rules, masks, etc.

    The professionals, the folks who run the schools and teach the kids are comitted to get back to normal when they can and try to catch up especially on the core subjects. Some kids near graduation are caught and it’s not fair to hold them in limbo. If they need more, they can come back later and the schools will probably have such classes for them.

    The critics were never looking for ways forward nor constructive criticism anyhow. Many have been staunch critics of pubic education before the pandemic and the pandemic and debate over in-person was just more fodder for their criticisms.

    In some places, in-person meant a sub that was not licensed or certified, in some cases, just a volunteer parent or bus driver , etc.

    Even non-public schools have been challenged with this – Our friend James , a retired teacher, recounted all the things that had to be done because of the pandemic and bailed.

    When the schools finally do get back, possibly year-round , these same critics will, no doubt, go back to their prior criticsm…about “failed” public education, critical race theory, and who knows what else.

    It’s a half glass full, half glass empty world. In the eyes of some, it’s all a fail and time to walk but not until flailing that dead horse a few more times!

    Sorry – the “anti” drumbeat has been long and hard and just got even worse during the pandemic.

    Nothing will satisfy some critics short of shuttering public schools and an all-charter replacement without any SOL requirements, mind you.

    • The schools could have been open for in-person instruction all year, just like they have been in Europe and some Virginia school districts. As I have repeatedly documented, the science says that it’s very safe to have the schools open. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s safe to have the schools open.

      In person with masks and social distancing isn’t as productive as normal but is vastly better than badly executed distance learning. Any drop-off caused by the schools being closed is the fault of teachers’ associations and gutless politicians like Ralph Northam. Neither group was willing to “follow the science” despite their endless protestations about how much they love science.

      Larry, you can whine all day long about people who criticize the public school systems and, especially, the administrators who run it. However, the closure of so many large school districts in Virginia simply proves that the critics are right.

      • DJ – why did you cite the original position of the The American Academy of Pediatrics and not the updated one they issued:

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2020/07/10/pediatrics-association-slams-trump-argument-for-reopening-schools/?sh=26806b9a718f

        ” After the Trump administration used the American Academy of Pediatrics’ statement pushing for “having students physically” in classrooms to justify its campaign to fully reopen schools—and possibly withhold funding from those that remain closed—the AAP openly disagreed with the administration Friday in a new statement that argues schools “must pursue reopening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff.”

        No whining here at all.. just looking for the simple truth and reality instead of the view of the critics.

        School systems, teachers, and parents are NOT in unanimous agreement about this – at all. That’s the reality and truth.

        And yet the anti-public school, anti-teachers blather continues and needs to be held to account for what the truth really is.

        We get the critics one-sided view here in BR – and not only just the pandemic… opposition to public education long before and then amped up with the pandemic.

  6. Baconator with extra cheese

    With Covid, systemic racism, and DeVos as cover I don’t think they could care less about those scores for years.
    I can’t wait to see how Terry “fixes” it…. and my far out call is Kamras as Sec of Ed…. and when that is announced I will literally wet myself from the hysterical laughter.
    And Terry wins easy and big this fall….. no debates or speeches because of the Covid… he gets by on name recognition alone. And Virginia deserves it.

  7. Simple solution: SOL BY MAIL.
    Everyone takes it and signs a pledge that they neither asked for, or recieved help.

    Time to learn to be an adult.

  8. Baconator with extra cheese

    I saw a news story this morning about the increased class failure rates of kids in Chesterfield County. In the story a mom of Tomahawk Creek MS kids was talking about how hard it is on her and her kids. They went from A/B to D/F students. That’s important because that is one of the wealthier RVA areas, predominantly NonPOC, and has flipped blue from red. If these kids are failing en masse imagine what is happening in areas without interwebs, with mostly poor kids, kids who have parents with poor educations, and BIPOC kids…. the best part Tomahawk mom is you will probably have the same sitiation through the fall as the teachers will most likely get their unions recognized by the GA. If there is ANY Covid still floating around you can bet they will lobby, protest, and maybe strike to stay virtual. Like they formally state on their website schhol can be “made up” but a lost life can’t be replaced – even if you get Covid from gatherings like their president.
    Staying red may not have been the answer for Chesterfield but blue sure is going to hurt.
    I place most of this blame on the RPV for not developing young and/or decent candidates.

  9. re: teacher unions and their role in the pandemic in Virgina

    The following appeared in today’s Fredericksburg Free Lance Star:

    I believe that Facquier is the county that fellow blogger James lives.

    Here is the headline in WaPo on Nov 9, 2020: “Fauquier County Public Schools returns majority of students to classrooms”

    So here’s the question. Is this problem caused by the teacher union in Fauquier County schools?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Larry they can’t get enough people to show up and work. I think they plan to move from virtual to the hybrid model on January 19th. FEA certainly played their role in this.

      • James – did FEA take a vote to do this? Also, the teachers that that won’t work, are they sanctioned for not reporting?

        Teachers work on contract, right? Can you explain how that works?

        thanks!

        p.s. – I’m perplexed that Facquier is advertising in Fredericksburg – not sure where else but it looks like they are missing a LOT of workers besides teachers. I don’t know why existing teachers in Fredericksburg would go teach in Facquier.. but perhaps they know something.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Yes FEA voted on this. Although they have backtracked since December. No one is being sanctioned. In fact they got a bonus from the School Board. You look up the contract. Bus drivers, cafe workers, and custodians tend to be older in Fauquier. I think that is a big reason for that shortage. The older crowd is playing it safe.

  10. Baconator with extra cheese

    The teaching population in Virginia is “aging out” as Boomers retire that’s a big part of the problem. And thank goodness… take your whiteness with you as you leave.
    They really should have said “White Women Need Not Apply”…. Dr Governor and Secretary Woke really need to end the systemic racism in all schools. Not too mention Kristen Clarke thinks a lack of melanin equates to an ineffective intellect and she may one day be brought in to investigates Virginia’s systemic racism.

    • “is “aging out” as Boomers retire that’s a big part of the problem. And thank goodness… ”

      Wait!
      If it’s a problem then why are you thankful?
      If you are thankful then why is it a problem?

      • Baconator with extra cheese

        It’s a problem becuase the school districts have to replace a whole bunch of teachers during a pandemic.
        I am thankful because now the administration can use this as an opportunity to replace the systenically racist (as VDOE and Dr Governor
        have said) school systems with new anti-racist systems. It should be celebrated that the kids will now have the opportunity to learn from proper teachers.

        • Baconator with extra cheese

          If the system is racist you must change the system. The teaching system is majority white women so that must be changed because it is a part of the racist system.
          It’s just logic… can ya dig it?

    • Since I recently made a statement regarding the term “Boomers” I would remiss if I didn’t say something there. I understand your context better than the last usage and it doesn’t appear to be derogatory.

  11. interesting reading:

    Historical Overview of the Standards of Learning Program

    https://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/reports/annual_reports/2013_appendix_a_sol_history.pdf

    • The people who wrote that report are part of our education system, right?

      This jumped, nay, LEAPED out at me only three paragraphs in:

      “This jolt, coupled with a decade of declining SAT scores, lead to a bipartisan consensus around the need for more rigorous academic and instructional standards in the Commonwealth’s public schools. ”

      How many people do you think red, I mean read, that document before it was released? The past tense of the verb “lead” is “led”. Even this practically illiterate engineer knows that.

      Thus ends my pedantic tantrum for the morning.

  12. Folks, we need to give VDOE a little grace here. VDOE does not make the decision about whether schools are open or not. That is the local boards’ responsibility. They are responsible for implementing state code and Board of Education policy. If you are concerned about what VDOE is doing, fuss at the State Board, the General Assembly, and the Governor.

    As ksmith8953 mentioned above, if the Board didn’t give those high school students and out, they would all have taken a hit for their decision to be born at a time that allowed Covid to affect their graduation status. Not that giving them a pass on their final SOL proficiency is a good thing, but what are the alternatives? Make them repeat their senior year and graduate at 19? How many students, especially those from the other side of the tracks, would go for that. It’s tough enough to keep those students in school until they’re 18. Many juvenile and domestic relations judges haven’t been sympathetic to enforcing their attendance, and the kids know it.

    Now, if you want to talk about the real problem with expectations, the Board of Education has significantly lowered the SOL cut scores in reading and math. If you look at the increase in Math SOL scores in 2019, it is pretty closely related to the change in the cut scores (2019 is the first year of those new SOL tests). Last November, the Board of Education significantly lowered the cut scores for the Reading SOL test, which will be administered this spring.

    These changes basically lowered the state’s expectation of student performance. This will make it easier for kids to attain the basic minimum than before. I am very afraid that lowering these expectations will have the most pernicious effects on our students in divisions and schools that are struggling the most. I believe that lowering the cut scores will whitewash the state’s data to mathematically reduce/eliminate performance gaps among subgroups of students, while ensuring that the real gaps in learning persist. I’m afraid that this will allow traditionally low performing schools and divisions to maintain the instructional status quo, which will ensure their students have no better post-secondary opportunities than they had before.

    The biggest lesson I have learned in my career in education that expectations are the main thing. Lower your expectations and you get less. Raise your expectations and you get more. Our students deserve more!

    • There are reasons for cutting seniors slack in a COVID year but we have to recognize there is a big downside for the college-bound. I have three grandsons who are seniors in Virginia public schools and each is profoundly disturbed by the remote experience.

      All are good students with college acceptances in their pockets, but they are each concerned about academics in their first year in college because of placement in college courses based on the courses they have “completed” in high school. One told me the other day that watching physics experiments on his computer rather than doing them himself is all but useless.

      But this is way more than that. As you write, it is about lowering the bar for all students in SOLs as a preview of eliminating them altogether.

      “In addition to providing flexibility to students, option two encourages school divisions to build and/or grow their capacity to administer performance assessments in history and social science, allows teachers to assess in dynamic ways, and creates a foundation for the use of this type of assessment model in the future.”

      “The use of this assessment model in the future” tells you the goal: local assessments guided and constrained by “equity” as in Albemarle. We are going to find out within a year if the federal government will support withdrawing from the current federal standardized testing requirements. That is what the teachers unions want. I suspect they may get it.

      If so, the kids damaged the most will be poor children. But some adults, the ones who help fund the left and provide its foot soldiers, will be pleased and that may prove to be all that counts.

    • A bit of embarrassing reality here. Only 20% of American kids, at best, have the highly specialized bundle of cognitive abilities to have a reasonable chance to succeed in rigorous academic college programs. The lower half of that spectrum (top 10 to 20%) will have to work like hell to keep up under any circumstances. Hence, many American colleges today are built on the fiction that their students should be there sitting in their college classroom seats at all. That is why colleges so fiercely resist giving their students achievement tests annually to test their learning.

      • The education establishment has compounded the problem it created by falsely tying the worth of an individual to whether or not he or she has a college education, and from where it came. This is a Cardinal Sin. One that wreaks enormous harm.

    • Matt, Well said my friend.

  13. seen on the web:

    New York Elementary School Rankings
    Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the NY State Education Department did not administer assessments for the 2019-2020 school year. SchoolDigger will resume updating its rankings when test scores are released in 2021.

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