Monthly Archives: August 2010

Do Loudoun Schools Leave Any Child Behind?

Last week, it was reported that for the first time in three years, the Loudoun County Public Schools failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” in student achievement. AYP is the standard prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act for measuring school quality.

The results of Virginia’s Standard of Learning tests for 2010 are in, and Loudoun County Public Schools students posted an increase in scores across the board, however the school system did not make Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The school system was not alone, as 91 percent of all school districts in the state failed to make AYP under the federal guidelines. Only 12 districts across the state reached that achievement, down from 60 in the previous year. LCPS attained AYP in both 2008 and 2009.

Loudoun students passed the English and mathematics portion of the tests at rates of 94 and 91 percent, respectively. In total, 66 percent of Loudoun’s schools made AYP.

AYP is measured by the test scores of 29 different ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups, and in 2010 the tests were measured for every grade from third through eighth, and as final course tests in high school.

Altogether there were more than 2,100 test cells in LCPS, of which only 63, or 2.94 percent, were deemed as not making AYP. – Leesburg Today

Said another way, 97.06 percent of Loudoun’s measured student cohorts passed the standards of learning. That’s an A by most standards. Not however, by the standards of No Child Left Behind. A test which the vast majority fails says more about the test than the people taking it. Tests need to be scaled to measure actionable differences in performance, and the testing results that No Child Left Behind reports provide none of those. All that we hear is that “Loudoun’s Schools Fail” and we are left with the impression that our rather incredible school system is a boondoggle.

No Child Left Behind is not designed to help student achievement, but to undermine the very idea of public education over the long term. It was designed, in fact, to get to the point where no public school could pass, and therefore serve as a false indictment of public education as a whole.  No Child Left Behind was passed with great fanfare in 2002. Since then, it has ratcheted up the standard, and pressure, for schools to be considered “of quality.” In every year, like some kind of educational Moore’s Law, every school is expected to improve the performance of every student as measured by state-mandated tests. In a perverse flipping of incentives, this has led to widespread cheating on the relevant test not by the students, but by the schools themselves! The image to the right is of test papers with identical answers from the Norfolk public schools. That kind of cheating is generally impossible without the consent, if not direct assistance, of the teacher and school.

There are other examples.

At Richmond’s Oak Grove Elementary School, investigators found the principal had directed teachers to fill in students’ answer sheets, often changing wrong responses.

At Accomack County’s Nandua High School, teachers received copied test booklets containing questions that hadn’t yet been retired from use on SOL exams.

Both divisions brought actions against the principals’ teaching licenses, and the state board suspended their administration endorsements in 2006. The former Oak Grove principal will be able to regain hers in 2011.

The only other time the state board took such action was in 2007, when a Carroll County teacher voluntarily surrendered her license after, among other things, allegedly giving students a “thumbs up” sign when they marked correct answers.

In September 2005, the board unanimously voted to withhold accreditation from the Richmond school and the Accomack school for the 2005-06 year. It is the only time the board has done so for a full year.

The state board’s powers to withhold accreditation for testing violations and to initiate investigations into testing problems were written into state codes in 2006.

Two years later, the board approved a policy allowing the state to withhold or deny a school’s ratings under the federal No Child Left Behind law until corrective actions are taken.

State Superintendent Wright said that when it comes to licensure, the state board depends on school divisions to compile evidence of an educator’s wrongdoing.

“It is not as simple as me saying, ‘OK, the teacher violated the test security, so I’m going to recommend to the board that they revoke the license,’ ” she said.

The other laws aren’t intended to penalize, Wright said. –

So No Child Left Behind creates incentives for schools to cheat. This undermines the essential mission of the schools while, at the same time purporting to validate that mission. And in creating impossible standards that can only be failed or passed by cheating the very idea of public education itself can be called into question. It’s a wonderfully neat little conservative trick.

Of course, that trick did not fool the people actually involved in schools directly. Teachers, students and many parents have opposed make-or-break testing as a part of No Child Left Behind from the beginning. Of course, no one wants to listen to teachers, students and parents. After all, it’s not like there are teachers, parents or students in Congress. No, seriously. No one in Congress is a student, very few members of Congress even have small children (a point that Krystal Ball makes in her campaign to serve the citizens of VA-01), and you can bet that very few of their children attend public schools.

Under these circumstances, it is remarkable that lawmakers feel they have the expertise to legislate such things as mandatory, annual, escalating testing requirements in the face of fierce opposition by people on the ground in education. It isn’t like other industries are regulated with as much fiat. Compared with what No Child Left Behind did to public education, what the Health Care Reform act or the Financial Reform act did was peanuts for those industries.

Perhaps that’s because there is no “public education” industry, in the sense of an economic organization that generates profit that can then be used to influence policy. Unlike, say, the private education industry, which has benefited mightily from the image of “failing public schools.” It is interesting, if not suspicious, that so much public money has flowed from public schools that have “failed” according to NCLB standards to private (and in some cases, charter) schools that do not have to be measured by the same standards as public schools.

After all, all private and many charter schools can self-select their student populations. Public schools cannot. Public education is a right, private (and charter) education, is not. It is much easier to pass a subjective test if you get to pick and choose the students who take it. Private schools are essentially allowed to pick the students most likely to pass to attend their classes, and viola, they “succeed.” But there’s a funny thing when that happens, the students who did not get the chance to attend the private or charter school, for reasons of money, maturity, or geography are left behind.

No Child Left Behind is designed to leave the kids that need the most help behind!

Even in a system designed to demonstrate failure, we will be remiss if we do not think of the kids who did not not make Adequate Yearly Progress. The kids who “failed.” National policy has individual consequences. For all its serious flaws, No Child Left Behind put in place a mechanism, testing, for identifying the kids who need the most help. It is one thing to use a test to identify a baseline of achievement from which to progress. It is another thing entirely to use a test to declare an entire school a failure.

In Loudoun, for those 63 cells of students that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, Loudoun’s schools did fail. For any number of reasons, those students did not improve their critical skills sufficiently year-to-year. We will all benefit if those students can see their achievement improve next year. However, we must ask ourselves what the cost of that fix will be, and whether we are willing to pay it.

I strongly believe in public education. Without it, my worldview would be narrower and my life more full of ignorance. I, for one, am willing to pay more for schools and for the resources necessary to advance the 2.94% who were left behind, but are others? What if it will cost Loudoun an additional 30% in school funding to reduce that fail rate to 1%? Are we willing to pay that? Are we willing to raise our property taxes or cut money from parks and police to narrow that gap?

And if the answer is “no” then what is the failure of Adequate Yearly Progress actually measuring? Is it measuring the effectiveness of schools who have to compete for limited resources in the worst governmental budget cycle in a generation? Or is it measuring the political will of the electorate? Is it measuring our willingness to say “97.04% is enough.” And if that is the case, why should our schools be labeled as failing, when they have done everything that we, the public, have asked of them given the limits that we, the public, have placed on them?

Just like a student who gets an answer wrong and still gets an A, the A does not mean that the questions that student got wrong were any less wrong, it just means they got a hell of a lot more questions right. So, too, with Loudoun’s schools, where the teachers and students get a hell of a lot more right than wrong, and that should be the headline.  

Major Road Closures Monday and Tuesday

Loudoun County Traffic reports on major road closures scheduled for Leesburg tomorrow and Tuesday.

Tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday, (August 23-24) motorists can expect major traffic delays in the vicinity of the Dulles Greenway, Route 7 and Route 15 in Leesburg, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Traffic will be stopped for up to 15 minutes at a time while Dominion Virginia Power crews continue pulling wires across roadways for the new power line. – Loudoun County Traffic

Route 7, Route 15 and the Bypass will all be affected, click over to Loudoun County Traffic for details.

Links We’re Reading – August 21-26 2010

Remember Link from the original NES Zelda games? He was awesome.

What do you want to bet that the same kind of people protesting the so-called “Ground-Zero Mosque” are the same type of people I saw in the fall/winter 2001 smiling in vacation photos while posing in front of the smoking ruins of the WTC. – Constantino Tobio

Jeff Barnett Town Halls in Ashburn and Leesburg

Jeff Barnett

Our Congressional candidate, Jeff Barnett, is holding Town Halls in Ashburn and Leesburg on Tuesday, August 24th and Wednesday, August 25th, respectively. The Ashburn event will be held at the Ashburn Library. The Leesburg event is scheduled to be held at the Balch Library.

Frank Wolf has agreed to one debate and one forum, but that’s not nearly enough. That’s why I’m putting together ten town hall meetings. 10th District residents deserve the opportunity to question their candidates on the issues they are most concerned about and to hear opposing views” said Jeff Barnett. “It’s disappointing that Frank Wolf is ducking the tough issues by refusing to debate me in more than one place, but these town hall meetings will allow voters to hear from at least one of their candidates directly,” Barnett continued. “I look forward to an open exchange of ideas about our future.

Everyone who comes has an opportunity to meet and talk with our candidate in person, and speaking from my own experience, Jeff enjoys having in-depth discussions with his neighbors here in the 10th District about our future. I strongly encourage everyone to come out and spend some time talking with Jeff. It is great to know that in November, we’ll be voting for someone: Jeff Barnett.

Tolerance for child endangerment? No.

Crossposted at Equality Loudoun

“Tolerance” is one of those mealy-mouth words that gets tossed around, often, it seems, as a strategy for avoiding something that really needs to be said. Let’s just be clear: Some things should never be tolerated. The reckless endangerment of children is one of them.A reader suggested to me backchannel that my response to this comment deserved to be a post in its own right. Then we learned that Loudoun’s resident sociopath Eugene has wormed his cynical fundraising circus into the fabricated Jennifer Keeton/Augusta State Univesity “controversy.” As usual, his message is silly, devoid of even the pretense of truthfulness, and – in a closely related detail – intended to extract money from the least intelligent members of our society. We can skip over the rest of it and go straight to this: A supposed interest in “preserving diversity that includes toleration for a strong belief in moral values.”

What is it, exactly, that Eugene “you would have to treat ‘it’ like a normal person” Delgaudio is demanding “toleration” for? Regular readers of this blog will know me to be a fierce advocate of “diversity” that includes people who believe things that do not comport with reality and “toleration” especially for abhorrent ideas, because that is what sets this nation apart from all others. Our First Amendment guarantees the right to express any belief, however offensive, stupid or unhinged it might be. But what the First Amendment does not guarantee is the “right” to access any venue for such expression. There is no First Amendment “right,” for example, to employment as a licensed school counselor if you do not meet the criteria for a license.

When we send our children to public school, we expect that those responsible for their well-being in that setting have met an established standard of competency, and will not do and say things that may do them harm. Do not confuse your right to express an abhorrent (or just plain false) idea with the imaginary “right” to gain access to other people’s children.

@J. Tyler: Yes, there is objective reality, and we humans are engaged in a process of discovering and describing it, inevitably having to discard mistaken beliefs and assumptions along the way. Some things are a matter of opinion, but other things are not. On this we agree. If you meant to convey something else by “Truth is absolute,” I’m sure you’ll let me know.

Counseling is an applied domain within psychology. I don’t know the specifics of the Augusta program, but a Masters level program would typically include some sort of supervised practicum in addition to coursework. The student would be required to demonstrate competency in the actual practice of counseling before they are granted credentials which would allow them to present themselves to employers and the public as having a certain level of knowledge and training. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a “counselor” with no training or education at all. A particular degree or license is understood to be a guarantee – the responsibility of the program granting the degree – that the individual has certain skills and competencies. To grant credentials to someone who has failed to demonstrate the required competencies would be a breach of that responsibility. Ms. Keeton, in the judgement of her professors, has failed to demonstrate the required competency in counseling a segment of the student population she is sure to encounter professionally. Therefore, allowing her to have contact with these children in the role of a counselor would be endangerment.

Imagine if a child coming to terms with an intersex condition were sent to her. Ms. Keeton simply believes (she says) that people “were created male and female,” end of story, all she needs to know about the subject. She dismisses all of the medical knowledge concerning neurological development and gender identity in favor of her belief. She is, in other words, actively denying reality – but you seem to think she should be in a position in which she is assumed to have knowledge about this area of life, but in which she would likely tell this vulnerable child something that is completely false and harmful.

As to the responsibility of her professors to convince her that her beliefs in the area of human sexuality are without foundation, I can only say that they obviously are trying. Why else would they have offered her additional training? The fact is that she rejected this offer. The fault lies neither with the professors nor with the evidence presented. Ms. Keeton came to this program with the attitude that she already knows everything she needs to know about human sexuality. If a student has that attitude, first of all, why is she even going to school? Education is an opportunity to learn things you don’t already know. Secondly, if a student has that attitude she is, by definition, unconvinced by empirical evidence. She has come to class with the intention of dismissing information that contradicts her beliefs, something for which her professors can hardly be held accountable.

The Augusta program is doing the responsible thing by preventing this young woman’s willful ignorance from endangering other people’s children. She has no right to do that, and shame on anyone who would try to invent such a “right.”

In the case of Eugene, this is just one more example of an amoral, fake “Christian” putting his own selfish desires before the well-being of the most vulnerable children in our community, as he did when attempting to block the collection of bullying data. He doesn’t care who gets hurt, as long as the checks keep coming. It is beneath contempt.

Kudos to Augusta State for insisting that basic professional standards based on scientific consensus are not to be thrown out in order to accommodate a student’s personal beliefs. And please get in touch with PFLAG and GLSEN to see how you can help make schools safer for all kids.

Changes are in the works

Loudoun Progress is, indeed, moving forward. You will see some aesthetic and admin-type changes coming in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned!

Virginia Has a Budget Surplus!!!

So says The Washington Post:

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) will announce Thursday that Virginia’s final 2010 budget surplus will be about $400 million, almost twice the previous estimate, state officials said.

About $229 million comes from tax collections. The remainder comes from unspent balances.

Wow! It’s amazing!! In this economy, we’re running a $400 million surplus!! Thank goodness we elected those fiscally responsible Republicans!!

(wow, that was hard to type)

But then you dig a little deeper and look at the details.

As part of the budget earlier this year, the General Assembly and the governor managed to “balance” the budget by skipping payments to the Virginia Retirement System to the tune of $620 million. Government entities will have to pay it back at some point with interest.

And here we get to the truth of the matter. Those “fiscally responsible Republicans” are balancing the state budget on the backs of public employees. All the bitching and moaning Republicans do about pushing off public debt to our granchildren, and they take the same approach? You hypocritical bastards.

Using the money that was supposed to go to public employees’ pension funds and claiming that the budget is not just in balance, but running a surplus? Enron played with their employees’ pensions, made their company look in better financial shape than it really was, and people went to prison for it.

And now, we’re on the hook for a future payment of over $600 million (plus interest). How in the world is this fiscally responsible? And the so-called “liberal, mainstream media” (I’m looking at you, Washington Post) doesn’t even bother to point this out?

Governor McDonnell, you need to be held personally responsible for this Ponzi scheme that you are pulling on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

(h/t to Lowell at Blue Virginia for the link to Doug Mataconis’ blog.)

Can’t see the forest for the trees

I was away from the DC area for one week in Colorado and it was a  strange feeling since I did not have access to a newspaper and only watched sports and movies on tv.  However, I could gauge the mood of the people by reading bumper stickers. “Guns ,God  and Life” was the one that attracted my attention.  Now I am back in the DC area and the “birthers” are still at it, and no Mosque in my backyard is in the news, money is needed by every politician, our President is too involved in something or not involved enough; depending on the day of the week, freedom of religion and speech are both freedoms but it seems that freedom of speech is the only one we really believe in and some are making the argument that the tax cuts for the rich should stay in place. I am also disapointed that some Dems are acting like “politicians ” again and forgetting that they are in DC to SERVE the public, not take from the public.  

Thom Hartmann says it all in his blog

Thom’s blog

President Obama Caves In…

At an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, President Obama said, “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” weighing in for the first time on a the Cordoba House controversy in New York City. He added, “That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” Mr. Gingrich said that the proposed Cordoba community center would be a symbol of Muslim “triumphalism” and that building it near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust museum.” CNN news performer Erick Erickson later in twitter compared it to America supporting “human sacrifice” by the Church of Satan. If Republicans don’t like separation of Church and State then why don’t they simply propose that we throw out the Bill of Rights that our founders fought and died for. On 9/11 there were Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists killed as well as other religions. It wasn’t anymore an attack by Islam, then Timothy McVeigh blowing up the Oklahoma federal Building was an attack by Christianity. It wasn’t war, It was a crime, and it’s funders and collaborators should have been hunted down and thrown in jail by international police forces. Then we’d have closure instead of endless war. Sadly, Obama made an “about face” comment this weekend, after essentially caving in to the right wing attacks. Now with Obama’s clarification, N.Y. Congressman Peter King has accused Obama of “trying to have it both ways” on the Cordoba House, and tragically Peter King is right. The big picture here is that President Obama has an opportunity to help heal this nation by sticking to his words of truth Friday night and leading this nation and world towards peace and embrace the Cordoba House. It was an opportunity to revisit the time after 9/11 when George Bush had an opportunity unite this country and instead he declared war<./DIV>


Discussing the plight of women kept behind bars without parole for murdering abusive partners, Thom Hartmann says people have been treated as disposable in the US for centuries. Watch him on RT’s “California parole system often dictated by political aspirations” show on 10 August, 2010.

The Daily Stack

Quote: “Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top.” — Booker T. Washington.

 (I cleaned up the content a bit, removing the footer items from Thom’s blog -P13)

Walking The Walk

Jeff BarnettIn a great step (literally) forward for reaching out across the 10th District, our Democratic nominee, Jeff Barnett, is going to walk from one end to the other.

Hard work. Accountability. Accessibility. Leadership. Those are the watch words of our campaign for the 10th District. While Frank Wolf is dodging the tough issues and  voting against growing jobs and reducing the deficit, I’m going to pound the pavement, talking about how we can promote economic recovery and grow the next generation of new jobs.

In early September, I am going to walk from one end of the 10th District to the other. We’ll start in Gore on the 3rd, walking east until we reach McLean on the 8th. 6 Days. 13 Towns. 80 miles. I’ll be listening to voters, visiting small businesses, and sharing our vision for Virginia every step along the way.

We’re going to win in November by going to voters with good ideas, hard work, and an honest handshake. – Jeff Barnett

It is one thing to parachute in and out for a photo op, the way that Frank Wolf does, but something completely different to spend the time actually walking 80 miles across Virginia, talking to neighbors and businesses about the real challenges facing our District.

Follow below for a map of Jeff’s route.Here’s a map of the route Jeff’s walking.

View Larger Map

I know that the campaign is hard at work scheduling events along the way to maximize the number of people that Jeff will get to talk to. Here in Loudoun, I believe there will be things scheduled for Purcellville and Leesburg, at a minimum. Combined with the Town Halls he’s already scheduled, Jeff will be reaching out to far more voters than his opponent.

The answer to our challenges lies with us, and Jeff Barnett will make the people’s answers, his answers. He will find them walking across our District, and bring them with him when he walks through the doors of Congress next January.