OPINION – We need children back in school now

Published 9:26 pm Thursday, May 6, 2021

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President Biden is coming to Yorktown this week to talk about his education plans. This is an excellent opportunity to remind him and Virginians that Democrats here have fought reopening schools tooth and nail and that even now, some of our most disadvantaged students remain trapped in virtual learning.

His interview with NBC emphasized something we’ve been saying here in Virginia for months – based on the science and the CDC, they should probably all be open. There’s not overwhelming evidence that there’s much of a transmission among these young people.
This science has been clear for months now, not only from research and studies by scientists, but our own experience here in Virginia. Some schools have been open since September, both public and private, and they have reported no major outbreaks of COVID among students.
Teachers are now more than 80% vaccinated across the commonwealth according to Governor Ralph Northam.
There was no reason at all we could not have added an emergency clause to Senate Bill 1303 — the open the school’s bill — that came before the General Assembly this session that would have allowed schools to open full time immediately.
But Democrats refused to stand up to the teachers’ unions, and instead put thousands of children through months of unnecessary isolation and emotional stress. Democrats have fought our efforts to help children at every turn.
When we proposed spending $100 million in federal CARES Act funding to help parents buy technology, tutoring, or other help for virtual learning Democrats blocked it.  Some school districts in dark-blue areas of the commonwealth even criticized parents for attempting to get their children into “pandemic pods” where they could learn safely from tutors.
It’s still not too late — if President Biden is willing to intervene with Governor Northam and Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, perhaps we could still salvage the 30 days or so of school remaining for our students.
Regarding the president’s free pre-K and free college proposal, none of that works if we don’t have a functioning K-12 system in place for our students. Some of the most at-risk students have lost more than a year of learning at this point. Free pre-K and college will not fix that.
First things first, we have an immediate need to get our kids back into the classroom and address learning loss. Anything beyond that at this time is secondary.


Overhauling Virginia’s Math Curriculum


Virginia is in the midst of a major overhaul of how it teaches math to K-12 students in public schools, and I find this to be very concerning.
The Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI) is a year’s long effort to rework curriculum in all grades. Its stated goal is to more closely align how math is taught to the needs of students when they enter college or the workforce.
Many of these proposals, like connecting math curriculum to other classes, have merit. However, a review of the DOE documents themselves shows that much more is being proposed.
At the core of the proposals is the concept of “detracking,” which means the elimination of the current practice of students being assigned to different math classes based on an assessment of their current learning level.  Teachers would be expected to teach to all students, even though the students have far different levels.
Such one-size-fits-all classes would limit the ability to support students in need of additional remediation and would also make it harder to challenge students who were ahead of the other students in the class. Students who wish to pursue an accelerated curriculum would be limited to only four one-semester choices. “Detracked” classes would place all students in the same classroom.

In today’s competitive technology job market, why would we ever want to limit any type of advanced math learning for our children?


Diploma Consolidation

The board is concerned about the gap of percentages of students earning advanced diplomas. At their core, these measures are about creating equality of outcome, not equity of opportunity.
While the discussion about consolidating diplomas has not been as robust as the discussion around mathematics, the intention is the same — increase equity by removing opportunities for one student to achieve more than another. The board is discussing “consolidating” the regular and advanced diplomas into one certificate, in the name of equity.