March 8, 2022

We came across a story of a man who stood up to the educational establishment in Virginia and embarked on quite a journey in pursuit of better measures for achievement by students which in turn began to expose the quality of their teachers.  It’s a tale that also exposes the incredible power of the state and national teachers union organizations.

Considering our constant call for more transparency in education and for parents to become more familiar with what’s being taught to their students, and who’s doing the teaching, we think this is a good story for North Carolinians who care about education to be aware of.

This takes place in Loudon County, Virginia, west of Washington, DC in the DC metro.  The story is told by an investigative reporter about Brian Davison, a father and career Navy man, with two degrees from MIT, who decided to find out more education achievement.  It is a story that really needs to be read all the way through so we encourage you to read it.  To the end, because there is the part that ties back to what we face here in North Carolina and makes this important.

To sum up what Davison did, the article states that Davison “found Loudoun was covering up statistics that showed which teachers were succeeding, and which were failing.”

You may remember how Loudon County, VA was one of the places where the local school board stood up to the school establishment on questions about the Critical Race Theory (CRT) and made national news when school board meetings became tense.

In this situation, Davison, a mathematician, “realized that schools were measuring themselves wrong. They commonly reported performance was based on the percentage of students who passed state exams. This led to schools in wealthy areas looking good, and schools in poor neighborhoods looking bad. But those numbers were reflecting the economic status and parental involvement of the students in the school, not the quality of the school itself. Teachers liked it that way, because they could point out that poor numbers were not their fault, and pivot to laments about class and race.”

When Davison tried to focus on a different metric to get schools to more accurately measure the students’ growth – called Student Growth Percentile (SGP) – that’s when the fur began to fly.  What’s interesting is the SGP measurement came out of the Obama administration in its “Race to the Top” education push back in 2009 that required school districts to report the statistics as a condition of getting “their share of nearly $54 billion in stimulus spending.”

And the Virginia school districts got their money.  But in 2014 when Bruce Davison said he would like to see the stats under the Freedom of Information Act, Loudon County Public Schools said they didn’t have them.  Davison checked with other Virginia school systems and got back the same answer – nope.

Why?  Because the numbers wouldn’t lie. As the article stated:  The data would reveal “which teachers were good and which were not.”

The rest of the article told the story of Davison’s demonization by the local school authorities – with the most vicious attacks coming from a local school board member and Davison’s child’s school principal.  The principal put a no-trespassing order on him and reported him for child abuse in a 62-page document – with one of her accusations being that his little girl had on rain boots one day and couldn’t play kickball because of it.

In 2016, Davison was vindicated when the state Supreme Court ordered the district to turn over the information, and that Davison be paid $35,000 for his effort.

Though the VA Supreme Court ordered that teachers’ names be redacted from the data, it was enough to prove Davison’s point that improvement was not based on the typical diatribe from the school establishment which explained poor achievement by where schools were and socioeconomic factors.  Some teachers’ students in the same school and area did well, while others didn’t.

The point Davison learned that is relevant here in North Carolina is the power of the teachers unions.  As the article states, Davison, “subsequently discovered was an institutional pathology in which schools cared more about preserving permanent paychecks for bad employees than they did about helping children learn. In which they were willing to go to great lengths to ensure that parents couldn’t see whether they were actually doing the important job they were entrusted with.”

We urge you to read this article and take in how important it is that we have more transparency in our NC educational process so we know who the good teachers are and are able to elevate the learning experience for our state’s school children.