With the Virginia Department of Education under attack – fairly or unfairly – for what critics say is an attempt to dumb down math instruction across the commonwealth, the two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board gave state officials neither a rousing endorsement nor a ringing denunciation in a recent forum.
“I’d like to learn more . . . about the rationale,” contender Mary Kadera said in response to a question raised during the April 29 Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board debate.
Kadera acknowledged that some segments of the public are up in arms about proposals to eliminate advanced classes in certain grade levels, but suggested – veering into dangerous territory for someone seeking the public’s votes – that the community may not quite comprehend the nuances of the measures under discussion.
“I don’t know that it’s completely understood,” she said, praising state officials for looking at existing math instruction to see if it remains relevant.
“That kind of reflection . . . is important. I’m very pleased to see that being elevated,” Kadera said, while pressing for “a little more careful study.”
Kadera’s challenger in the caucus, Miranda Turner, stuck a political shiv slightly deeper into the state proposals.
“There is a lot of concern, and I understand why,” she said. “I’m not sure that we should be taking away [advanced classes]. This is going to result in . . . students not being pushed as far as they can go.”
Trying to have educators instructing students of a variety of skill levels in a single class likely will leave the teachers stretched thin, Turner said. She pressed to “make sure we’re giving kids what they need to succeed.”
The state proposals have come under heaviest attack from Republican statewide candidates, who portray it as a Democratic war on student achievement and are working to tie it, in the minds of the electorate, to the failure of school districts in Northern Virginia to get students back in class.
That may simply be a play to win back swing voters in the D.C. suburbs. But not everyone who has been critical of what’s been suggested has a partisan ax to grind.
“In an effort to be ‘woke,’ let us not dumb down standards that will turn out students who are unprepared to work in a global economy. Expect more from all students, not less,” said Michael Balzano, executive director of the National Industrial Base Workforce Coalition, in recent letter on the topic to the Sun Gazette.