Thursday, January 9, 2020

My Testimony Regarding the Governor's Proposed Budget for Education in Virginia

I definitely owe the education blogosphere a post about my post-doc job market experience (hint: it was not good). For now, I will share that I am back in the classroom teaching high school U.S. & Virginia Government to seniors (and getting my butt whooped but in a humbling and valuable way, though), and have been since the start of the 2019-2020 School Year. I  need to write a post about that, too. Good things come to those who wait, right? In the meantime, I have been involved with VEU (Virginia Educators United) because, oh, wait, I am a teacher again, and I heeded their leaders' call to attend the General Assembly's House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees' public hearings to hear feedback on the Governor's budget priorities. The issues with the education funding in the budget are laid out very clearly here in VEU's talking points.

Here's a video of my testimony:

And here's the text from my spoken remarks:

"Good afternoon. My name is Rachel Levy and I am a Virginia public school parent, teacher, writer and activist with a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy. I live in Ashland, Virginia, I am a member of VEA, Virginia Educators United, the Virginia PTA, and the American Educational Research Association.

The Governor’s budget proposal for education is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, it’s not sufficient.

I have been a teacher on and off for most of my career. Teaching is the most meaningful, challenging, intellectual, and socially useful work there is. As a teacher and a parent, I have seen the quality of our facilities, the availability of our resources, and teacher retention rates drop significantly since I first stepped into a Virginia public school classroom in 2001 and since my own children first enrolled in them in 2009. Our schools are being held together by a thread--of educators and staff who do so out of a sense of obligation, duty, and service. We have less time, more responsibilities, and fewer resources to do the same job we used to, and there are, understandably, fewer people willing to work unpaid overtime and for diminished salaries and benefits, just to fulfill minimum requirements, because it’s not sustainable or manageable, nor is it fair.

As a state, we will never attract the best and brightest with these working and learning conditions, and with the current salaries and resources It is easy to work a ten-, twelve-, or fifteen-hour day as a teacher—I do this regularly—and still feel that it’s not enough, and to go home feeling like there was so much more you could have done. The best teachers know when their students are being short-changed, and they will leave (and have left and are leaving) rather than continue to experience that feeling of inadequacy day after day.

Adding more to the budget—at least 2 billion more is needed—for education is vital to our economy, to the intellectual, social/emotional development of our children, and to our democracy. Our public schools are our greatest public democratic institution and they are holding on by a thread. As the saying goes: if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Thank you for your time and for your service to our Commonwealth."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

September 29th: Join me at a Backpack Full of Cash screening in the RVA!

I promise to publish a post soon on what I am up to now that I am finished with my doctoral program (and the job market). In the meantime, on Sunday, September 29th, 2019, starting at 3 pm, join me at Huguenot High School in Richmond (7945 Forest Hill Ave, Richmond, VA 23225) for a free screening of Backpack Full of Cash, sponsored by the Virginia Education Association (VEA), the Chesterfield Education Association (CEA), and the Richmond Education Association (REA), and supported by local public school parent activists.

Narrated by Matt Damon, this feature-length documentary examines the growth and trend of privatization of our public schools and how that impacts America’s most vulnerable children in particular.

Following the screening, I will serve on a panel of local education experts and will discuss what charter schools are, current education reform efforts in Virginia and around the country, including the expansion of Career and Technical Education (CTE)--including what that is and should be--as well as what people can do to stop privatization of public schools.

An audience Q&A will round out the forum.

Register using this link today! And spread the word. The movie and forum is free and open to the public.

For more details, see the BFOC RVA facebook page and twitter feed.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Final Report: Understanding Racial Inequity in School Discipline Across the Richmond Region

As described in this initial post, I was on the research team of a study of disparate disciplinary practices in Richmond, Virginia, area K-12 public schools being conducted by MERC (Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium ) at my graduate school institution, Virginia Commonwealth University.

I participated in this podcast on the topic and was a third author on this policy brief, entitled, Why do racial disparities in school discipline exist? The role of policies, processes, people, and places. In May 2018, we published another policy brief, which I was first author on, entitled, A Review of Disciplinary Interventions in K12 Public Education.

Well, at long last the final report is out, Understanding Racial Inequity in School Discipline Across the Richmond Region. It is long but well worth the read--very well done. Here is the abstract:
This report comes from the MERC Achieving Racial Equity in School Disciplinary Policies and Practices study. Launched in the spring of 2015, the purpose of this mixed- method study was to understand the factors related to disproportionate school discipline outcomes in MERC division schools. The study had two phases. Phase one (quantitative) used primary and secondary data to explore racial disparities in school discipline in the MERC region as well as discipline programs schools use to address them. Phase two (qualitative) explored the implementation of discipline programs in three MERC region schools, as well as educator and student perceptions of school discipline and racial disproportionality. This report shares findings from both phases of our study and offers numerous implications and recommendations for research, policy, and practice.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. In the meantime Justin Mattingly of the Richmond Times-Dispatch has published this good synopsis of it:

Schools in the Richmond region suspend black students at four times the rate of white students, a gap that exceeds the national average. 
One in five black students in the region received an out-of-school suspension during the 2015-16 school year, according to a new study, compared to 5% of white students. Across the country, it's closer to 15% and 5%, according to federal data. 
The finding is part of a new study from the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, the local research arm of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education. The study, conducted over the past four years, analyzed data from seven area school districts and looked at the racial disparities in school discipline. 
What researchers found didn’t surprise them -- inequities in school discipline are common across the state and country -- but their analysis says the problem is slightly worse here; the effort also explored alternative discipline programs and considered how school districts can eliminate the gap.

I'm only the sixth of nine authors but I was so glad to be a part of it. I hope I can do my part now and in the future to help change these disparities and their root causes.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The latest from #Red4EdVA land

The last time I posted was a little over a month ago and it was about the RedforEd movement in Virginia, #Red4EdVA. The march and rally took place on Monday, January 28th, and it was an amazing event. I tweeted and retweeted lots about it, for example:

A few days later, the blackface yearbook photos from Governor Ralph Northam's yearbook surfaced, then the allegations of sexual assault against the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and then Attorney General Mark Herring's admission that he, too, had worn blackface, at a college party at the University of Virginia. And a great many of us got sidelined (I also posted and tweeted a lot on that subject.)

I did manage to publish this piece about it in the Progressive:
The #Red4Ed movement has kicked off in Virginia: On January 28, as many as 5,000 public school teachers, educators, workers, parents, students, and other stakeholders marched on the Virginia state capitol in Richmond to demand fully funded public schools. The march and rally, organized by Virginia Educators United, a “grassroots campaign” of teachers, staff members, parents and community members, was one of the largest to descend on the state capitol in the last century. 
The well-organized event was supported by strategic use of social media and a user-friendly website. The group’s demands include restoring funding for education to pre-2008 recession levels, increasing teacher pay to national averages, paying education support professionals competitive wages, recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers and more teachers of color, more funding for school infrastructure costs, and ensuring sufficient numbers of support staff like counselors and social workers. 
The day of the rally, Virginia lawmakers pledged to fund Governor Ralph Northam’s initiative to provide teachers and school staff with a five percent pay increase. This raise, however, is only for certain state-mandated positions, and localities can’t or won’t always provide the required matching funds.
You can read the whole thing here.

In the meantime, the Virginia General Assembly did pass a budget; session just ended. The VEA (Virginia Education Association) called the budget, "a first step to adequate funding." You can read their press release here.  However, many in the VEU (Virginia Educators United) group don't seem so sanguine. See this post on facebook for example:

It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming year before next year's session--if local VEA and Virginia AFT units draw more members and get more organized, if sufficient numbers decide, and are able, to take things to the next level and organize some sort of state-wide strike or work stoppage.

Monday, January 21, 2019

I proudly support RedforEd Virginia


For various reasons (which I hope to be able to blog about at some point), I am way late in getting on this bandwagon. Now that I am on it, I want everyone else to be on it, too.

RED FOR ED HAS ARRIVED IN VIRGINIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Can you tell I'm excited?)

I hope you will join me and other Virginia pro-public education stakeholders (and national education leaders including Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia!!!) for the. . .


What: The #RedforEd March & Rally
When: Monday, January 28th, 2019 at 11:00 am
Where: Richmond, Virginia. Starts at Monroe Park (620 West Main Street) and finishes at the Virginia State Capitol (1000 Bank Street Street)
Why (from the website):
Virginia Educators United is a grassroots campaign made of teachers, staff members, parents and community members who are fighting to ensure that after 10 years of systematic defunding, our children get the support they deserve. Our goal is to ensure that students have access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, that educators are compensated fairly, and to improve the educational environment in the state of Virginia. . . . In Virginia, the time of waiting for political winds to shift in our favor is over. Our salaries languish in the lowest tier nationally, below pre-Recession levels. Overcrowded, over-tested, and under-resourced schools are crumbling under the weight of deferred maintenance and declining investment. Our children, our communities and our Commonwealth deserve better.

Red4EdVA is way more than just a one-day rally. It's a movement. And it's been a loooong time coming. I am so, so grateful to all of the Virginia educators who have organized it. For more information:

- Please check out the (excellent) website: 

- Follow social media accounts on twitter:
 @Red4EdVA, on facebook: @virginiaeducatorsunited, and on Instagram virginiaeducators.

- Use the hashtags:
 #Red4EdVA   #FundOurSchools   #RedForEd    #Red4Ed

- Watch this awesome (one of many) videos: 

- Share this post!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

On becoming Dr. Levy

So. . .

At the end of the Summer 2018 semester, I became a doctor.

Much gratitude to Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Education and the Department of Educational Leadership, especially to my adviser, Charol Shakeshaft, on the left, and to my committee members Katherine Mansfield (on the screen), Genevieve-Siegel-Hawley, and Tressie McMillan Cottom (not pictured).

I may have the longest dissertation title ever: The Intersection of Economic Disadvantage and Race and the Expanded Role of Parent-Led School-Supporting Nonprofit Organizations in K-12 Public Schools in the Richmond, Virginia, Metropolitan Area: A Mixed Methods Approach.

Since then, I have served on the faculty as an adjunct professor, teaching a doctoral-level course, The Politics of Education (I will likely post separately about that) and have been on the job market (I will also probably post about that). 

Oh, and I participated in VCU's December graduation ceremony, and got to wear a silly hat for most of the day.

 (Me and some of my former classmates and fellow grads.)

 (Getting hooded by my adviser.)

(Me with my adviser Charol Shakeshaft and one of my other very influential professors, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley.) 

(Me with Jon Becker, a member of my department and the person who got me into this mess.)

Speaking of getting me into this mess, it was via twitter and this blog and his that Jon and I got to know one another.  He encouraged me to apply to the doctoral program in educational leadership and policy at VCU. I did. Once I started the Ph.D. program, I decided to focus my time and energy, and writing efforts, there instead of on the blog and other education writing. I have updated it from time to time, mostly with academic publications but with some other thoughts and efforts, too.

Once I see what happens with the job search, I will decide what to do with the blog, if anything different. For now, I am enjoying being done and am working on trying to achieve my first post-graduation publication.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Review of Disciplinary Interventions in K12 Public Education

As described in this post, I have been involved on-again, off-again in a study of disparate disciplinary practices in Richmond, Virginia, area K-12 public schools being conducted by MERC (Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium ) at my graduate school institution, Virginia Commonwealth University.

I participated in this podcast on the topic and was a third author on this policy brief, entitled, Why do racial disparities in school discipline exist? The role of policies, processes, people, and places.

This past May, we published another policy brief, which I was first author on, entitled, A Review of Disciplinary Interventions in K12 Public Education:
As a part of the Achieving Racial Equity in School Disciplinary Policies and Practicesstudy from the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, this literature brief offers an overview of school discipline interventions in K12 public education. This includes more punitive models that have been used in the past that have contributed to racial disparities in discipline outcomes, including corporal punishment and zero-tolerance policies. Additionally, this brief offers an overview of four prominent alternative approaches to school discipline: Trauma Informed Care, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Restorative Practices. The literature brief offers the history, theory of action, and evidence of effectiveness for each alternative discipline approach and offers a discussion of how to effectively implement them in schools. Implications for the Commonwealth of Virginia are discussed throughout the brief.
Go here to read the whole thing.