In our school systems, is equity measured by equal opportunity or equal outcomes? Today, Melvin speaks with Shelly Norden, an award-winning educator who became troubled with new teacher “deep equity” training and the following decline in student success. 

Shelly says, “I was an award winning educator [2016 Teacher of the Year] in Fauquier County, VA for nearly 20 years. Prior to teaching, I worked as a television news producer for CBS and FOX news affiliates. I brought my journalism experience to the classroom and created one of the top high school journalism programs in the Commonwealth. 

In 2017, I started to question some of the decisions being made by the superintendent. Since I was also a taxpayer in the county, I felt I had the right to question how my tax dollars were being spent. However, I was quickly informed that I signed away those rights when I signed my teaching contract. 

One of my top concerns was Gary Howard’s Deep Equity Program. When I started sharing factual information about this program, the two people in charge of implementing this program started filing complaints against me with Human Resources. This is when I learned that HR, the school board, and the superintendent’s office were working together as one, and there was no one looking out for those of us on the frontlines. I want to share my story so others won’t have to go through a similar experience.”

Today, Shelly shares her experience uncovering the disturbing changes in her supposedly conservative county in Virginia over the last five years. Here are a few of the topics covered in today’s episode:

  • Administrators getting promoted into superintendent roles without any teaching experience
  • Equity entering the conversation—defined as equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity for students, resulting in dumbing down education so everyone achieves.
  • Changes in homework policy—in her district, homework was not allowed over weekend, hurting kids in more challenging classes.
  • Her district stopped requiring teacher recommendations for AP classes, clogging up classes with kids who weren’t ready for the material.
  • The theme of the annual teacher convocation in 2017 was equity, but it was all about black and white students, not even touching on special needs or socioeconomic struggles.
  • Equity turned to conversations about Deep Equity. With this model, the district gets a small group of teachers train, then they train the other employees in the school. The school system claimed it wasn’t going to be taught to students, but teachers began posting on Twitter showing that connected ideas were actually being taught to local highschoolers, such as “implicit bias.”
  • Teachers have to sign a contract that they cannot speak badly about the school, effectively shutting down accountability
  • When deep equity entered the district, SOL scores began to fall. The school still boasted record graduation rates in the face of falling student test scores.
  • Record numbers of teachers began leaving Fauquier County starting in 2019. There are currently 50 unfilled positions for the 2021-2022 year and 31 more teachers who quit in Feb. 2022.
  • Classrooms are being manned by long-term subs or unqualified/uncertified teachers who don’t know the content. Is it equitable for some students to go through a  French class without a teacher who speaks French or an algebra class without a teacher who knows about algebra, while their peers experience qualified teachers in other classrooms in the district?
  • The woke debate in American schools bears Interesting similarities to Communist revolutions in China and East Africa. 

Stay tuned for the release of the second part of Melvin Adam’s interview with Shelly next week on The State of Education with Melvin Adams.

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VIDEO RESOURCES SHELLY RECOMMENDS: