Fairfax County Public Schools Recovery Services: Not Ready, Needing Reminders, and “We Are Not Responsible” Are Repeat Themes

2.8.21: Article first published. 3.2.23: Article republished with introduction in italics below. 

Past really is precedent. Two years ago, I wrote the article below, yet the headline could be used today. One would just need to add compensatory education to the headline and article below to bring it up to date. In Spring 2022, when Office for Civil Rights released its findings on Los Angeles Unified School District, it was clear Fairfax County Public Schools would face the same findings, given it had engaged in many of the same noncompliant actions. Instead of preparing for OCR to release its findings on it, to include having training programs and plans to address the noncompliance underway, before OCR’s findings were released, FCPS waited. After OCR’s 11.30.22 release of its findings on FCPS, it was clear FCPS wasn’t prepared. Its staff trainings paint a picture of a county caught unprepared again, with thousands of students waiting, again, to have their unique needs addressed. Some of the videos below were later provided to OCR for its investigation into FCPS. The theme: FCPS caught unprepared again.

Fairfax County Public Schools did not have a finalized recovery services in place at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

FCPS stated that it needed to collect nine weeks of data on students in advance of recovery services.

VFOIA-6763 Response: FCPS’s Recovery Services and/or Comp Ed Records and Practices

October 21, 2022, I submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The request was for the following:

1) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS advising parents to pick their own recovery services and/or comp ed provider

2) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS advising parents FCPS will reimburse parents for recovery services and/or comp ed.

3) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS capping the service provider payment amount to a certain amount of dollars per hour and/or per service.

I know the above has already been provided to parents. I’m not asking for their educational records.

I know FCPS has internal records and form letters it developed.

I know that responsive records that are not also educational records exist.

This should include but not be limited to any training materials, slides, videos, presentations, too.

JLARC Releases Report on COVID’s Impact on Virginia Education; Release Marks JLARC’s Third Critical Education-Related Report in Two Years

November 7, 2022, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released its report titled Pandemic Impact on Public K–12 Education. The report marks JLARC’s third critical report related to Virginia education in just two years (October 2020, Operations and Performance of the Virginia Department of Education; December 2020, K-12 Special Education in Virginia).

The findings aren’t surprising. They paint the portrait of a state that ignored the warning bells (even though it had almost 15 years to prepare for COVID)—and that to this day has failed to implement practices that ensure past mistakes don’t run into the future.

However, the report falls short in regard to data collection and interpretation.

Virginia State Superintendent Admits Accreditation Standards are Unreliable Measure of School Performance; Number of Failing Students Tripled in Reading, Quadrupled in Math

September 22, 2022, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow admitted Virginia’s accreditation system skews data in a manner that “obscures the impact of the pandemic and school closures.”

According to VDOE, “Prior to the pandemic, the number of students statewide who failed an SOL reading test but showed growth — and therefore counted toward their school’s accreditation rating — ranged from 19,000-20,000. With this latest round of accreditation calculations, the number has more than tripled to 61,000.

“Similarly, the number of students who failed a math SOL test before the pandemic but showed growth and counted toward their school’s rating was about 20,000. This year the number has quadrupled to more than 88,000.”

FCPS Had a Pandemic Plan in 2007; Internal Records Provide Toxic Portrait of FCPS’s “Best and Brightest”

David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest comes to mind when reviewing Fairfax County Public Schools’ internal records.

A FOIA request FCPS is still heading to court over, and records collecting digital dust in Fairfax County School Board’s collection of online documents, comprise the bulk of the records.

In 2006, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) warned school districts that pandemics were on the horizon and advised them to prepare pandemic plans.

FCPS took heed and had a plan in development by 2007.

Between 2007 and now, a portrait emerged of leaders who were dazzled by themselves and their colleagues, “how extraordinary they were, each brighter than the next . . .”

Fairfax County Pay-to-Play Education Continues to Generate Revenue for County; Fails to Address Discrimination

January 2021, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) practices of refusing to provide in-person instruction to students with disabilities, while at the same time opening “its schools to in-person child-care for general education students.” 

A year and a half after OCR announced the investigation, FCPS’s current actions paint a portrait of a school district aggressive in its efforts to collect education-access fees from general education students, but lackadaisical in its efforts to address the needs of students whose IEPs weren’t implemented in full during its 2019-20 COVID closures.

TODAY: $6 Billion Distributed to Six States and the District of Columbia; What is the Status of Your State’s ARP ESSER Plan?

July 7, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) approved American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) state plans for six states and the District of Columbia, and released $418,634,738 to Arkansas; $611,331,608 to Massachusetts; $138,468,766 to Rhode Island; $127,339,745 to South Dakota; $4,148,464,081 to Texas; Utah: $205,578,303; and $128,932,230 to the District of Columbia.

Each state education agency (SEA) had until June 7, 2021, to submit either: (1) its ARP ESSER plan or (2) the State requirements that preclude submission of the plan by that date and a date by which it will be able to submit its complete ARP ESSER plan.

Contact your SEA to find out if your state is among the 40 states that have submitted a plan. If not, ask why. Either way, request the status of the report.