RPS: Still Not Learning from Experience?

A reader (the reader?) sends along an interesting comment.

Note: Please resist the temptation to judge the writer from the capitalization, punctuation, and grammar.  He is superbly educated and closer to brilliant than to bright.  The format, methinks, is more a reflection on the effect of cell phones than anything about the writer.

hi guys,

i’ve been reading the news articles regarding the superintendent
search. here’s one:
http://richmondfreepress.com/news/2017/may/19/common-concerns-emerge-forum-superintendent-search/

i assume he got rid of bedden because he was, objectively, a failure:
for instance, the number of fully accredited schools dropped under his
watch (people kept talking about his plan and that it takes a while to
turn a big ship – but what *was* the plan, what did turning the ship
entail, does anyone know?!?!?)

but, if you want someone who will actually turn things around,
shouldn’t you look for someone who *has* turned things around
elsewhere. (isn’t this how larry brown kept getting hired to new NBA
coaching positions?). the talk is all about non-bottom-line stuff:
transparency, communication, etc.

here’s what should be the main question: what does the new person
*know* about turning around districts with similar socioeconomics, and
what record does the person have? the current search, as i’m reading
it, is destined to perpetuate richmond’s school’s cycle of failure.

going back in time you can read about new superindendents, good
intentions, new plans, hope – and then failure – why does the cycle
keep repeating itself? i’ve predicted that cycle will continue for as
long as i’m in richmond. does it have to? is this a failure of
democracy?

cheers,

 

Does Pell Subsidize Failure?

The estimable Jim Bacon has a post about K-12 and Higher Ed that leads with a table showing graduation rates and Pell Grant percentages at Virginia colleges.

SCHEV has those, and some other, interesting data.  Plotting the graduation v. Pell percentages leads to a graph with a remarkable correlation.

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We can argue about the reasons for that 75% R-squared but the correlation is solid: For the 2008 entering class, Virginia colleges with larger Pell grant percentages had lower six-year graduation rates.

Note the pattern: THE University, W&M, JMU, Tech, and VSU all are outperforming; CNU, Radford, VCU, ODU, and UVa-Wise, otherwise.

The intercept suggests that, absent whatever effect the Pell population has, the graduation rate would be 85.6%.

Looking just at the research universities gives an even more astounding correlation, R-squared = 98%.  VCU underperforms in this group.  The 113% intercept suggests outperformance at the low-Pell end of the graph (or underperformance at the high-Pell end).

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Hmmm.  What about the SAT scores.  SCHEV gives us the median scores (among others): 

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Looks like the SAT scores, especially math, are better predictors. 

JMU outperforms on both graphs.

Rather than trying to graph all the possibilities, let’s just look at the correlation matrix (expressed as R, not R-squared):

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Note the math/verbal R = 0.974 (R-squared = 95%), which speaks to the correlation of the math v. verbal SAT scores of Virginia students.  As we saw above, the math SAT shows the best correlation with the graduation rate, with verbal next.

And here is that matrix for the six research universities.

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Recalling that correlation does not tell us about causation, these data nonetheless say that the percentage of lower income students, as measured by Pell grant numbers, is a good predictor of graduation rate but that intelligence, as measured by the median SAT scores, is even better.  Except at the research universities, where Pell, by a small margin, is King of the (statistical) Mountain.

If you would like to argue about whether those small R-squared differences mean anything and, otherwise, about the cosmic significance of all those large correlations, I’ll be glad to buy every second beer.

Forest Hill on the Crime Map

LexisNexis has a “Community Crime Map” that says some good things about our neighborhood (and some not so good things about other parts of the city). 

If you visit the map on their Web page, you can choose the offenses to show, the time period, and nearly any other variable you can think of.

Here, for example, is the map for our area for this year (1/1/17 to 5/19/17):

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Those little green badges with cars on them represent “Burglary from Motor Vehicle” in the language of the map.   That “3” at Reedy Creek and Riverside Dr. represents three of them.

But, then, we already knew that Theft from Motor Vehicle is the predominant offense reported in our neighborhood.

Amazon Customer “Service”

Visit the Twilight Zone at Amazon (read the chain from the bottom):

——————————–

Note added 5/18:  On May 15, I visited the Suntrust branch.  A helpful young fellow spent an hour talking to Suntrust and to Amazon.  Suntrust denied declining any payments.  Amazon told him I still have Prime, but could not explain how that could be since they haven’t yet been paid for it.

Keeping the reverse chronological order, here are my note to the helpful lad at Suntrust (whose name I misspelled) and the latest from Amazon:

[May 16, 2017]
erik[]@suntrust.com

Eric,

Thanks for your kind help yesterday.

I got a follow up from Amazon and told them about my considerable dissatisfaction. That produced this, where they again blame SunTrust, and another note saying my Prime is cancelled at my request, albeit I made no such request.

It looks like there is something in somebody’s computer that is choking on this simple transaction. Unfortunately, neither your people nor Amazon’s seem to be able to find it, much less deal with it.

I’m going to Florida to visit with the sibs and not think about this for awhile. Thanks again for your help.

John

From: Amazon.com <hmd-phones@amazon.com>
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 8:29 PM
To: [me]
Subject: Your Amazon.com Inquiry

Hello,

I’ve reviewed our previous phone call with you, and I’m very sorry about the incomplete information you received.

There are certain situations where we authorize your credit card for $1.00 to confirm your card has a valid number and hasn’t been reported lost or stolen.

As explained earlier, we don’t actually proceed with the $1.00 charge. This authorization should be removed according to the policies of your bank. Please contact your bank to clarify how long they hold authorizations for online transactions.

Upon further checking, I see that we haven’t charged for your Prime membership as the payment method was declined.

We’re unable to determine why your bank declined our attempt to charge your card. A charge can fail for many reasons, here are some things to check:

– Have you entered the credit card number correctly, without any transposed digits? [YES!  You’ve been charging it for merchandise before and after the Prime problem.]
– Have you entered the correct expiration date? Has the date expired?  [Ditto]
– Have you entered the billing address and phone number that match those associated with your credit card?  [Ditto]
– Have you exceeded your credit limit?  [No.  Ditto.]
– Has your credit card recently been reissued with a different credit card number and/or expiration date?  [No.  Ditto.]

You may want to contact your issuing bank to ask about their restrictions regarding electronic or Internet purchases.  [They called you about this.]

If you still have any concern in this regard, please feel free to contact us. We will always be happy to help you.

http://www.amazon.com/rsvp-mi?

If you have time concern, you may also contact us via Chat.

To contact us, visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us and follow the prompts.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

We’d appreciate your feedback. Please use the buttons below to vote about your experience today.

Best regards,
Kavitha L.N
Amazon.com

—————————

 

Note added 5/14:  Did he finally understand that my issue is above his job description or just decide I am too much trouble?  Looks like one or the other:

Topic: Accounts
Subject: Re: Problem with Amazon? Acct – Credit Card-[deleted]
From: Customer Support
05/13/2017

Hi John,

I apologize for the all trouble caused to you. I do understand your concern.

Please know that through email request we are unable to process your request. I would request you to contact our SunTrust Customer Care Department at 1-800-477-9702 or Visit our local branch for further assistance.

I appreciate your patience.

Regards,

Pradeep J
SunTrust Bank- Digital Client Services

——————————————-

Sent Message Detail
Topic: Accounts
Subject: Re: Problem with Amazon? Acct – Credit Card-[deleted]

Dear SunTrust,

I did NOT complain about an unauthorized charge. I complained because you are not honoring a legitimate charge.

Please pass this message chain to someone who understands English and has the authority to deal with the issue.

Previous Message:

Hi John,

Thank you for your response.

Thank you for notifying us about the unauthorized transaction(s). We will need to create a claim for this issue to be researched and resolved for you. To ensure this is completed as soon as possible, we will need additional information and request that you contact our Fraud Prevention and Claims Department at 877-864-0197 at your earliest convenience. Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are traveling internationally, you may contact us via our international toll free phone number at 800-STTRAVEL(800-7887-2835) or our collect call number at 407-762-5777.

It was a pleasure assisting you!
Regards,
Pradeep J
SunTrust Bank- Digital Client Services
Join our movement toward financial confidence at onUp.com

–Original Message–
Date: 5/11/2017 11:21:00 AM
To: customercare@suntrust.com
Subject: Re: Problem with Amazon? Acct – [deleted]
Dear Folks,

I just wrote you about the problem with Amazon and received a prompt reply (see below) that did not address the issue.

As you can see from the attachment, on May 5, Amazon charged my SunTrust credit card $29.99 (for a clock radio) and $1 toward a $99 Prime membership. They tried the $1 charge again the next day.

The $29.99 charge cleared and the merchandise has arrived, as usual. The $1 charges have disappeared and there still is no $99 charge. This foolishness has been going on since LAST DECEMBER and I have been quite unable to find out from SunTrust why it is they honor Amazon’s charges for merchandise (without a hitch, thank you) but are unable to honor a simple charge for $99.

Please pass this inquiry up the line to somebody who actually can deal with it instead of putting me off, yet again.

 

Previous Message:

Hi John,
I will be happy to assist you today.

I have reviewed your credit card ending in [xxxx] and see that amazon charged $29.99 ON 5/07/17. And also please know that $1.00 was adjusted to your account on 05/06/17. Please know that $20.76 was charged from amazon on 05/01/17.

If you still face any issues. I kindly request you to contact our SunTrust Customer Care department at 800-477-9702 for further assistance.

It was a pleasure assisting you.
Regards,
Pradeep J
SunTrust Bank- Digital Client Services
Join our movement toward financial confidence at onUp.com

 

–Original Message–
Date: 5/10/2017 8:10:29 PM
To: customercare@suntrust.com
Subject: Problem with Amazon? Acct – Credit Card-[deleted]
Amazon posted two transactions on the credit card on May 5: $29.99 for a clock and $1 toward a Prime membership. The clock charge cleared on May 7; the $1 still is hanging fire. I have had an ongoing problem with Amazon being unable to charge for Prime on this card (going back to last December!) Please fix this and send them the $99.

Mamas: Don’t Let Your Babies Play Near 4310 New Kent

Having no children to speak of, I don’t often check the Va. State Police Sex Offender Registry.

But, this morning, while waiting for data for a piece about the judge who is the enemy of public order in Southside, I wandered over to the web site and found this.

Note: To reach the page, you’ll have to fill in a CAPTCHA to prove you’re not a robot.

I’ve no idea whether that fellow is dangerous.  But, as with smoking while pumping gas, some very unlikely hazards are so dangerous that one is wise to avoid them.

Smaller Divisions: Bigger Bucks for Bureaucrats and Buses

Steve Fuhrmann raises the question why the smaller school divisions seem to incur relatively larger administrative costs.

To approach that issue, let’s expand on the earlier post by looking at numbers of teachers and administrative employees statewide.

To start, here is a plot by division of the 2016 number of teachers (plus guidance counselors, librarians, technology instructors, principals and assistant principals) per student, vs. the number of students (in bureaucratese, the Average Daily Membership, ADM), as of the end of the 2016 school year.
 image

The green points are counties; the red, cities.

Excel was glad to fit a straight line to the data but the correlations were poor.  A “power” function, where the ADM was raised to a negative power, gave much nicer fits.  The negative exponent tells us that the number of teachers per student decreases as the number of students increases but less rapidly as the ADM grows larger.

Here are those large divisions that stretch out the graph:

image

It we expand the x-axis to cut off the divisions >50K, we get a clearer picture of the smaller divisions.

image

And a further stretch gives this.

image

Those very small counties (ADM < 1,000) are hiring more teachers per kid than the larger counties and, indeed, than the very small cities.  Among the merely small divisions, the cities and counties are behaving similarly, with the smaller divisions hiring a few more teachers.

Turning to non-teaching staff, whom VDOE calls “Administrative, Service, and Support Personnel,” let’s start with the totals per division.

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Hmmm.  Those small counties are hiring a lot more people while the small cities are hiring fewer, albeit the cities’ correlation is small.

Let’s expand the axis.

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Those small counties are hiring quite a few more support personnel than the cities or the larger counties.

Let’s see if we can sort this out by looking at the underlying numbers.  First, the flat-out bureaucrats (“Administrative” in the summary of Table 18).

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Here, the excellent fit to the negative exponents confirms what our eyeballs tell us: Lots of bureaucrats in the smaller divisions, whether county or city.

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I’ll bet you a #2 lead pencil that the profusion of mandatory federal and state reporting explains much if not all of this phenomenon.

But, notice that the overall non-teacher population runs around 5% while these numbers are mostly <1%, so we have a way to go.

Technical and clerical counts paint a different picture.

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The correlations here are slim no matter the fitted function and the slopes tell us the small divisions are hiring about the same relative numbers of clerical and technical staff as the larger divisions.  The averages run just over 1%.

Next, instructional support.

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The fitted functions (logarithmic) suggest that the smaller divisions hire relatively fewer in this category (fifteen or so divisions hire none) but the scatter (and the small correlations) argue against any significant trend.  And, in any case, the numbers are quite small:  Instructional Support is not a major budget item.

The Other Professional data paint a similar picture (albeit only with one division at zero), with slightly larger numbers.

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Trades, Labor, Operative, and Service Personnel is the largest of these non-teaching categories.  Here we see contrary trends (cities increasing with ADM; counties decreasing).  And the correlations are non-trivial.

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As to the small cities, we might speculate that the school systems and the city governments overlap, offloading some of the work.  Whatever the mechanism, reducing the number of employees needed to run those small school systems can hardly be viewed as a problem.

Looking at transportation as a percentage of the Trades et al. total, we see that that Transportation dominates this category in the smaller counties.

image

It makes sense that the counties would have buses that must travel longer routes.  And the relatively larger numbers in the Trades, et al., category largely explain the shapes of the Totals graphs, above.

So, buses in the smaller counties; bureaucrats in all the smaller divisions.

* * *

This post already is too long so I am left with homework assignments:

  • Why do those smaller divisions, both cities and counties, hire more teachers per student than the larger divisions; and
  • Does the state support recognize the disproportionate paperwork and transportation burdens borne by the smaller divisions?

Stay tuned . . .

Accredited. Or Not.

While attempting to gain some Excel skills, I came upon some interesting Accreditation data.

Here, to start, are the statewide data for the past six years:

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The green points are the percentages of fully accredited Virginia schools; red are Accreditation Denied; gray (“Other”) are neither fully accredited nor denied accreditation.

The years on the x-axis are the testing years.  VDOE reports accreditation for the year after the testing year.  Thus, VDOE reports the latest data available, from 2016, as accreditation status for 2017.

The “Other” classification is a practical necessity.  In 2011, the only classifications, aside from Full Accreditation and Accreditation Denied, were Warning, Conditional, and Provisional (graduation rate).   By 2016, those three had inflated to eight classifications that were neither full nor denied accreditation.

The ups and downs in the graph reflect changes in the testing regime: VBOE instituted new, and tougher, math tests in 2012 and reading & science tests in 2013. 

(VBOE changed the tests largely in response to the General Assembly’s response to the widespread cheating on the tests for handicapped students.)

It takes four consecutive years of failure to lose accreditation so the immediate effect of the new tests was to increase the population of the “Other” category.  That category peaked in 2014 and then declined as the better schools learned to deal with the new tests.

2016 marked the fifth year with the new math tests and the fourth with the new reading tests.  The denials of accreditation for the weakest schools surged.

If we add Chesterfield County to the picture, we see much the same pattern as with the statewide data.

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Chesterfield has been consistently above average but even that fine division is beginning to show the effect of the new tests on its weakest schools:  Two of sixty-one were denied accreditation in 2016.

The Henrico data reflect the performance of the weaker schools in the eastern part of the county: Seven of sixty-seven schools were denied accreditation in 2016.

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Turning to Richmond’s peer cities, here is Hampton with two of twenty-nine schools denied accreditation in 2016.

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Going downhill, Newport News:  Seven of thirty-eight denied in 2016.

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And Norfolk:  Fifteen of forty-five denied in 2016.

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Last, and worst, Richmond:  Sixteen of forty-five schools (36%) denied accreditation in 2016; seventeen (38%) fully accredited.

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The 2017 data should tell us (sometime this Fall) something about whether these urban divisions are starting to recover.

In the meantime, it might be of interest to contrast these data with the happy talk from our (soon to be former) Superintendent.

Who Gets the $

Table 14 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report provides division totals regarding the distribution in 2016 of $6.29 billion in state funds.  Table 1 lists the end of year enrollment (aka Average Daily Membership, “ADM”) for each division. 

VDOE dispenses the funds on a per ADM basis but I have so far not found the formula for calculating that number.  The statutory categories are here

In any case, we have the totals.

Here is a short list of divisions showing the total funds and funds per student for each.

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Note: The average there is by division; the average by student (total funds/total ADM) is $5,065.  This tells already that the (much more numerous) smaller divisions are getting more money per kid on average.  See below.

Next, the distribution of funding per student, in $100 increments. 

image

The inserted colors represent the locations of the divisions listed above; Richmond is gold; Lynchburg, violet; Charles City, green.  The red, from the left, are Richmond’s peer jurisdictions, Hampton, Norfolk and Newport News.

Turning to the funds per student as a function of ADM, we get the following:

image

Same color codes as above.  The peers, from the left, are Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.

The fitted line has a slope of -$159 per 10,000 increase in ADM.  The R-squared of 6.9% tells us that funding correlates with ADM to a degree but some other factors predominate.

Expanding the x-axis of that graph, we get:

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That cluster of small divisions above the line tells suggests that smallness indeed helps to get more money; the smaller cluster below confirms that size is far from the only influence on the funding.

The two Big Winners here are Charlotte County, $9,036 per student, and Brunswick County, $8,500.  The Big Losers are Falls Church, $2,500, and Arlington, $2,600.

Here is the complete list.

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Elementary, My Dear Weigand

In an earlier post, I said that James Weigand had asked about teachers per student and SOLs.  In fact, he asked about that in elementary school.

Table 17a in the 2016 Superintendent’s Annual Report gives us the pupil/teacher ratios by division for grades K-7; that grade range extends beyond elementary school at both ends (grades 6 & 7 are middle school these days).  Moreover, the SOL testing begins only in grade 3.  Thus the pupil/teacher data and the pass rates are for different grade ranges.

As well, the VDOE database will give the pass rate for each grade but not an average over grades 3-7; the best we can do is take the rates of each grade and average those.

With those limitations, here are the reading data for the last year with available data, 2016.

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Richmond is the gold square; Charles City, the green diamond; Lynchburg the blue diamond.  The red diamonds are our peer cities, Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk, from the left.

Excel is happy to fit a line to the data but the R-squared tells us there is no correlation.

The math data paint much the same picture.

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Given the constraints on the data, it would be rash to draw any conclusion beyond the absence of a correlation in these particular datasets.

Except, of course, for the obvious: Richmond by any measure is racing for last place.  With a nearly average number of teachers (Richmond is 8.0%; the average is 8.2%) we get awful pass rates.

Nonfeasance, n.: Failure to Act

Last year, Richmond had the lowest average reading pass rate and the second lowest math pass rate in the state.  At present only seventeen of forty-five Richmond schools (38%) are fully accredited.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Richmond this year “requested” a “division-level academic review

§ 22.1-253.13:3.A
                                                      * * *
When the Board of Education determines through the school academic review process that the failure of schools within a division to achieve full accreditation status is related to division-level failure to implement the Standards of Quality or other division-level action or inaction, the Board may require a division-level academic review. After the conduct of such review and within the time specified by the Board of Education, each school board shall submit to the Board for approval a corrective action plan, consistent with criteria established by the Board setting forth specific actions and a schedule designed to ensure that schools within its school division achieve full accreditation status.

On November 17, 2016, the Board of Education approved the request.  The minute is unfortunately silent as to the process going forward.  The agenda item for that meeting is more forthcoming:

A division-level Memorandum of Understanding and Corrective Action Plan are
expected to come before the Virginia Board of Education by June 22, 2017.

“Expected.”  There is no actual deadline here for submission of the Plan, much less for getting it executed, notwithstanding the statutory authorization for a time limit.

Indeed, the Plan is only “expected” the month after graduation this year.  There is no attempt here to have a plan submitted and approved and in effect for the 2018 school year.

But, then, we’ve already seen that the Board of “Education” does not know how to fix a broken school division; they admit it
(Sept. 21, 2016 video starting at 1:48).

Indeed, with our Superintendent leaving in June, it’s hard to know whether there can be any realistic Plan before 2019 in any case.

Never mind all those kids whom the awful Richmond schools are damaging: There’s no reason for hurry here.