The Alternative is Trouble

We have seen that Richmond’s receptacle for disruptive students, Richmond Alternative, was doing a remarkable job with a tough crowd until RPS took it over from the contractor in order to save $2 million.  Pass rates then plummeted.  Richmond now has reconsidered and has handed the school over to another contractor.

The estimable Carol Wolf asked about offenses at Alternative.  The “Safe Schools Information Resource” on the VDOE Web site has a plethora of data on that subject.

Here are the 2015-16 data, expressed as percentages of the school population.

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As I said, a tough crowd.

I think “ATOD” is “alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.”

The “Offenders” category lists the count of individual offenders.  The only way that can exceed 100% is for the population count to measure the population at one moment in time while the number of students moving through the school is large enough for the count of offenders to exceed that population count.

Looking over the list for second worst, I see that MLK (where the pass rates are similar to those at Alternative) comes closest to Alternative with a 58% rate of individual offenders.

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So, by any measure, Alternative deals with a tough clientele.

The bottom line remains, however: RPS has demonstrated, convincingly, that it cannot manage Alternative nearly as well as the original contractor could.  And that $2 million “saving” came at the cost of large decreases in the pass rates of that tough clientele.

So RPS saves some money; the kids suffer for it.  Your tax dollars “at work.”

Plan? What Plan?

We have seen that, having suffered the lowest average reading pass rate and the second lowest math pass rate in Virginia, 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 silent as to the “time specified” for the review.  The agenda item for that meeting provides an expectation (that was not submitted to the Board for approval) but no deadline:

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

Today (May 8, 2017), Richmond replied to my Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Plan:

  • They do not have a suggested model or list of items or format for the Plan from VDOE;
  • They have no schedule for conducting the division level review;
  • They have no plan or schedule for obtaining the required public input; and
  • The do have a draft “template [that] has not been vetted with RPS administration nor has it been presented to the State Board of Ed[ucation].”

One need not suffer beyond the first few elements in the template to see that it is not a Plan.  It is a list of items to go into a Plan. 

For example, the “Essential Action[s]” on the “Academics and Student Success” page include:

  • Create, implement, and monitor a comprehensive plan to ensure alignment between the written, taught, and tested curriculum.
  • Develop and implement a plan for division leadership to conduct instructional walkthroughs at all schools, analyze data collected on walkthroughs, and use the data to make decisions on how to support schools.
  • Develop, implement, and monitor programs for students with limited English proficiency compliant with state requirements.

And on and on.

Thus, we see that, in the 172 days since November 17, Richmond has done nothing but create a laundry list of issues to go into a Plan.  If they somehow manage to “vet [this or some other document] with RPS administration” and subject it to public comment and have it approved by the School Board, all by June 22, they still will have nothing more than a plan to create a Plan.

But, what the heck!  The Board of “Education” that is vested with “supervision of the public school system” does not know how to fix bad schools.  Indeed, they admit it (Sept. 21, 2016 video starting at 1:48).

It is merely an outrage that we are being taxed to support this sterile (and lethargic) bureaucratic exercise. It is something beyond an abomination that, in the meantime, Richmond continues to victimize many of its schoolchildren.

Graduation and Not, Chapter IV

The VDOE has 4-Year cohort graduation data going back to 2008.  Here are the graduation rates for Richmond and the state.

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BTW: These are the actual rates, i.e., advanced + standard diplomas (aka the federal graduation indicator), not VDOE’s inflated “on time” numbers.

In terms of 2016 numbers, 443 of the 1472 members of Richmond’s cohort did not receive diplomas.

Excel was glad to fit provide linear least squares fits to the data.  Those show the state rate improving by 1.2% per year over the period of the data and Richmond by 1.86%.  At those rates, Richmond would reach a 100% rate in 2031 and would catch the state in 2041.

Of course that extrapolation is absurd.  The extrapolated 2041 graduation rates are 118%.  This being the real world, the rates of increase will decrease as the pass rates approach the 100% ceiling.  Indeed, that slowing may already show in the state data.

The point of the extrapolation is not at all absurd, however:  It provides a measure of the dreadful job RPS is doing.

On the subject of “dreadful,” statewide there were 1.44 advanced diplomas per standard diploma in the 4-year cohort graduating in ‘16.  In Richmond, that ratio was 0.63.

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Your tax dollars at “work.”

Graduate or Not

When looking at the cohort graduation rates, I tend to look at the 4 year rate.  After all, four years is the normal time in high school.

The helpful reports on the VDOE Web page also include five and six year data.  For the class of 2016 (cohort of 2012-13) there can only be a four year report.  For the class of 2015 (cohort of 2011-12), however, the extra year opens the door to calculation of both a four and a five year rate.

So I pulled the Class of 2015 data.  The rates below are the actual (standard and advanced diploma) rates, not VDOE’s inflated “on time” numbers.

For a start, here is a chart of the division five year vs. four year graduation rates.

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Richmond is the gold square (sigh!).  The red diamonds are, from the left, poor Petersburg (notwithstanding over twelve years of “help” from the State Board of “Education”) and the peer cities of Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News.

The R-squared of 98% tells us that the two rates correlate: Divisions with a high four year rate have high five year rates and those with low, low (see Petersburg and – help us, Lord! – Richmond). 

Notes on the data:

  • Highland County is omitted.  They had only eleven in the cohort and fewer than the cutoff (ten) in each category (VDOE suppresses data where there are <10 students).
  • In many cases, the five and six year cohort sizes are different, apparently reflecting cohort members who leave or return during the fifth year.  Thus, Cumberland County shows a 1.6% decrease in the five year rate, reflecting the same numbers of diplomas but an additional two students in the five year cohort.
  • That sad point between Petersburg and Richmond is Covington.
  • The two divisions at the upper right are Falls Church and West Point.
  • The Richmond rates were 70.6% and 73.1%.  Both are appallingly low.  The (welcome) increase comes from thirty-eight kids who did not get diplomas in four years but now have them.

Here is the breakout of the Richmond data.

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I think that last entry is “Economically Disadvantaged anytime.”

And here are the division data.

4 year 5 year
Division Cohort Adv. Std. Cohort Adv. Std. 4 Year 5 Year Difference
Accomack County 328 166 114 326 166 115 85.4% 86.2% 0.83% 1
Albemarle County 996 646 264 997 648 270 91.4% 92.1% 0.71% 8
Alexandria City 853 320 318 851 323 321 74.8% 75.7% 0.88% 6
Alleghany County 231 106 86 232 106 90 83.1% 84.5% 1.37% 4
Amelia County 145 58 67 145 58 67 86.2% 86.2% 0.00% 0
Amherst County 307 118 139 306 118 143 83.7% 85.3% 1.58% 4
Appomattox County 184 103 64 184 103 65 90.8% 91.3% 0.54% 1
Arlington County 1440 916 357 1444 917 371 88.4% 89.2% 0.79% 15
Augusta County 810 416 298 810 416 307 88.1% 89.3% 1.11% 9
Bath County 46 24 12 45 24 12 78.3% 80.0% 1.74% 0
Bedford County 835 402 307 833 402 320 84.9% 86.7% 1.76% 13
Bland County 81 19 53 81 19 53 88.9% 88.9% 0.00% 0
Botetourt County 402 229 144 402 229 145 92.8% 93.0% 0.25% 1
Bristol City 167 60 71 167 60 71 78.4% 78.4% 0.00% 0
Brunswick County 160 29 93 160 29 97 76.3% 78.8% 2.50% 4
Buchanan County 268 82 150 268 82 150 86.6% 86.6% 0.00% 0
Buckingham County 154 72 62 154 72 64 87.0% 88.3% 1.30% 2
Buena Vista City 95 36 39 95 36 40 78.9% 80.0% 1.05% 1
Campbell County 654 295 263 652 295 265 85.3% 85.9% 0.57% 2
Caroline County 292 90 139 294 90 148 78.4% 81.0% 2.53% 9
Carroll County 291 134 117 290 134 121 86.3% 87.9% 1.68% 4
Charles City County 57 20 29 57 20 30 86.0% 87.7% 1.75% 1
Charlotte County 177 89 56 178 90 57 81.9% 82.6% 0.66% 2
Charlottesville City 305 130 108 304 130 112 78.0% 79.6% 1.57% 4
Chesapeake City 3156 1824 950 3159 1827 970 87.9% 88.5% 0.64% 23
Chesterfield County 4710 2627 1560 4708 2629 1602 88.9% 89.9% 0.97% 44
Clarke County 167 105 52 166 105 54 94.0% 95.8% 1.77% 2
Colonial Beach 42 21 17 42 21 17 90.5% 90.5% 0.00% 0
Colonial Heights City 214 124 58 214 124 60 85.0% 86.0% 0.93% 2
Covington City 60 24 18 60 25 18 70.0% 71.7% 1.67% 1
Craig County 56 19 29 55 19 29 85.7% 87.3% 1.56% 0
Culpeper County 553 282 203 553 282 203 87.7% 87.7% 0.00% 0
Cumberland County 111 62 38 113 62 38 90.1% 88.5% -1.59% 0
Danville City 444 132 198 442 133 205 74.3% 76.5% 2.15% 8
Dickenson County 165 39 91 165 39 93 78.8% 80.0% 1.21% 2
Dinwiddie County 349 110 155 351 111 165 75.9% 78.6% 2.70% 11
Essex County 118 39 59 118 39 59 83.1% 83.1% 0.00% 0
Fairfax County 13760 8672 3674 13766 8682 3777 89.7% 90.5% 0.78% 113
Falls Church City 168 138 26 167 139 26 97.6% 98.8% 1.18% 1
Fauquier County 915 530 288 911 532 302 89.4% 91.5% 2.15% 16
Floyd County 135 62 60 135 62 60 90.4% 90.4% 0.00% 0
Fluvanna County 306 151 123 305 151 126 89.5% 90.8% 1.28% 3
Franklin City 79 33 27 78 33 28 75.9% 78.2% 2.26% 1
Franklin County 558 242 224 555 242 229 83.5% 84.9% 1.35% 5
Frederick County 995 510 384 997 510 388 89.8% 90.1% 0.22% 4
Fredericksburg City 232 116 69 233 116 76 79.7% 82.4% 2.66% 7
Galax City 103 52 38 103 52 39 87.4% 88.3% 0.97% 1
Giles County 213 47 131 212 47 133 83.6% 84.9% 1.34% 2
Gloucester County 415 175 202 417 175 208 90.8% 91.8% 1.00% 6
Goochland County 187 111 62 188 111 63 92.5% 92.6% 0.04% 1
Grayson County 152 78 46 150 78 47 81.6% 83.3% 1.75% 1
Greene County 211 126 75 211 126 76 95.3% 95.7% 0.47% 1
Greensville County 169 62 75 169 62 76 81.1% 81.7% 0.59% 1
Halifax County 406 142 178 406 142 180 78.8% 79.3% 0.49% 2
Hampton City 1545 564 717 1545 564 747 82.9% 84.9% 1.94% 30
Hanover County 1417 871 431 1417 871 434 91.9% 92.1% 0.21% 3
Harrisonburg City 343 180 114 343 180 122 85.7% 88.0% 2.33% 8
Henrico County 3682 1806 1335 3675 1809 1377 85.3% 86.7% 1.39% 45
Henry County 494 215 200 494 215 206 84.0% 85.2% 1.21% 6
Hopewell City 293 97 127 290 97 134 76.5% 79.7% 3.20% 7
Isle of Wight County 438 233 159 440 233 163 89.5% 90.0% 0.50% 4
King George County 317 174 121 316 174 123 93.1% 94.0% 0.93% 2
King William County 162 79 57 162 79 60 84.0% 85.8% 1.85% 3
King and Queen County 46 21 19 46 21 20 87.0% 89.1% 2.17% 1
Lancaster County 82 36 31 82 36 32 81.7% 82.9% 1.22% 1
Lee County 265 60 139 265 60 143 75.1% 76.6% 1.51% 4
Loudoun County 4793 3424 1092 4791 3430 1110 94.2% 94.8% 0.54% 24
Louisa County 343 177 115 343 177 118 85.1% 86.0% 0.87% 3
Lunenburg County 105 42 43 106 42 43 81.0% 80.2% -0.76% 0
Lynchburg City 636 246 247 637 246 253 77.5% 78.3% 0.82% 6
Madison County 146 83 48 145 83 49 89.7% 91.0% 1.31% 1
Manassas City 517 212 214 519 212 220 82.4% 83.2% 0.84% 6
Manassas Park City 207 77 99 207 77 100 85.0% 85.5% 0.48% 1
Martinsville City 157 55 65 156 55 69 76.4% 79.5% 3.05% 4
Mathews County 114 54 44 114 54 45 86.0% 86.8% 0.88% 1
Mecklenburg County 347 143 162 347 143 163 87.9% 88.2% 0.29% 1
Middlesex County 95 51 36 95 51 36 91.6% 91.6% 0.00% 0
Montgomery County 732 361 263 731 361 265 85.2% 85.6% 0.39% 2
Nelson County 143 65 47 143 65 47 78.3% 78.3% 0.00% 0
New Kent County 245 121 101 245 121 102 90.6% 91.0% 0.41% 1
Newport News City 1876 726 894 1852 726 925 86.4% 89.1% 2.79% 31
Norfolk City 1747 653 693 1720 654 743 77.0% 81.2% 4.17% 51
Northampton County 96 35 39 96 35 39 77.1% 77.1% 0.00% 0
Northumberland County 109 51 48 109 51 48 90.8% 90.8% 0.00% 0
Norton City 58 26 29 59 26 31 94.8% 96.6% 1.78% 2
Nottoway County 173 63 74 173 63 78 79.2% 81.5% 2.31% 4
Orange County 356 156 153 358 157 161 86.8% 88.8% 2.03% 9
Page County 274 135 128 274 135 128 96.0% 96.0% 0.00% 0
Patrick County 198 85 85 198 85 88 85.9% 87.4% 1.52% 3
Petersburg City 289 56 116 286 56 121 59.5% 61.9% 2.37% 5
Pittsylvania County 730 312 329 729 312 337 87.8% 89.0% 1.22% 8
Poquoson City 193 136 45 194 136 45 93.8% 93.3% -0.48% 0
Portsmouth City 930 309 449 933 309 463 81.5% 82.7% 1.24% 14
Powhatan County 339 197 112 339 198 114 91.2% 92.0% 0.88% 3
Prince Edward County 175 54 86 175 55 87 80.0% 81.1% 1.14% 2
Prince George County 478 189 206 476 193 209 82.6% 84.5% 1.82% 7
Prince William County 6187 2945 2477 6185 2947 2542 87.6% 88.7% 1.11% 67
Pulaski County 326 137 123 325 137 126 79.8% 80.9% 1.17% 3
Radford City 121 50 55 122 50 56 86.8% 86.9% 0.11% 1
Rappahannock County 73 37 29 74 37 30 90.4% 90.5% 0.13% 1
Richmond City 1420 384 619 1425 385 656 70.6% 73.1% 2.42% 38
Richmond County 82 42 32 81 42 32 90.2% 91.4% 1.11% 0
Roanoke City 882 298 384 882 299 399 77.3% 79.1% 1.81% 16
Roanoke County 1118 591 431 1119 591 438 91.4% 92.0% 0.54% 7
Rockbridge County 251 115 104 250 116 105 87.3% 88.4% 1.15% 2
Rockingham County 878 394 383 879 394 394 88.5% 89.6% 1.15% 11
Russell County 320 109 174 320 109 174 88.4% 88.4% 0.00% 0
Salem City 345 207 108 345 207 108 91.3% 91.3% 0.00% 0
Scott County 269 136 106 269 136 107 90.0% 90.3% 0.37% 1
Shenandoah County 487 254 188 487 254 189 90.8% 91.0% 0.21% 1
Smyth County 344 133 173 344 133 175 89.0% 89.5% 0.58% 2
Southampton County 194 73 88 194 73 92 83.0% 85.1% 2.06% 4
Spotsylvania County 1844 987 643 1843 988 652 88.4% 89.0% 0.59% 10
Stafford County 2320 1400 714 2320 1401 746 91.1% 92.5% 1.42% 33
Staunton City 189 97 75 189 97 78 91.0% 92.6% 1.59% 3
Suffolk City 1026 441 413 1024 442 425 83.2% 84.7% 1.43% 13
Surry County 78 35 29 77 35 30 82.1% 84.4% 2.36% 1
Sussex County 83 27 35 83 27 36 74.7% 75.9% 1.20% 1
Tazewell County 437 130 201 436 130 207 75.7% 77.3% 1.55% 6
Virginia Beach City 5289 2883 1698 5270 2887 1774 86.6% 88.4% 1.83% 80
Warren County 422 210 161 422 210 166 87.9% 89.1% 1.18% 5
Washington County 519 235 234 519 235 238 90.4% 91.1% 0.77% 4
Waynesboro City 232 94 85 233 94 86 77.2% 77.3% 0.10% 1
West Point 64 43 20 64 43 20 98.4% 98.4% 0.00% 0
Westmoreland County 121 53 44 121 53 44 80.2% 80.2% 0.00% 0
Williamsburg-James City County 860 491 269 860 492 280 88.4% 89.8% 1.40% 12
Winchester City 288 138 113 285 138 114 87.2% 88.4% 1.27% 1
Wise County 438 179 200 439 180 206 86.5% 87.9% 1.40% 7
Wythe County 295 126 133 295 126 137 87.8% 89.2% 1.36% 4
York County 991 621 301 991 621 305 93.0% 93.4% 0.40% 4
Highland County 12 < < 12 < <


Still a Scofflaw?

We have seen that Richmond had the lowest secondary attendance in Virginia last year: 88%.  This happened in a context where Richmond earlier was ignoring the requirements of the state law regarding truancy and the Board of “Education” was ignoring its duty to require Richmond to obey that law.

Inquiring mind wants to know whether all that truancy last year was again exacerbated by Richmond’s defiance of the law:

Subject: Records Request
From: John Butcher
Date: 03/03/2017 08:57 AM
To: Angela Lewis — RPS FOIA

Ms. Lewis,

Please share with me the public records of the Richmond School Board that set out the following data for Richmond Public Schools for the 2015-16 school year:

The number of students with five or more unexcused absences;
The number of five absence truancy plans;
The number of students with six or more unexcused absences;
The number of six absence conferences scheduled;
The number of students with seven or more unexcused absences;
The number of CHINS complaints filed as to students with seven or more unexcused absences;
The number of proceedings instituted against parents of students with seven or more unexcused absences;
The summary of outcomes of the CHINS complaints and/or the proceedings instituted against parents;
The number of students with ten or more unexcused absences;
The number of warning letters sent to parents of students with ten or more unexcused absences.

If the School Board has begun to attend to its duty under Va. Code 22.1-258, there doubtless will be multiple records responsive to each portion of this request.  Please do NOT send me all of those; a single record responsive to each request (or a smaller number of records responding to multiple requests) would be plenty; an email with just the data, without production of the underlying records, would be even better.

With thanks always for your kind and good work,

John

Disorder Disaster

I have heard some speculation that the miserable performance of our middle schools is related to the disorder there.

We have numbers for that.

The VDOE Web site has a database, the Safe Schools Information Resource, with data on offenses and disciplinary outcomes in Virginia schools. 

I take those data with a chaser of skepticism: The numbers are self reported by the schools and likely less that truthful.  Nonetheless, these are the data we have.

Here, from that source, are the numbers of individual student offenders for the Richmond middle schools, divided by the Fall memberships

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VDOE gives membership data for Elkhardt and Thompson before the conjunction but not offense data, so the graph shows only the 2016 Elkhardt-Thompson datum (at 33%, near the middle of the pack).

Can you imagine a kid trying to learn in a school where 58% of the students are reported as offenders?  Or even 33% (which is over three times the state average for middle schools)?

As it is, the kids in those schools don’t learn much.  In that respect, let’s look at the 2016 SOL pass rate vs. the offender percentage.

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Even that substantial correlation does not imply causation but it’s hard to think this is a coincidence.

Data for the other tests tell much the same story.

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Here are the data:

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And remember, these same kids did much better in elementary school so the problem here has to be the middle schools, not the kids.

Ah, well: Your tax dollars at “work.”

Middle School Mess

We have noticed that Richmond’s elementary schools have performed fairly well but our middle schools have not.

(Well, at least that was true before the new math tests in 2012 and the new reading tests in 2013 whacked both Richmond’s elementary and middle school pass rates.)

This suggests a question: Is it all those hormones affecting middle school students or are Richmond’s middle schools unusually awful?

We can get a look at the situation by following class performance of the same group of students from year to year.

For example, here are the reading pass rates for Richmond and the state for third graders in 2006, fourth graders in 2007, etc., up to eighth graders in 2011.

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Hmmm.  Hormones or not, it looks like Richmond took fifth graders who performed just below the state average in elementary school and dropped them by ten points in the sixth grade.

Here is the same graph, following the 2007 third graders.

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And the 2008 third graders.

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This last graph paints much the same picture (well, actually middle school performance was deteriorating), except that the new tests in 2013 lowered the state average for this group by seventeen points but clobbered the Richmond pass rate by thirty-three percent.

The math data show similar patterns, except that the new tests came in 2012 when the 2007 third graders reached the eighth grade.

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Thus we see that the pre-teen and early teen years have left reading performance essentially untouched and math performance somewhat reduced in Virginia but brought much impaired performance in both subject areas in Richmond. 

The obvious explanation: It’s not the kids; Richmond’s middle schools are particularly awful.

But, then, we already suspected that.

Mr. Federal Fixit(?)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included $3 billion for School Improvement Grants.  Of course there’s an acronym, “SIG.”

The program awarded grants to states that agreed to implement one of four intervention models in their lowest-performing schools: transformation, turnaround, restart, or closure.

We now have a report (pdf) from the Federales that evaluates the effect of those funds.  In short:

  • Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.
  • When we compared student achievement gains from different models in elementary grades (2nd through 5th), we found no evidence that one model was associated with larger gains than another. For higher grades (6th through 12th), the turnaround model was associated with larger student achievement gains in math than the transformation model. However, factors other than the SIG model implemented, such as baseline differences between schools implementing different models, may explain these differences in achievement gains.

Is it any wonder, then, that our Board of “Education” does not know how to fix Richmond’s awful schools?

Educational “Leadership”

I have pointed out that our Board of “Education” knows how to identify broken schools but does not know how to fix them

We get confirmation, and a partial explanation, in the Times-Dispatch this morning.  The former President of the Board writes:

The solutions offered in the past have been new teachers, new principals, new math programs, new reading programs, leadership development and more. None of them have (sic) worked.

There you have it in microcosm: This former leader of the Board understands that the Board has failed but does not understand subject-verb agreement. 

(For a contrary view of “none have” see this.)

No wonder they can’t fix anything.

Final(?) Accreditation Results

Just a week ago, VDOE announced that the accreditation data for Bellevue, Franklin, and Patrick Henry had been recalculated and that the three schools were fully accredited. 

So we got to redo the Richmond reportAgain.

The latest data are here.  The totals disagree slightly with the table on the VDOE Web site; I’ll bet you a #2 lead pencil that they updated the spreadsheet but not the table.

In any case, here are the data.  On the revised count, we have 2.5% of the schools in Virginia, 17% of the 93 schools rated “Accreditation Denied,” and 8.4% of the 333 schools that were not fully accredited.

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