Requiem for the VGLA

I have written at length about Richmond’s abuse of its students with disabilities in order to improve SOL scores.  The 2015 data help complete a post mortem on that outrage so here is one last set of data.

Starting in 2005, VDOE allowed the divisions to offer a home-brewed (and, most importantly, locally graded) alternative test for students who could perform at grade level but whose disability interfered with taking the written SOL tests, the VGLA

You might reasonably think that only a few kids in any division would need that accommodation.  In fact, the use of the VGLA mushroomed.  One teacher quoted her director for the reason: “My dog could pass VGLA.”

In 2009, the Superintendent in Buchanan County admitted he had “encouraged to use of VGLA as a mechanism to assist schools in obtaining accreditation and in meeting AYP targets.”  Instead of firing that Superintendent for flagrant cheating and child abuse, VDOE merely required him to write a “Corrective Action Plan.”

Indeed, despite having a computer full of data showing abuse of the VGLA in Richmond and elsewhere, VDOE remained deliberately ignorant of the problem until the introduction of HB304 in the 2010 General Assembly, requiring a specific justification for every child taking the VGLA.  At that point, the State Superintendent became “concerned” and VDOE promulgated new math tests (2012) and reading tests (2013) that eliminated the VGLA except for some ESL students.

The new tests were tough; they reduced pass rates in most divisions. 

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The disappearance of the VGLA also had a dramatic effect on the pass rates for students with disabilities.  The effect in Richmond was even more dramatic.  Data here are pass rates.  The red curve is Richmond students with disabilities divided by the state average of students with disabilities; the blue is the same ratio for students without disabilities.

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Here we see Richmond’s students with disabilities outperforming their peers statewide(!), while Richmond’s students without disabilities underperformed.  Then came the new reading tests in 2013 and Richmond’s students with disabilities had the locally-graded VGLA snatched away and replaced by the same test everybody else was taking.  The Richmond students with disabilities suddenly underperformed their peers statewide by even more than Richmond’s students without disabilities were underperforming.

The math scores show the same effect.

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The important, and shameful, outcome here is that no division Superintendent and nobody at VDOE went to jail or even was fired.  After the General Assembly put up a big Stop sign, VDOE merely changed the system.  And the bureaucrats in Buchanan and Richmond and, doubtless, elsewhere who were violating the public trust were left to think up new ways to abuse the children in their care.

And the kids who were harmed by this cynical and disgraceful episode were left to fend for themselves.

Your tax dollars at work.