After the introduction, the speech embraces the old, sad, false excuses for Richmond’s miserable performance:
- A large percentage of students ages 0-17 live in poverty,
- More than 3 out of 4 students qualify for free/reduced lunch,
- 19% or put another way, over 4000 students receiving special education services, and
- The growing ESL population, which has risen from 5% in the early 2000s to approximately 12% today.
Poverty Is Not the Problem
We already have seen that, while SOL pass rates certainly decline with increased poverty,
Richmond is grossly underperforming the other Virginia divisions with similar or higher poverty rates.
(Richmond is the gold points in the graphs above.)
Students with Disabilities Are Not the Problem Either
To see about the disabled students, let’s start with the reading pass rates by year:
Here we see Richmond’s students without disabilities consistently performing far below the state average for students without disabilities. Then we see Richmond’s students with disabilities outperforming the state average for students with disabilities until the new reading tests in 2013, when the Richmond scores plummeted even more than the state average.
We can tease out the magnitude of these effects by plotting the Richmond minus state pass rates.
In short, Richmond has since at least 2005 done a consistently lousy job teaching reading to its non-disabled students; since the new reading tests, Richmond has done a consistently lousy job teaching reading to all its students.
The math scores show a similar picture, except that the big drop came a year earlier with the new tests in 2012.
You might well pause to wonder how Richmond’s students with disabilities outperformed their peers statewide until the advent of the new tests. I think it was because Richmond was abusing its disabled students to cheat on the VGLA.
In any case, in light of the gross underperformance of Richmond’s students without disabilities, it is simply false to claim that the students with disabilities are the problem here. The problem is lousy schools, period.
Nor Are LEP Students the Problem
Turning to limited English proficiency (“LEP”), here are the data.
The signal/noise ratio here is lower for the LEP students, perhaps because of the smaller sample sizes, but the general effect is clear: Since at least 2010, Richmond’s LEP students have been underperforming their peers statewide but, relative to their peers, they have been outperforming Richmond’s non-LEP students. LEP students are not the problem here.
Richmond’s lousy schools are the problem
Thus, it is worse
that than misleading to blame Richmond’s poor, its disabled, or its LEP students for Richmond’s awful SOL performance. Richmond’s awful schools are the problem here.
And I foolishly thought this Superintendent might be better than to wallow in these false excuses that blame the kids for the system’s failures.
Indeed, Bedden Blew His Best Chance
Superintendent Bedden had his chance to shine. His predecessor failed to align the Richmond curricula with the new math and reading tests. 2015 was his first full year with newly aligned curricula. He did not shine: In 2015 his schools were second worst in the state on reading; sixth in math.
Now he is making the old, false excuses.
At least he still has a little room to sing the other pitiful, old refrain: “We’re doing better than Petersburg.”