Leaderless in Virginia

Having seen the Board of “Education” members admit that they don’t know how to fix Virginia’s failing schools, I thought I’d turn to the results of their “leadership,” (also see this) for those schools.

Back in 2011, only two schools were denied accreditation: Peabody Middle in Petersburg and Lafayette-Winona in Norfolk.  Since then, VBO”E” has been handing out denials wholesale.

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Particularly to the older cities.

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The Board says its accreditation standards “are designed to ensure that an effective educational program is established and maintained in Virginia’s public schools.”  And, indeed, the Board requires a mountain of paperwork from schools that have been denied accreditation.  At a minimum:

  • A Corrective Action Plan;
  • A Memorandum of Understanding (bureaucratese for an unenforceable contract); and
  • Status reports.

So let’s see what all this activity has “ensure[d].”

Peabody Middle School in Petersburg has been denied accreditation since before 2011.  More then six years of “leadership” from VBO”E” have left Peabody mired in failure.

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Recall that the current threshold for accreditation is 75 in English and 70 otherwise.  The “adjustments” will boost these pass rates by a few points for accreditation purposes, but nowhere near to accreditation levels. 

Indeed, the Board of “Education” has not even approached “ensur[ing] . . . an effective educational program” at Peabody.

Norfolk’s Lafayette-Winona Middle School was denied accreditation before 2011; that denial continued through 2013.  The school then disappeared from the VDOE’s accreditation records although VDOE reported the pass rates through 2014. 

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For sure, it was not on a path to quick accreditation as of 2014.

Perhaps it was merged or otherwise converted to a “new” school, which allowed it to obtain the new school freebie, or was otherwise renamed.  Perchance someone who knows the Norfolk situation can identify a successor school for me.  Until then, I’ll expect the school is yet another VBO”E” failure.

Jefferson-Houston Elementary in Alexandria was one of the two schools newly denied accreditation in 2012.  They took a hit from the new math tests that year and were hurt by the new English tests in 2013.  Their science scores dropped in 2014; that’s a year too late to blame the new science tests from ‘13. 

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They have recovered somewhat, but only to a school average pass rate of 55%, which is far too low a rate for even the Board’s opaque “adjustments” to convert to accreditation.

William H. Ruffner Middle School in Norfolk also lost accreditation in 2012. 

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With the “leadership” of VBO”E,” their performance has barely budged since then.

The 2013 school year brought two more denials of accreditation.

Lindenwood Elementary School in Norfolk started the year in fair shape, except for math, and then fell off a cliff.

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It has recovered some, especially in math, but has suffered in science.  Despite all the “leadership” from VBO“E,” it remains unaccredited.

Petersburg’s A.P. Hill Elementary School was in trouble in 2011.  It took a hit in math in 2012 and fell off its own cliff in 2013.

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Hill then recovered nicely and regained accreditation in 2015.  On the face of the matter there’s no way to tell the source of this transformation, so VBO”E” gets to take the credit.

School year 2014, when the three year rolling average “adjustments” started having less effect on the 2012-13 score drops, found seven more schools denied accreditation.

Sedgefield Elementary School in Newport News displayed the pass rate drops we have come to expect: math in 2012, English and science in 2013.

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The school made a nice recovery in 2015 but gave back about half of it in 2016.  It remains in “denied” status.

Newsome Park Elementary School, also in Newport News, showed a similar pattern of decline but remains in a sump of failure, with all its pass rates below 50%.

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L. Douglas Wilder Middle School in Henrico started out with excellent scores in science, acceptable (or nearly acceptable) scores in English and in History & Social Science but awful math performance.

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The new tests clobbered all but the History & SS pass rates, all of which have recovered only slightly.  Count one more failure of the VBO”E” “leadership.”

Lake Taylor Middle School in Norfolk shows a similar pattern and counts as yet another instance where “leadership” from VBO”E” has not led to accreditation.

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Kiptopeke Elementary School in Northampton suffered from the new math and reading tests but recovered into accreditation territory in every subject except reading.

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The opaque but always helpful VBO”E” “adjustments” converted Kiptopeke’s 74.45% reading pass rate in 2016 into a 77 and allowed the school to regain accreditation.

Norfolk’s Campostella Elementary School was in trouble before the new tests and in big trouble after.  It has not recovered, all the “leadership” from VBO”E” notwithstanding.

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The school disappeared from the accreditation list in 2016, perhaps replaced by Southside STEM Academy at Campostella, which also was denied accreditation.

Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk recovered nicely from the new tests except that its writing scores declined year upon year.

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The school now enjoys “Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-Pass Rate” status: Close but still not accredited.

Richmond’s Fred D. Thompson Middle School was denied accreditation in 2014 but was combined with Elkhardt Middle School the next year and, thus, disappeared from the unaccredited list.

It’s too early to draw any conclusions about the seventeen schools newly denied accreditation in 2015 (although two of them either made it back or otherwise got off the list the next year) or the twenty-four in 2016.  So let’s look at the earlier years:

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For those schools where we have data, the leading Board of “Education” can claim credit in three of thirteen cases if we count B.T. Washington as a wash, two of eleven if we look just at the other schools. 

After the “adjustments,” a Virginia school can retain accreditation with over a quarter of its students failing the SOLs.  The Board of “Education” has a batting average of .231 or .182, depending on how we count Norfolk’s B.T. Washington High School, in “ensur[ing]” that schools attain even that undemanding failure rate. 

So we see that the Board, even with its corrective action plans and MOUs and status reports and other “leadership,” is failing in about 80% of its efforts to assist schools that have been denied accreditation.

This Board and its bureaucracy are costing us somewhere north of $92 million this year.  At least insofar as the schools that have been denied accreditation, it’s clear that the money is being wasted: Our Board of “Education” doesn’t know how to fix out broken schools and its lousy performance reflects that ignorance.

Your tax dollars at “work.”