Petersburg: Compounding Failure?

The headline in the Progress-Index tells us “McAuliffe touts Petersburg schools’ improvements” on a visit to Petersburg.

The “improvements” listed in the story? 

McAuliffe mentioned that the graduation rate for Petersburg High School increased last year, as well as SAT and ACT scores.

The untold story:

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  • We can wonder about the lovely numbers at A.P. Hill in previous years; for sure there are no numbers this year because they were caught cheating
  • Of the other three elementary schools, only Walnut Hill made the 75% accreditation mark for reading and the 70% cutoff for math this year.  The (failing) elementary reading scores at the other two look to be improving; the (also failing) math scores, not.
  • It’s difficult to reconcile improving graduation rate, SAT, and ACT scores with declining high school pass rates. 
  • Peabody Middle remains lost in a miasma of failure; Johns Jr. looks to be trying to join it.
  • Petersburg achieved this record of failure after fourteen years of “help” from the Board of “Education.”

The Governor “wanted top-to-bottom reform.”  That reform, the article tells us, is

There is a lot of poverty in Petersburg.  In 2016-17, 61% of the students were classified as “economically disadvantaged.”  Nutrition and social services might well help (Were they not needed before now?) but they hardly amount to “top-to-bottom reform” of the failed school system. 

So it looks like any “reform” will have to be found in the 63 slick pages of the Plan

There’s lots of feel-good in that document.  For example, at page 15 it says they will:

  • Guide and support teachers; and
  • Provide relevant and sophisticated support – including professional development opportunities, as well as ongoing coaching and collaboration – geared to [the] teachers’ and leaders’ needs.

But you’ll have to read to page 46 to find anything that even brushes up against “reform”: 

Measure of Success: All PCPS principals have adopted practices to collect and use evidence of teacher instructional performance.

If that means “hold the principals and teachers accountable,” it might indeed be a (partial) harbinger of reform.  If it means “continue using the existing, mendacious evaluation system,” there’s no hope for the students who are being damaged by the awful Petersburg schools.

And notice: They merely have to adopt practices.  They don’t actually have to hold anybody accountable for failure to do the job.

The (faint) promise of p.46 aside, the overwhelming problem here is the general lack of accountability, not only as to teachers and principals but on up the chain:

  • If Petersburg fails to meet the 2022 deadline of the Plan, it can say it did everything the State demanded.
  • The Board of “Education” has never been held accountable for its fourteen-year record of failure in Petersburg and there is no sign that the current Plan (or, more to the point, the Governor) will remedy that failure of leadership.
  • The Governor will be gone next year.

Your tax dollars at “work.”