It’s the Principal of the Thing

On April 26, the Free Press posted a story listing ten RPS schools where the principals were said to be being replaced.  There was an RT-D story about the same time; it has since been taken down, perhaps because of an error in the list.  Now the RT-D has a final list along with the names of the new principals.

The Grade 8 and EOC testing window this year had a last reporting date of March 29; the end of the latest test window for other tests was June 21.  RPS surely had the high school results but probably not the results for the lower grades before the list leaked.  No telling when the list was prepared but, below grade 8, it had to be before RPS had all the 2019 SOL results.

In any case, VDOE will have the summer results on July 19 but won’t release the final pass rates until mid-August, so we are stuck with the 2018 and earlier data.  Let’s see what those numbers tell us about the ten schools.

Here, as background (you’ll soon see why), are the reading pass rates at Carver.  The 2018 data are missing because the staff there got caught cheating.

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The “ED” data are the pass rates of the “economically disadvantaged” students.  The “Not ED” points are the data for their more affluent peers.  The missing Not ED data reflect the VDOE suppression rule (no data when a group is <10 students).

The “All” data are the school average.  Here, the very large percentage of ED students makes the ED and All rates nearly equal.

The yellow line is the nominal accreditation value, 75% for English, 70% for everything else.

To the point here,

  • Until the cheating was halted in ‘18, the pass rates for both groups were astronomical, and
  • The ED students were reported to pass at about the same rates as the Not ED, in contrast to the state average difference of some 15 to 20 points.

The math data from Carver tell much the same story.

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Those data paint a portrait of cheating.  By the school staff, not by the kids.

As a contrast and to set an upper bound for reasonableness, here is Munford, the best-performing of Richmond’s elementary schools in terms of SOL pass rates.

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In that light, let’s look at Fairfield Court, which is one of the ten on the list.

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There are no ED data for 2014.  Whatever the reason, it clearly is not the suppression rule.

These data suggest (but, of course, do not prove) two things:

  1. They were cheating at Fairfield, just not as flagrantly as at Carver, and
  2. Before the 2018 testing, they got the Word that the State was becoming involved and let the numbers return to their actual level.

Of course, the 2018 score drop alone would be a reason to wonder whether it was time for a new principal.

Moving on to the rest of the list, here is Bellevue.

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The ED decreases in ‘17 and ‘18 and the Not ED in ‘18 probably offer a complete explanation for the new principal.

Next Blackwell.

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Ongoing, sorry performance could explain what happened there.

George Mason:

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Sorry performance in reading and declining math scores.

Ginter Park:

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Hard to know what to make of this: The Not ED rates are unusually close to the the ED, with the exception of reading in the last two years; perhaps more to the point, the reading scores are low and neither subject shows ED improvement.

Next, Greene.

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Declining performance, when increasing is what’s needed.

Last among the elementary schools, Overby-Sheppard.

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Could be lack of improvement; the generally small gap between ED and Not ED may indicate a problem.

Turning to the middle schools, here as a marker is Hill, the best of a sorry lot (and NOT on the list).

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(Notice the ED/Not ED gap that runs about twice the state average).

Henderson is the only middle school on the list.

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(Notice the abnormally thin ED/Not ED difference.)

As to the principal, low pass rates and a lack of recent improvement might well explain the turnover.

Then we have the high schools.  First on the list, Wythe.

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The reason for the turnover there is clear enough.  As well, the ED/Not ED difference is remarkably thin.

Next, Marshall.

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Hmmm.  No smoking gun there but another thin ED/Not ED gap.

Next, TJ.

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No obvious reason here for making the list.

Last, one of the two selective high schools, Community.

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If there’s a problem here, it’s not in reading.  Nor in the improvement of the math rates.

Bottom line: Except for a few obvious cases, these data don’t tell us what brought in the new principals.  The data do tell us that all ten principals have big jobs to do.

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Postscript: Our neighborhood school, where the principal was replaced last year.

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