High Schools

Finally, here are the End of Course pass rates at Richmond’s high schools for the reading and math tests:

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Notice the huge decrease in scores caused by the new reading tests in ‘13 and the appalling drop attending the new math tests in ‘12.

These data must be taken with a front end loader full of salt because of Richmond’s remarkably high retest rate that VDOE kept hidden until a judge made them cough up the 2014 SGP data.  Here, for example, are the 2014 algebra I retest counts in Richmond.

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My analysis of those data showed that the retests increased the SOL scores of the students involved by an average of 24.6 points on a test where 400 was passing (i.e., by 6.1% of the passing score).

This year, for the first time, retests were available for elementary and middle school students.  Even with that boost (about 4% according to VDOE), we have seen the Richmond middle school and far too many elementary school scores endured at appalling levels.

Richmond Middle Schools

Here are the average reading pass rates, by year, of the Richmond middle schools.

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Recalling that the Accreditation Benchmark for reading is 75%, we see our highest scoring middle school five points below that mark.

Recalling further that Thompson was the only Richmond school denied accreditation last year, and noticing that Thompson almost looks good in comparison to King and Henderson, we see further evidence of VDOE’s wholesale cooking of the accreditation data.

The math data paint a similar picture.

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The Accreditation Benchmark here is 70% and only Hill comes even close.  Note also that the “accreditation denied” Thompson has whipped the “accredited with warning” Elkhardt, Henderson, and King for all four years of the new math tests.

It should be a crime to subject any child to any of these schools.  It is an embarrassment.

Richmond Elementary Schools

Looking further into the SOL pass rates, here are the reading data for Richmond’s elementary schools by year:

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That graph is much too complicated but it does contain all the data, plus the Richmond average.  Also, the graph does illuminate the disastrous effect of the new tests in 2013 and the relative abilities of some schools to weather the change (notably Carver(!), Munford, and Fox, and, with a different pattern, Fairfield) and the gross failures of others (notable Mason, Oak Grove, and Woodville).  Doubtless this tells us a lot about the principals of those schools, especially in light of the more challenging student populations at Carver and Fairfield.

Focusing on the high and low performers, plus our neighborhood school (with the State average for grades 3-5 added) gives a more readable picture.

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The math scores paint a similar picture, except that the Big Hit from the new tests came a year earlier.

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More on Economic Disadvantage vs. SOL Pass Rates

I earlier showed that Richmond’s dismal pass rates on the reading and math SOLs are not explained by Richmond’s large population of economically disadvantaged students.

Drilling further into the data, here are the twenty-eight divisions with the largest populations of economically disadvantaged students:

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If we plot the pass rates vs. the % ED for these divisions, we obtain:

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The gold points are Richmond; the red are Newport News, on the left, and Norfolk.  The high performer there on reading is Norton; high score on math is Highland.

To the point here, Richmond did not outscore any of these divisions on the reading tests and did better in math than only three: Brunswick, Martinsville, and Cumberland.  Said otherwise, all Virginia divisions with similar to much larger populations of economically disadvantaged students are getting better pass rates in reading and twenty-four of twenty-seven and are outpacing Richmond in math.

Poverty is not an excuse for the awful performance of our school system.

Lies, Damn Lies, and SOL Scores

Both VODE VDOE [blush] and the Governor are out with press releases bragging on the “significant progress” (or significant improvement) in SOL pass rates.  To their credit, both then acknowledge that the five point increases in the reading and math pass rates come in the face of four point score boosts from the newly installed retakes.

VDOE has not released data that would let us examine the retake boost in any detail.  Using their four-point number, the “significant progress,” 4.6% in reading and 5.2% in math, looks more like minimal progress: 0.6% in reading, 1.2% in math:

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As Omar might (not) have written:

The moving target moves; and having moved,

Moves on:  nor all thy piety nor wit

Shall lure it back to give an honest answer

Nor all thy tears wash away the bureaucrats’ obfuscation.

Anatomy of a Lousy Performance: SOLs by School

Here are the 2014 and 2015 Reading pass rates by Richmond school:

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You may recall that the accreditation benchmark for reading is a 75% pass rate.  VDOE cooks the accreditation numbers so thoroughly that the 75% criterion may be interesting as a rule of thumb but it is meaningless as to which schools actually get accredited.  You’ll notice that none of the mainstream middle schools and far too few of the elementary schools made 75% this year.  Indeed, King went from unspeakably bad to worse, never mind anything to do with 75%.

For another, perhaps more useful, measure, the statewide average reading pass rate was 79.0.

Franklin has both middle and high school grades so I’ve included it in both lists, although its scores can’t be directly compared to either.

Carver continued its spectacular performance, leading among the (only) six elementary schools to beat 75%. 

Next the math data.  Recall that the accreditation criterion is 70%.  The state average pass rate this year was 79.4.

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Notice the decreases at Open and Marshall, as well as the uniformly miserable pass rates of the middle schools.  Note the several elementary schools doing pretty well, led again by Carver. 

SOL v. Cost

Table 13 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report lists annual disbursements by division.  Unfortunately, we only have the 2014 data; the current data ordinarily don’t come out until the following Spring.

Deleting the facilities, debt, and contingency entries, and juxtaposing the resulting disbursement totals with the 2015 Reading SOL Pass rates, produces the following graph.

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Richmond is the gold square.  The red diamonds are, from the left, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.  Thus we see the comparable old, urban jurisdictions performing poorly at about average cost while Richmond’s reading performance is much worse at a much higher cost.

The datum up there at $11,127, 23% less expensive than Richmond, is West Point, with an 87.8% pass rate.

The R2 value of 2.3% tells us that, among the Virginia school divisions, reading performance and cost per student are essentially uncorrelated.

The math data paint a similar picture.

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The division pass rates again fail to correlate with expenditure. 

The point up top ($11,127, 89.0%) is West Point, again.

These data say, quite clearly, that Richmond’s education establishment should stop whining about money and start educating the City’s children.

New SOL Data, Continued . . .

The excuse we often hear for Richmond’s poor performance on the SOL tests is poverty.

VDOE has data on that.  They define a student as “economically disadvantaged” if that student “1) is eligible for Free/Reduced Meals, or 2) receives TANF, or 3) is eligible for Medicaid, or 4) [is] identified as either Migrant or experiencing Homelessness.”  Data are here.

Juxtaposing the 2015 Division pass rates with the ED percentage of the enrollment, we see the following for the reading tests:

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With an R2 of 0.5, it appears that ED is a reasonably good predictor of Division reading pass rates. 

Richmond is the gold square on the graph.  The red diamonds are the comparable old, urban jurisdictions: From the left, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.  The yellow points are the outstanding performers: From the left, West Point, Wise, Norton, and Highland.  Notice that Norton and Highland are outperforming about as much as Richmond is underperforming, with about the same level of poverty.

Turning to the math tests, the correlation drops but the pattern is much the same:

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Richmond again is the gold square; the red points again are Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.  Norton drops out of the yellow outperforming group, leaving West Point, Wise, and Highland.

Looks to me like Richmond needs a better excuse than poverty.

SOL Scores are Up. Richmond Scores are Up Some.

VDOE today posted the 2015 SOL data.

“Wait a minute,” you say.  “They had those data in time to schedule graduations last May.  Why did they wait until now to publish them?”

Good question.  Their excuse is that the summer testing data are not available until now.  The reason (one suspects; they hide the data so we can’t actually know) is that they manipulate these data extensively and all that futzing takes time.

Quick Background

The new math tests in 2012 and the new reading tests in 2013 lowered the pass rates statewide and clobbered the Richmond rates.  The Richmond recovery was delayed because our former Superintendent failed to align the curricula to the new tests.  This provided our new Super a nice opportunity to shine. 

First Look at the Data

A first look at the 2015 data suggests that it was more of a glowing than a shining:

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Compared to some peers and a neighbor:

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Stay tuned for more analysis.