2019-2020 Attendance

It’s Spring! The Narcissi are standing tall and promising blossoms. The Croci are in flower. Data are sprouting in last year’s Superintendent’s Annual Report.

Table 8, “Number of Days Taught, ADA, ADM,” gives us an early measure of the impact of the pandemic-related shutdowns.

Richmond’s end-of-year count of days taught was 120, just two-thirds of the statutory minimum. Richmond’s total was one day more than those of Hampton and Newport News, three days more than Norfolk, 6.6 days short of the division average.

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The highest in the state was Buckingham, 139 days; the lowest was Galax, 112.

Table 8 also shows end-of-year attendance data for the elementary and secondary schools. Richmond and all the peer cities managed to exacerbate the impact of the pandemic.

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The division with the highest average attendance was Falls Church with 96.4%. Lowest was Petersburg, 91.3%.

These data do not give us a picture of the number of days or attendance of any on-line schooling.

Of course, these numbers are but a warmup for the 2020-2021 shutdowns.

It appears that this year’s SOL testing will be voluntary so we’ll have to wait until the summer of 2022 for a measure of the impact of all this.

Inexperienced & Out-Of-Field Teachers

Returning to the Download Data under the School Quality Profiles: Under “Teacher Quality” there is a “Teacher Quality” indicator. The download there provides 2020 state, division, and school percentages of inexperienced teachers, out-of-field teachers, and teachers who are both inexperienced and out-of-field.

We get to have our own views whether experience or in- or out-of-field status reflects on teaching quality; VBOE is the licensing agency and it thinks those measures matter.

For Richmond and the state, the data for all schools (i.e., both Title I and Not) look like this.

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All the Richmond schools are listed as “High Poverty,” which is consonant with those zeroes for “Low Poverty” but raises the question why the “High Poverty” numbers are different from the “All Schools” values.

Note added on 2/12:

I asked VDOE about this discrepancy and they replied:

For these metrics, high poverty schools and low poverty schools represent the top and bottom quartiles of all schools in the state based on FRPL. So, when looking at the data by division, the high and low poverty school rates are calculated only on a subset of schools in that division. For Richmond specifically, there are 44 high poverty schools, 0 low poverty schools, and 6 schools with no poverty level (FRPL is not calculated).

In any case, the Richmond numbers all are high in comparison to the state averages. That situation persists in both the Title I and Not Title I schools.

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Turning to the Richmond elementary schools, here are the data, sorted by the inexperienced percentage:

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Data for Patrick Henry are missing in the database.

The only non-Title I schools here are Munford, Fox, and Holton.

Next, the middle schools.

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All the middle schools are Title I.

Finally, the high schools.

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Note: Franklin also has middle school grades. Community, Open, Huguenot, and TJ are Title I.

Richmond Schools and Provisional Teacher Licenses

The Virginia regulation says

The Provisional License is a nonrenewable license valid for a period not to exceed three years issued to an individual who has allowable deficiencies for full licensure as set forth in this chapter.

VDOE says there is a link between teacher training and student learning:

Standards for teachers, administrators and other educators in Virginia’s public schools recognize the link between preparation and content knowledge and student achievement.

To the extent teacher training is linked to student achievement, larger numbers of provisional licensees reflect a problem with school quality because those licensees are teaching without the preparation required for a regular license.

The School Quality Profiles from VDOE have a download page. Under “Teacher Quality,” that page offers data, 2020 only, with counts of provisional licenses statewide, by division, and by school.

The database offers numbers for All Schools, High Poverty, and Low Poverty. The data further come subdivided for Title I, Non-Title I, and All Schools. The Feds tell us that school divisions

target the Title I funds they receive to schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families. If a Title I school is operating a targeted assistance program, the school provides Title I services to children who are failing, or most at risk of failing

Here, then, are the Richmond and state data, expressed as percentages.

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The database lists all the Richmond schools as High Poverty, but provides “All Schools” Richmond numbers that are slightly different from the “High Poverty” values. Go Figure.

In any case, the Richmond All Schools/All Schools number, 15.4%, is 2.26 times the state average. As to Non-Title I, Richmond’s percentage is 1.9 times the state average; for Title I (the great majority of Richmond schools), that ratio is 2.2.

Turning to the Richmond elementary schools, we see:

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The Non-Title I schools here are Munford, Holton, and Fox.

Next, the middle schools.

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River City is the renamed Elkhardt-Thompson. Indeed, the map on the VDOE Web site still lists the school by the former name.

All the middle schools are Title I.

Finally the high schools

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The selective schools are colored green. Community, Open, Huguenot, and TJ are Title I.

Note: Franklin also has middle school grades.

To the extent that the Federal count in 2018 measures provisional licensees, it looks like the numbers improved between 2018 and 2020: 22.5% down to 15.4%. Stay tuned while I find out whether RPS will pony up the data by year, including this year, so we can all see the complete picture.

2020 (And Earlier) Dropouts from Richmond Schools

We have seen that Richmond’s public schools have a high 4-year cohort dropout rate among economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students and an appalling rate of dropouts among the more advantaged (“Not ED”) students.

Note: The #N/A entries represent cases where the numbers of students in the particular group is sufficiently small (<10) to trigger VDOE’s suppression rule.

The 2020 4-year cohort report includes data for schools with a graduating class. Here are those data for the Richmond schools, sorted by the school names, along with the state averages, .

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As to the selective high schools, Franklin, Open, and Community, those numbers are what we might wish to see everywhere, zero.

Looking only at the mainstream high schools, here sorted by school names, we see a different situation.

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Marshall and, especially, TJ report single digit rates. The dropout rates at the other three schools range from high to stratospheric, and all exhibit the counterintuitive inversion where the more affluent students dropped out at higher rates than the ED students.

Wythe holds last place with a 21% ED rate that is 3.1 times the state average and a 70% Not ED rate, 17 times the state average. The rates at Armstrong and Huguenot are perhaps less appalling but in any case plainly unacceptable.

The 2020 data are bound to be anomalous because of the pandemic so let’s look at some history.

But first a note on the data source: The (usually very helpful) VDOE cohort database access has been removed but the “Cohort Graduation Build-A-Table” is on the page. Clicking the link brings up a display that seems to offer the cohort dropout rates (along with the graduation rates) but if one has selected the (more honest) Federal graduation rate, the dropout data are absent. Select the (rigged) “On-Time”) graduation rate and you also can get dropout data. Go figure.

Here, then, are the recent dropout histories for Richmond and the state:

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Two things jump out here:

  1. As we would expect, the statewide dropout of ED students is higher than for their more affluent peers; in contrast, the Richmond difference is reversed and is huge; and
  2. The COVID effect (alone or with some other cause) reduced the ED rate statewide by 1.4% (17% relative) but in Richmond by a whopping 7.6% (38% relative).

The RPS people will want to claim credit for the reduction in the ED rate but that explanation does not comport with the increase in Not ED dropouts. In any case, something weird is going on in Richmond. If you have it figured out, please share that information. The estimable Jim Bacon has one take on that.

Turning to the Richmond schools with graduating classes, we see the wonderful,

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. . . and the awful (notice the different scales!),

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. . . and the much less disturbing,

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. . . ranging to right fine (in ‘20, at least).

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As with the strange ED/Not ED inversions in all the mainstream high schools, these data do not clearly answer the question whether our new Superintendent has done anything useful about the dropout rate.

Counting Teacher Licenses: An Exegesis on Bureaucracy

An earlier post discussed the remarkably large number of unlicensed teachers in Richmond as reported in the 2018 USDoE Civil Rights Data Collection.

An email from the RPS Chief of Staff (added to that earlier post) responded that only four of about 2,100 Richmond teachers now are unlicensed, unless you also count 38 whose paperwork is hanging at VDOE because of COVID-related backups.

If true, that would show an astounding improvement in just three years. Unfortunately, it was not true, at least in the sense of the federal data.

The Feds count (pdf: “crdc-school-form”) as unlicensed all teachers

who did not meet all state licensing/certification requirements). Teachers working toward certification by way of alternative routes, or teachers with an emergency, temporary, or provisional credential are not considered to have met state requirements.

The Virginia regulation provides:

The Provisional License is a nonrenewable license valid for a period not to exceed three years issued to an individual who has allowable deficiencies for full licensure as set forth in this chapter. The Provisional License will be issued for a three-year validity period, with the exceptions of the Provisional (Career Switcher) License that will initially be issued for a one-year validity period and the Provisional Teach For America License issued for a two year validity period. Individuals shall complete all requirements for licensure, including passing all licensure assessments, for a renewable license within the validity period of the Provisional License.

But the Chief of Staff said in an email,

Provisionally licensed teachers count as licensed teachers by the VDOE (that was part of the business rules I had initially inquired on).  So that is not the same as the 4 or the 38 I referenced.

So, of course, the RPS numbers can be vastly different from the CRDC data because of VDOE’s and Richmond’s view of what “licensed” means.

We can get some insight into the difference by looking at the 2020 “School Quality Profile” (the only year available) on the VDOE Web site. There we see numbers of provisionally licensed teachers in RPS and the state:

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That 2020 state number is 1.9 times the 2018 federal number of unlicensed teachers, while the 2020 Richmond value is 0.68 as large as that 2018 federal number.

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To try to make some sense of the two approaches, we might consider the bureaucratic imperatives:

  • Federal: Grow the budget by finding “problems” that can be palliated with federal money. Thus, count all teachers who are not fully and finally licensed.
  • State: Have it both ways – look good (everybody licensed!) but show the need for more money (lots of provisional licenses). Thus, encourage Richmond to count the provisional licenses (in a sense, the learners’ permits) as licenses but also provide provisional license data for the division to use when talking to legislators.

See also the 2020 Annual Report of the Board of Education at pp. 20-21:

Like much of the nation, Virginia continues to face a shortage of quality educators entering and remaining in Virginia’s public schools. This decline is correlated with low teacher salaries and lack of commitment to tap financial resources to correct this crucial situation. Teacher vacancies are found in every region of the Commonwealth, but are not distributed evenly. The number of unfilled positions increased from 440 during the 2010-2011 school year to a height of 1,081 in the 2016-2017 school year, then dropped slightly in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school year. In the 2019-2020 school year, the number went up to 1,063 (Chart II). The percent of provisionally licensed and inexperienced teachers has similarly climbed. This shortage has reached emergency levels in many high poverty school divisions that do not have the resources to compete with other school divisions

Make what you will of this. I think it speaks to the need to provide complete and detailed data to the taxpayers who are funding the education establishment.  For a start, RPS might pony up the complete counts for all classifications of its teachers, licensed vel non, for 2018-2020, so we can see what their situation really is.

2020 Dropout Rates

First, some background:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the population of U.S. 18- through 24-year-olds not enrolled in school and without a high school diploma or General Educational Development, or GED, credential was 16.4 percent in 2009. Among 16- to 24-year-olds who were incarcerated during 2006-07, only 1 in 1,000 had a bachelor’s degree, while 6.3 percent were high school dropouts who didn’t have a GED. (Sum, Khatiwada, McLaughlin & Palma, 2009).

For the class that graduated in 2020, the 4-year Cohort data provide a picture of Richmond’s dropout problem.

To start, here are the division average dropout rates for the cohort, sorted by increasing rate.

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The red bars are the peer jurisdictions, from the left Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk. Richmond is the yellow bar.

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Richmond was 4.5 times the state average.

Not shown here are the seven divisions reporting no dropouts: Bristol, Colonial Beach, Grayson, Highland, Norton, Richmond County, and Surry. Also absent are the 61 divisions not reported because of the suppression rule (<10 in the group).

In this cohort, 53.9% of the Richmond students were economically disadvantaged (“ED”) (mostly students who qualify for the federal free/reduced price lunch program; in 2019 that threshold for a family of four was $47,638).

The ED students in Richmond did better than the Richmond average.

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In contrast, the state average ED dropout rate is higher than the rate for all students.

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Richmond’s ED rate was 1.8 times the state average.

Hampton and Newport News (as well as 72 other divisions) were lost to the suppression rule, i.e., fewer than 10 ED students dropped out.

The graph does not show the 11 divisions with no ED dropouts: the 7 listed above plus Amelia, Bland, Brunswick, and Poquoson. The ED winner there is Manassas, 18.1%.

Of course, if the Richmond ED students dropped out at a lower rate than the average, their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) must have dropped out at a higher rate. Indeed, in Richmond the Not ED rate is nearly three times the ED rate:

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Richmond’s Not ED rate was 8.7 times the state average.

It would be interesting to know what Richmond is doing about dropouts. For sure, getting rid of their attendance officers was not useful.

The Ed Week piece quoted above tells us what can be done about dropouts:

A 2008 review of the research on preventing dropouts by the U.S. Department of Education also identifies key components of effective programs. Besides data-based, early-warning systems, these strategies include: creating more personalized learning environments for students; providing extra support and academic enrichment for struggling students; assigning adult advocates to students deemed to be at risk of dropping out; and providing rigorous and relevant instruction to engage students in learning.

While they are negotiating the Superintendent’s contract, the School Board would do well to put in a clause requiring a dramatic improvement in these numbers and full and public disclosure of the dropout data (by school and division) for the past four years and going forward.

Teachers: Licensed And Not

Note added on 2/7/21:

For some insight into this situation, see this later post.

Note added on 2/5/21:

I just received the following email (sent to me and the estimable Carol Wolf) by Michelle Hudacsko, the RPS Chief of Staff:

Hi Carol and John,

There are 4 teachers in RPS that are unlicensed.  I’m getting information on why.  The four teachers are at the following locations/content areas:

· Oak Grove – Kindergarten
· Miles Jones -2nd grade
· Woodville – 4th grade
· Armstrong – Art

There are 32 teachers whose licensure application is with the State being processed.  There are 6 teachers hired in December/January and are getting paperwork in to us to submit to the State. 

We have about 2,100 teachers.  So if you count just the 4 unlicensed we are about 0% unlicensed (as I expected and as it should be!).  If you count the 38 who are just in a licensure processing queue (which is a bit delayed due to COVID), while I would argue they aren’t unlicensed from a qualifications perspective, just a paper perspective, we’d be at 2%.

To the extent these data from the RPS “Talent” office are complete and accurate, this bespeaks a big win for our Superintendent. More to the point, to the extent teacher qualifications are relevant to students’ learning, this indicates a big win for Richmond’s schoolchildren.

As well, if these data had been available on the RPS Web site, the post below would have been much more a celebration than a lamentation.

End of note.


There is room to argue whether the licensing system for public school teachers measures teaching quality. The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality says “no”:

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act mandates that all teachers should be highly qualified, and by the federal definition, most teachers now meet this requirement. However, it is increasingly clear that “highly qualified” – having the necessary qualifications and certifications – does not necessarily predict “highly effective” teaching – teaching that improves student learning.

In any case, the system is in effect and the 2018 Civil Rights Data Collection has the counts of full-time teachers who do, or do not, meet all state licensing/certification requirements.

To start, here are the percentages of unlicensed teachers in the Virginia public school divisions.

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Richmond is the gold bar at 22.5%. The red bars, from the left, are the peer cities Newport News (barely visible at 0.1%), Norfolk, and Hampton. The blue bar is Galax which, at 3.7%, is closest to the state average of 3.6%.

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Richmond is 6.3 times the division average.

Turning to the Richmond schools:

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The yellow bars are the Richmond high schools (with Community invisible at 0% and counting Franklin as a high school); the pink are the middle schools; and the green, the elementary. The white bars are specialty schools (five of which are at 0%). Gold is the Richmond average; blue is the state division average.

Here is the list.

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Turning to the relationship between the SOL reading pass rate and the percentage of unlicensed teachers:

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The fitted curve suggests a seven point decrease in the pass rate per 10% increase in the unlicensed teachers, with just over a fifth of the variance in the pass rates explained by the unlicensed percentage.

The math data show a stronger relationship: 8.6% decrease per 10% and R-squared = 27%.

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Of course, these data do not imply causation so they cannot tell us whether larger numbers of unlicensed teachers tend to reduce the pass rates or whether schools with lower pass rates tend to hire larger numbers of unlicensed teachers.  But I’ll bet you a #2 lead pencil it’s the latter.

Indeed, it would be an interesting, and perhaps useful, experiment to fully staff up, say, Boushall (48% unlicensed, reading pass rate = 47%) or MLK (39%, 32%) with licensed teachers and see what happens.

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Puzzle question: Can you explain why the Richmond percentage of unlicensed teachers is more strongly associated with the decrease of pass rates of students who are not economically disadvantaged (“Not ED”) than with the rates of those who are (“ED”)?

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Your hypothesis needs to accommodate the division-level data that reverse that order, mostly by the weaker relationship with the Not ED pass rates.

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Richmond is the enlarged, yellow points. The red are, from the left, Newport News, Norfolk, and Hampton.

2018 CRDC: First & Second Year Teachers

Continuing to dig into the 2018 Civil Rights Data Collection, here are the Virginia division percentages of first-year teachers.

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Richmond is the gold bar at 18.3%. The blue bar is Buena Vista is at 5.8%, which also is the state average. Richmond is 3.2 times the state average.

The red bars are the peer cities, from the left Newport News (7%), Hampton (7.9%), and Norfolk (11%).

The second-year percentages of full time teachers paint quite a different picture.

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The average is 5%. Four divisions straddle that value: Alleghany and Alexandria at 4.9%; Stafford and Montgomery at 5.1%. The blue bar is on the first of the 5.1% divisions.

The maximum datum there is Sussex, which is off scale at 40.7%; the county went from 9 first-year to 43 second-year (out of 103.24 total; I’d be interested to meet that 0.24 teacher).

Richmond drops to 3.1% (from the first-year value of 18.3%). The implication is heavy hiring of first-year teachers, most of whom quit or go to a nearby division after that year.

The peer cities from the left are Newport News (4.7%), Hampton (6.5%), and Norfolk (7.1%).

In the ordinary course, we might expect the second-year numbers to be a bit lower than the first-year to reflect teachers who move to another division or quit the profession. The actual picture is more complicated:

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Note: These second-year data are from 2018, as are the first-year, so the difference is meaningful only to the extent that hiring was about the same in both 2017-8 and 2016-7.

Richmond here is second from the highest: 15.2% difference.

The state average is 0.8%, i.e., most of the first-year teachers hired the previous year staying for a second year (or being replaced by new 2d-year hires). These data show some huge differences from that value, however.

At the negative end (i.e., divisions where there are more second- than first-year teachers), the leader is Sussex, off scale at –32%. Essex is next at a much less extravagant –6.3%. The hopeful explanation for these cases is large numbers of first year hires the previous year, most of whom stayed for a second year.

Indeed, many of these differences probably are the result of year-to-year variations in hiring patterns. For example, the Richmond data from the previous (2016) CRDC show large numbers for both first- and second-year teacher populations but a difference that, while large, was much closer to the state average than in 2018.

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As a benchmark: If all teachers were hired in their first year and all retired after thirty, the first-year/second-year difference would be zero, with both populations 3.3%. The Richmond first-year numbers were 4.7 times that in 2016 and 5.5 times in 2018.

We could wish for more data, but we’re stuck with what the Feds have collected here. Those numbers nonetheless show a whole lot of first-year teachers in Richmond, and suggest a very large attrition rate of those first-year hires.

Teacher Truancy Costs, 2018 Version

RPS is hiring a lot of substitute teachers because, as measured by the 2018 CRDC, astounding numbers of the full time teachers are absent from work. The RPS budgets provide a measure of the costs.

In the 2017 adopted budget there was a line item in “General Fund Expenditures by Object Class” under “Other Compensation” for substitutes (at category 523): “N-SUBSTITUTE INSTR PROF.”

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In the 2020 budget, that category had morphed to “N-INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF.”

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Indeed, that category title changed every year from 2017 to 2020 (and in between the category number disappeared). No telling what’s going on there.

We can extract some useful information from this, however, because each budget contains data for the previous two years. The numbers reported under the new category titles in later budgets included those under the older titles in the earlier budgets. That is, despite the name changes, this category was, and remained, for substitute instructors.

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These budgets also include the “actual” expenditures for substitutes for the first of the three budget years: Those show RPS underestimating the substitute teacher costs by 33 to 42 percent in each of the four years analyzed above.

And, to the point of teacher truancy, if RPS could cut the actual substitute costs by half, they could boost the full time teaching salaries by about 3% without increasing the overall budget.

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Your tax dollars at “work.”

2018 CRDC: Teacher Certification

The importance of teacher quality should be clear but here’s room to debate the effectiveness of teacher certification. Nonetheless, certification is one of the few measures available to those of us who are taxed to pay those teachers.

Here, then, from the 2018 CRDC, are the Virginia public school division percentages of full time teachers not certified.

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There are 32 divisions with 0%, i.e., all the teachers are certified. Richmond is the Big Winner with 22.5%, the gold bar. The red are, from the left, the peer cities Newport News (nearly hidden, 0.1%), Norfolk, and Hampton. The blue is the bar for Galax which, at 3.7% is the closest division to the division average, 3.6%.

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Next, the Richmond schools:

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Richmond’s awful middle schools, pink, dominate the high end here, except for Hill at 17% (4.8 times the division average). The high schools, yellow, are spread out some, ranging from Community (invisible at 0%) to Wythe at 35%. The elementary schools, green, run from 4% to 31%. The blue bar is the Richmond average, 22.5%, which is 6.3 times the division average.

Here is the list.

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Except for Community High and six of the specialty schools, all our schools had remarkable shortages of certified teachers. Perhaps that was related to the salaries: The Richmond average for teaching positions in ‘18 was $51,528 against a state average of $57,260. Then, again, these data don’t tell us how much of the salary difference reflected lower salaries paid to all those uncertified teachers.