Middle Schools in Context

For the Richmond middle schools, the 2019 SOL pass rates range from encouraging to appalling, mostly the latter.

To start, here are the rates on the 6th grade reading test. “ED” indicates “economically disadvantaged” students. “Not ED” are the more affluent peers. I’ve highlighted the Richmond data: green for Not ED and red for ED.

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Notes:

  • Pass rates on the SOL tests generally are ca. 15 to 20 points lower for ED than for Not ED students. The reported SOL pass rates are are averages over all students so that schools and divisions with larger proportions of ED students generally have lower reported pass rates. This reporting system thus unfairly rewards the more affluent schools and divisions and penalizes the poorer ones. By examining both the ED and Not ED results, we can avoid that problem.
  • Some of the very high and low %ED schools run into the suppression rule: VDOE suppresses the report where there are <10 students in a group. Data for those cases are missing from the database and, thus, from these graphs.

To focus on the Richmond schools, let’s hide the statewide data but keep the fitted lines that tell us about the state averages. And, FWIW, the purple line below is the nominal level for accreditation. But recall that VDOE “adjusts” the pass rates in order to accredit many schools that come nowhere near that threshold.

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Notice the changed range on the x-axis.

Franklin, a selective school, is the winner here. Among the Not ED rates of the mainstream middle schools, Hill beats the state average, Binford flirts with it, and Brown is low (and below the accreditation threshold). Everything else, ED and Not ED, is below, mostly far below, the state average for ED students. Henderson is missing, courtesy of the suppression rule. Their ED pass rate is 48%. The Boushall ED and Not ED rates are inverted, as are the Elkhardt-Thompson, albeit less dramatically.

Turning to the 7th grade:

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MLK is victim of the suppression rule; the ED pass rate there is 25%. Franklin makes a less splendid (but still above average) showing. For Boushall, the usual ED/Not ED order is inverted again. Richmond, again, overpopulates the cellar.

Eighth grade reading:

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Franklin is back in the saddle here. MLK rises above the suppression rule, but its news is hardly good. The Boushall Not ED rate again is below the ED; something unusual looks to be going on there.

The new math tests in 2019 raised pass rates statewide by 3.4% for Not ED students, 6.6% for ED. Notice the elevated fitted lines here. That dilution of the tests did little for Richmond.

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MLK and Henderson are caught by the suppression rule. MLK’s 27% ED rate, Henderson’s 37%, and too much of the other Richmond data again help define the bottom of the barrel. The Boushall rates again are inverted.

Next, the seventh grade.

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Franklin makes its worst showing here. Henderson and MLK again have too few Not ED students to get past the suppression rule; their ED rates are 22% and 14%. Binford takes a hit. The Boushall numbers again are inverted.

Eighth grade math:

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Henderson is suppressed; it’s ED rate is 61%. The ED and Not ED rates are inverted at MLK and Elkhardt-Thompson. Perhaps this reflects the natural fluctuation to be expected with very small numbers of Not ED students at MLK (25 Not ED students tested) but that looks less likely at E-T (49 Not ED students).

The bottom line: Except for Franklin and for Not ED students at Hill and (mostly) at Binford, Richmond’s middle schools are a disgrace to the community and a threat to our children.


Improving Graduation Rates

How? By applying the lesson of the history of rampant cheating when the locals get to grade SOLs: 

Agency
Department of Education

Board
State Board of Education

chapter
Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia [8 VAC 20 ‑ 131]

Action:

Amendments to permit students entering the ninth grade prior to the 2018-19 school year to be awarded locally-awarded verified credit in English and mathematics when certain Board of Education-established criteria are met.

General Information

Action Summary
The proposed amendments allow students that entered the ninth grade prior to the 2018-19 school year to be awarded locally-awarded verified credits in English and mathematics when certain Board of Education-established criteria are met…

And Then There Was Petersburg

The previous post showed the recent progress, particularly of the economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students, in Southwest Virginia (Region 7). For example, on the reading tests:

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Contrast this with the abiding failure in Petersburg.

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The math data tell much the same story.

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Note added 11/7: A reader (the reader?) points out that PBurg has lots of ED students. Indeed, 76% this year, v. 61% in Region 7. The point remains: Region 7 has LOTS of ED students and manages to improve their pass rates; PBurg has more and utterly fails to improve.

In SW Virginia, the schools formed the Comprehensive Instructional Program, first implemented in 2015. The CIP now has expanded to some forty-one divisions.

As to Petersburg, the State Board of Education adopted a Corrective Action Plan in 2016. This was only the latest step in a process that began in 2004.

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(“MOU” is bureaucratese for Memorandum of Understanding, which is the misleading term for an edict of the Board of Education.)

Here is an abbreviated comparison of the Region 7’s Comprehensive Instructional Program and the Board of Education’s Corrective Action Plan for Petersburg:

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STOP! Please go back and read all of each of those lists so you can fully appreciate the fecklessness of the Board’s approach.

A modest proposal: Let’s expand the CIP statewide and and shrink the Board of Education’s function to what they can usefully do: statistics and webinars.

Super Southwest Scores

The estimable Jim Bacon reports on the recent success of schools in Southwest Virginia. The schools there collaborated in an initiative that now has spread to encompass 41 divisions. A map of those divisions is here. (Click on the map to identify a division of interest.)

The VDOE Web pages have some data on the results. The graphs below are for the original area, “Region 7.”

Image of Virginia regions

The recent improvements in Region 7 SOL pass rates have been remarkable.

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The numbers beneath those averages are even more remarkable.

To start, these schools have large proportions of what the state calls “economically disadvantaged” (here “ED”) students. Statewide, ED students pass the SOL tests at lower averages than their more affluent (“Not ED”) peers: in 2019, 21.97 points lower in reading, 16.79 points in math.

Region 7 has a lot of ED students. For example, on the reading tests:

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Note: There is an anomaly in these numbers. Washington County goes from 62.3% ED in 2018 to 99.1% in 2019. This looks like a data error; I have asked VDOE about it. The 2019 average with Washington Co. excluded would be 56.0%. For now, it would be wise to ignore the Washington Co. numbers and to discount that 61% some.

The recent improvements in the Region 7 SOL averages are driven by improvements in the ED pass rates (that were better than the State averages even before the CIP collaboration).

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At the risk of cluttering those graphs, here they are again with the SOL averages included.

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Of course, the progress in the region has not been homogeneous. Here, to risk a spaghetti graph, are the Not ED reading data. (Excel runs out of colors, thus the duplicates. But, really, there are too many data in this graph.)

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The yellow line running across the bottom is Buchanan Co. The blue pair at the top in recent years are Radford and Wise Co. The light green line that plunges from near the top in 2018 to dead last in 2019 is Washington Co., with 2019 probably a bad datum.

The ED data show everybody but Pulaski beating the state average.

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That green winner in 2019 is Washington County (again probably a data problem).

For the record, the math data:

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The Bacon post will tell you how they did this.

Patrick Henry Performance

The estimable Jim Bacon raised the question of the performance of Richmond’s Patrick Henry, a charter school.

As to the 2019 SOL pass rates, the answer is: fourth place among the Richmond elementary schools on the reading tests (but 1.9 points below the 75% nominal benchmark for accreditation), seventh place in math (and 6.9 points above the 70% math benchmark).

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But the testing universe is more complicated than that. The major predictor of school performance is none of the usual input measures such as class size, teacher salaries, teacher degrees, or the like; the students’ socioeconomic background is the most important factor. As to matters at the school, teacher quality is most important, ahead of facilities and curricula.

Virginia resolutely refuses to measure teacher quality but we do have data on the major factor, poverty.

The (very nice) VDOE database offers pass rates of students who are, to use the official euphemism, “economically disadvantaged,” (here “ED”), or not (here “Not ED”). So let’s look at Patrick Henry in light of those data.

On the 2019 reading and math testing, Patrick Henry was 40.3% ED, well below the Richmond median of 76% in the group tested in reading, 75% in math.

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For reference, the state average elementary ED population on these tests was 44%.

The 2019 Not ED reading pass rate at Patrick Henry was 86.25, behind only Munford and Fox, and well above the 75% benchmark. The math rate, 87.5, was one notch farther down the list but still in good company and far above the 70% benchmark.

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Note: Jones and Fairfield Court are reported with no data because they had too few Not ED students to get past the suppression rule.

In terms of its ED students, Patrick Henry was eleventh in Richmond on the reading tests with a 53.7% pass rate; it was tenth in math at 61.1 and still farther behind the Richmond leaders.

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In short, Patrick Henry owes those pretty good SOL averages to its very good Not ED scores and its relatively small population of ED students.

In reading, the ED students at Patrick Henry were 32.6 points below the Not ED; in math, it was 26.4. Statewide, the ED/Not ED average differences for the elementary grades were 22.4 and 16.5. That leaves Patrick Henry’s ED pass rates lower than normal by just about ten points.

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Another ten points on the ED pass rates would put Patrick Henry’s reading at 64, still too low but among the leaders in Richmond, and its math at 71, above the math benchmark.

This is a surprisingly poor showing as to the ED students for a school where the families care enough to apply for admission, to commit to contribute 24 hours per year, and, by implication, to provide an encouraging environment at home.

Of course, these data do not measure the degrees of affluence or poverty within the ED and Not ED groups. Nonetheless they suggest that Patrick Henry is doing quite well with its Not ED students (at least as measured in the Richmond milieu) but not well with its ED kids.

BTW: Patrick Henry joins Fox and Munford in this respect.

It would be interesting to know whether the Patrick Henry principal and the RPS Superintendent are doing something about this gap. Patrick Henry was accredited this year (on the Board of Education’s new, Lake Woebegone system) so we might doubt it.

The New Knee

On July 24, I went down to MCV (newcomers to town might call it “VCU Health”) and laid on a hard table while Dr. Gregory Golladay took a knife and saw to my left knee.

MCV has a helpful process that largely prepared me for the surgery. RN Janet Muntean, a consummate pro, ran the ortho boot camp with skill and kindness.

My experience at and since leaving the hospital has taught some further lessons. Here is my summary of those.

Four Factors

There are four factors, aside from luck, that determine the outcome of a joint replacement:

  • The skill and care of the medical team;
  • My condition going in;
  • My compliance with the post-op program; and
  • My attitude.

I am in charge of 75% of those.

The Medics

Based on my own experience with this and an earlier surgery and on Ms. Penelope’s several bouts with her own set of problems, the folks at MCV are remarkably skilled, careful, and cheerful. And, in important ways, they want what you want: They want you healthy and they want you out of the hospital.

My surgery started about 2 PM. I remember hearing the saw as they shaped the bone and hearing the pounding as they hammered in the implant. They had me sufficiently full of happy juice that I found those sounds merely curious.

About 4 PM they took me to Recovery. The kind nurse there went and got Ms. Penelope from the crowded waiting area.

The nurse told me they’d release me to the orthopedic floor as soon as I could wiggle my toes. I had not thought about toes until then and I found I could not even twitch them on the operated leg. Of course, with the nerve block I couldn’t feel any pain, either. The feeling slowly moved down that leg until, about 6 PM, my toes moved.

At about 2 AM the next morning (nobody gets much sleep the night after surgery), the night nurse had me up and standing beside the bed. Before breakfast she had the Foley catheter out. By midmorning, I had met the two requirements for discharge: I had produced some clear urine and I had demonstrated to the in-house Physical Terrorist (sometimes known as “Physical Therapist”) that I could manage the walker, the crutches, and the stairs. They threw me out about noon.

That was less than 24 hours after the first incision.

As always, you should avoid hospitals vigorously but, if you have to embrace the hospital risk, this one is really fine.

Condition Going In

One of the Physical Terrorists who worked on me after the operation told of his father’s knee operation. When the need for the operation arose, he hauled Dad to the gym and started him on a serious strength program that included, especially

  • Squats,
  • Deadlifts,
  • Bench Presses,
  • Rows,
  • Lat Pulldowns, and
  • Dips (think body weight crutch exercises).

ALL of those are crucial, with the squats, dips and bench press the first among equals.

The squats are first line leg strengtheners; they and the deadlifts are powerful balance exercises.

One of the first lessons from the bench press is hand position to put the weight straight thru the wrists. Grab the bar naturally and the wrists wind up bent, which is a prescription for hurt wrists. The lesson applies directly to the dips at the gym and to the walker and crutches at home.

I was pleased to hear that list of exercises: It mirrors most of what I’ve been doing at the gym for several years.

To that list I would add the ministrations of my former Yoga teacher, Sophia Wilson, the Princess of Pain. Among other things, she worked on abdominal strength and flexibility (not to mention balance). If you don’t think your tummy is important, get a glass of water and try to drink it in bed (without a straw, of course). Or lie back on the bed and try to use one leg to lift the other off the floor and onto the mattress. And with one gimpy leg and a post-op injunction from the Doctor, “DON’T FALL DOWN,” balance joins the crucial list.

Post-Op Compliance

If you’re dealing with Medicare, you can look forward to about five weeks of home visits by a Physical Terrorist. Mine were from Encompass Health; they did a fine job.

These folks know what is good for you and they are relentless. Indeed, as soon as you master one aspect, they’ll come up with something tougher to do. They can tell you horror stories of patients who wouldn’t stand the discomfort of PT and who wound up with knees that were as bad as or worse than before the operation.

I was pleased that the first basic exercise, marching all about the house on the walker, was not particularly uncomfortable; indeed, the knee usually felt better after the marching. They wanted me up and walking every hour. The marching soon enough progressed to other, less comfortable, torments.

I have learned from hard experience to not overdo the exercises. I can exercise a healthy joint to, or nearly to, failure and expect nothing worse than a sore joint in the morning. Working a hurt joint that hard is a painful mistake.

It is particularly dangerous (for me at least) to exercise a hurt knee, as some of the PT folks recommend, while in the gentle embrace of oxycodone. I prefer to work out without meds and I am careful to stop if anything gets to about 6 on my pain scale.

After the home PT, I had my choice of outpatient providers. I elected to stick with the MCV system and picked the Stony Point location for convenience. I am working there with David Naputi, yet another pro, and Cameron Gordon, a student doing her practicum under David’s supervision. I think Cameron will make a wonderful Terrorist.

The outpatient level of discomfort varied but the importance of doing the exercises, be they silly, uncomfortable, and/or boring, abided.

Attitude

The operation, the pain, and the boredom messed with my brain. The pervasive dependence on others tended to make me snappish.

This can be as dangerous as the drugs: Any less than cheerful behavior, especially any movement in the direction of depression, will poison the relationship with caregivers. Moreover, that stuff feeds upon itself; the first victim of my bad attitude is me.

I have learned to (try to) stay busy, do everything needed for the knee and then focus on something else. That can be tough when the knee banishes further sleep after the 02:00 bladder break but, hey, knee surgery is not for sissies.

Early on, the drugs are there as a last resort; even then, it’s time to work on being cheerful.

Misc. Lessons

I laid out a pair of moccasins for use after surgery. I thought I was being smart because the backs would keep them from slipping off while I was up. Silly me: I couldn’t get the left moc on because the foot, along with the rest of the leg, was swollen from the surgery. I was the Barefoot Boy for about ten days (Yoga was good practice for that).

Ice helped with the pain and swelling. I used it after exercise, before bed, and whenever I hadn’t cooled the knee for a while. I like a little ice bag that, once I find the right fill level, can be used and then popped in the freezer to prepare for the next use. A big gel pack is a fine alternative. In both cases, it’s mandatory to have gym pants or other thin fabric between the ice and the knee to prevent frostbite.

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The operation also messed up my alimentary canal. On top of that, the pain meds are constipating. This called for lots of roughage, peanut butter, and fruit. I’d also pop a prune or two with each oxycodone.

As to those pain meds: They are powerful and wonderful and dangerous. Sleep being of the first importance, my approach was to spend the last 20 min. before bedtime with an ice pack and fix the bed to make the leg as comfortable as possible (hint: small pillow under the wounded knee). And medicate if necessary. For the first few days, it was oxycodone and prune a half hour before bedtime. After that, pill (+prune) only if I couldn’t get to sleep. During waking hours, I’d avoid the pills. Discomfort is part of the deal.

Ancillary annoyance: Any oxycodone refill will require a caretaker to take my driver’s license, go to the Dr’s office to get a written ‘script, and then go to the pharmacy. In a happy contrast, MCV delivered the initial Rx to the room before I left. As a another happy note, I used less than a dozen of the pills, so I didn’t need a refill.

As to lesser drugs, they did NOT want any clots in the legs so they put me on a blood thinner. But they didn’t want any more than the prescribed thinning so they banned any pain meds other than the oxycodone and Tylenol. I hope Tylenol works better for you than it does for me.

Some wonderful news: In the Bad Old Days, they wrapped the incision with gauze that collected ooze and blood for almost a week, during which I was restricted to sponge baths. The New Way creates a much better incision and uses a waterproof dressing; I could shower as soon as I could get over the ledge to the shower.

Here is the dressing, three days after the surgery. No ooze; no blood.  It looked like that on the day it came off.

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When I removed it on day 10, the bandage was stained on the inside only by a few blood spots (and by the ink from the lines they had drawn for use in aligning the skin when they closed the incision).

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BTW: They really mean it when they say to remove that bandage by stretching it. That is merely painful. Pulling it off is torture, at least as to the more tender areas of the knee.

The incision itself was clean and dry.

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Compare this to the stapled knee on the Wikipedia page:

No stiches or staples to be (painfully) removed from my knee! Hurrah! There are bunches of stiches inside; they’ll dissolve in time. The final closure is glue.

I was considerably impaired immediately after the surgery. For example, I couldn’t reach the ankle on the surgical leg. Moreover, with that leg stretched out in front of the bed or chair, I couldn’t raise the toes, much less lift the heel. So I couldn’t even put on my own underwear. All that improved daily, such that by a week after Knee Day I could raise the toes and reach far enough to lasso the underpants or pants over them and drag the clothing up under the heel. In short, I could get dressed on my own. Little things can mean a lot!

I couldn’t deal with toenails for several weeks after the operation. Dr. Earnest took care of that, beautifully (and Medicare paid for the visit!). I didn’t need to mess with toenails for another month after his ministrations.

Aside from basic strength and flexibility and balance, the clear benefits of the pre-surgery exercise reminded me of the importance of preparation:

  • After surgery I had to be able to get up using only one leg, while the other one just stuck out and hurt. The three Big Issues there were the toilet, shower, and bed.
    • I had to have enough room in the bathroom to sit on the toilet with the surgical leg straight out.
    • One friend strung a rope between towel racks in her bathroom so she could pull up from the toilet. We don’t have enough towel racks for that; we do have tall toilets so I can push off. Next time I will make it easier with something like this.
    • We have a foldable kitchen ladder similar to this that works fine for a shower stool; it is fairly high and it has a bar above the top step for grabbing. That’s not the end of it, though: I had to have enough space to sit on the stool while the hurt leg stuck almost straight out. We have a shower with just enough room.
    • We have a high bed; I can push up with both arms and get out one-legged. With a lower bed, I’d be thinking of a chair for pushing off or something such as this for pulling up.
  • Then, there’s getting IN the bed. For the first week or so, there was no way for that hurt leg to swing up and into the bed. Indeed, there was not even a hope of putting both hands under the thigh and lifting. After the first few days I could cradle the heel of the bad leg on the other ankle and use that good foot as an elevator. If that hadn’t worked, it would have left one more task for the helper.
  • Ah, the helper! I needed one 24/7 for the first few days, and less intensely as strength and mobility and the remains of my mind returned.
  • Beyond those matters, I went for chairs with arms and soft cushions. Low chairs were easier on the hurt leg (pressure on the back of the leg was most unpleasant) and only a bit harder to push up from.
  • And in every case, I had to have room for that hurt leg to stick out; I did NOT want to be forced to bend it.
  • When in doubt (indeed, even when not) I recommend pre-need practicing one leg sit downs and standups (with the other leg sticking out) to make sure.

The PT folks recommend a walker over crutches and I can see why: The walker is MUCH easier to use and MUCH more stable. But it has to fit through the bathroom door and maneuver once through. The alternative is to switch to crutches at the door.

And the walker needs a basket or pouch to carry things because the hands will be busy holding on. One caution: There are at least two styles of basket. Here is the one that fits my walker, the sort with a curved bar in front.

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I put tennis balls on the back legs of the walker (skids also work); the rubber nubs that come with it tend to scuff hardwood floors and stick on rugs.

If stairs are part of the system, crutches (and a second walker) enter the picture. A friend loaned me another two walkers (home is a tri-level). For my upstairs walker, a repurposed apron provided pockets to supply carrying capacity.

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Crutches are difficult on the flat but a crutch is mandatory for stairs. Indeed, if you have steps to get in your house or stairs to get around inside, they’ll make you demonstrate on stairs before they’ll let you out of the hospital. You’ll be doped up and weak then so some preliminary crutch practice would be a good idea.

The crutch Rules of the Road for stairs are simple: Good foot goes to Heaven, bad foot goes to hell. Thus, going upstairs, weight goes on the banister and crutch and good foot goes up a step; then bad foot and crutch go up with good foot furnishing the lift and banister the balance. Going down (much harder and more dangerous), crutch and then bad foot go down; weight then goes on crutch and banister; then good foot goes down and retakes the weight. All this is possible (or, at least, much easier) if you’ve been doing your dips at the gym.

Note: Banister is mandatory. The process works better with the crutch and bad leg on the side away from the banister, so one banister on each side of the stair is even better.

I knew I would be bored and in pain. The first line for dealing with pain is keeping focused on something else. That calls for setting up the bed and a soft armchair with reading materials, TV control, laptop, Amazon Echo, and/or whatever else will help keep me occupied (when I’m not exercising, sleeping, or going to/from the bathroom). Also charging cables for all the gadgets.

I found a tablet pillow on Amazon that worked well for keeping the tablet bottom and controls out of the bedclothes.

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It turns out that the laptop is nearly useless in bed: The keyboard angle is wrong. The tablet pillow fixes that.

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At the second post-op appointment, PA Justin Latimer warned me that I might have one or more sutures pop out through the skin. He said I could either pull them on out or clip them and wait for Nature to take her course. In fact, I had only one. It came in a tender little mound. Tweezers only fragmented the end so I couldn’t pull it out. As I write this, the area no longer is tender and it looks like Nature is doing her thing.

Note added on 11/1: At the 3-month appointment yesterday PA Laura Giambra took one look at that little mound, unwrapped tweezers that are ridged at the business end to grab slippery things like sutures, and extracted a quarter inch of suture. A blessing upon her!

I knew the operation (mostly the anesthesia) would mess up my thinker. I got my finances and todo’s in order before the knives came out.

At the 1 month post-op appointment they offered me an application for a handicapped parking dololly. A bargain at five bucks but it proved to be more a temptation than a necessity: Close to the door parking when I should have been parking far out and walking.

At 4+ weeks after knife & saw day I got back to driving and returned to the gym. Squats were off the list and I reduced the deadlift by over 30%. The other exercises were off by up to 20%. I’ve been titrating back up ever since. Some weeks later, the knee would tolerate the recumbent bike; I am just now back to my standard 20 minutes at 60 rpm and low resistance.

Last week, 12+ weeks after knife & saw day, I asked the PT folks whether I could get back to Yoga. They worked me at getting onto and, especially, off of the floor and sent me off to Renee, the successor Mistress of Masochism. Renee was kind and helpful, esp. as to protecting that knee. I was able to do ca. 80% of the exercises. I was a sore puppy the morning after but ended up, I think, stronger and more flexible. So Yoga is back on my calendar.

When I had a “uni” (unicondylar arthroplasty = partial knee replacement) some years ago, it was two months before I was walking down a sidewalk and not noticing discomfort in the knee. The operation this time was a total; the PT folks tell me it will be at least several months to get to no discomfort. That said, as I write this at 13+ weeks, the gait is smoothing out and the pain level is onesie-twosie except during and after exercise.

Giving Thanks!

I can’t say enough about Dr. Golladay and, indeed, all the troops at MCV. Special mention goes to every one of them, except there was no way to get all the names.

I do have the names of, and would particularly like to praise, Dr. Golladay’s PAs, Laura Giambra and Justin Latimer. They are worlds apart in approach: Latimer is Chatty Charlie; Giambra is focused and quiet. Where it counts, though, both are smart, efficient, effective, and kind.

The nurses, PT, and other folks were uniformly kind and helpful and, where necessary, demanding. Everybody responded well to a little cheerful humor.

And, most of all, Ms. Penelope! This was a difficult process; without her it would have been impossibly ugly. She remained cheerful and helpful, even when I was withdrawn and/or grouchy.  Just the interest on the debt I owe her is daunting.

Richmond Elementary Schools: Mind the Gap!

An earlier post showed that, among the school divisions, an increasing percentage of economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students was slightly correlated with a decreasing pass rate of the more affluent (“Not ED”) students and that the division average for ED students was ca. 20 points lower than for Not ED. Another post showed that two of Richmond’s high-scoring elementary schools were not getting high-scoring pass rates from their ED students.

Let’s take a more general look at the ED/Not ED performance of Richmond’s elementary schools.

To start, here are the 2019 reading pass rates of the Not ED students of Richmond elementary schools plotted against the percentage of ED students in the tested group. Fairfield Court and Miles Jones are missing from the graph (see below).

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As with the divisions, the pass rate decreases with increasing % ED, here by about four points per 10% ED increase. The R-squared value of 29% indicates a modest correlation.

Things get more interesting when we look at the ED pass rates.

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As expected, the pass rates are generally lower. The slope drops to 1.5% for a 10% increase in ED population while the R-squared decreases to 9%.

Of interest here, the surprisingly lower pass rates of the more affluent schools contribute to that lower slope.

Two schools with >70% ED (Cary and Obama) outperformed Munford (13% ED) and four outscored Fox (25% ED). Indeed, none of the five low-ED schools covered itself with glory in terms of ED performance.

Here are the data:

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Notes:

  • The “#N/A” entries for Jones and Fairfield Court indicate cases where VDOE did not report Not ED data, probably as a result of small ED populations and the VDOE suppression rules.
  • The VDOE database does not offer state average pass rates for elementary schools. The state numbers here are the average of the averages for each of grades 3-5. Given that the state enrollment is approximately flat across those grades, that should give a close estimate of the average over all elementary students.

The Munford ED pass rate is the same 62% as the state average; Fox is 3 points lower. The state average ED population is 44%, Munford is 13%, Fox is 25%.

Let’s take this one step further: The fitted line in the ED graph, above, slopes down. In an ideal world, it would be exactly horizontal, indicating that the average performance of ED students was independent of the % ED in the tested group.

The statistics of the fitted line allow calculation of the difference between each school average and the fitted line, thus removing the average effect of the increasing ED percentage. The results, sorted by the difference:

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Or, in terms of a graph:

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For sure, some of our schools get lousy results. But others do much better. And some of the low-%ED schools don’t get good ED performance, even when they get very good Not ED pass rates. It would be useful to understand the reasons for those differences.

The math data show a similar pattern.

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The slope here is down from the reading, three points per 10% ED vs. four. The R-squared is about 20%, v. 30% for reading. But the conclusion remains the same: On average, the Not ED pass rates decline with increasing % ED students in the tested group. These data don’t tell us why.

The ED pass rates again show a lower slope and an R-squared value that indicates very little correlation.

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Five schools with >70% ED outperformed Munford (a sixth tied) and six outdid Fox. Whatever the magic at Fox and Munford, it doesn’t seem to work for their ED students.

The data:

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Munford is four points below the state average; Fox is nine below.

In terms of ED pass rate differences from the fitted line:

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Some Richmond schools are doing much better with their ED students than others. The literature suggests that the important variables are the socioeconomic status of the students and the effectiveness of the teachers. Here, we can wonder whether the large differences in ED performance might be related to the quality of the teaching.

For sure, the ED students at Munford and Fox don’t seem to be gaining any benefit from exposure to large populations of Not ED students.

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The definition of economic disadvantage gives us, at best, a rough measure. Teacher performance, however, can be measured, independently of ED. Unfortunately, our Board of Education abandoned the measure they had, the SGP, because it did provide an accurate measure of teacher performance.

In that situation, we can only wonder what’s going on. Or, perhaps, blunder along and hope for better.

Picking the Unblemished Cherries

The headline in the Chronicle says, “SOL scores soar in Charles City.”

The text continues:

In Charles City, several areas saw massive gains in comparison to the previous year. Of the improvement areas, perfect pass rates were achieved in the areas of Algebra II and chemistry. Subject areas that saw a 20 or more point gain include grade seven English reading (64 to 85), World History I (59 to 79), World History II (54 to 92), grade three mathematics (53 to 81), grade seven mathematics (36 to 66), geometry (28 to 51), and the aforementioned Algebra II (34 to 100). . .

“When we got those scores in, it was absolute elation,” said Charles City superintendent of schools David Gaston. “Coming off last year, we didn’t do poorly but we knew we had areas to work on.

To be sure, CCCo saw some nice pass rate gains this year. As well, there were some (unmentioned) decreases.

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In the larger view, the overall trends do not justify the Superintendent’s “elation.”

Reading is indeed up this year. But over half of the gain was used to overcome the loss of 2018.

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The six year trend is +0.21% per year.

The trends in the other subject areas are less encouraging.

In math, this year’s gain was not sufficient to overcome the 2018 decrease, and the overall trend is down.

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History and social science, moreso.

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The writing pass rate this year fell to a six-year low, wiping out the gains of the previous two years.

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This year’s decrease in the science pass rate more than undid 2018’s increase.

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The average of those five subject area pass rates increased by 1.2 points this year but the trend continued to decline (-1.4 points per year).

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It takes selective blinders to see cause for “elation” in these data. A more measured reaction might be “some bright spots but large areas that continue to need our attention.”

Profligate Promotion

The conventional wisdom these days seems to be that both social promotion and retention in grade are ineffective. For example:

Studies indicate that retention negatively impacts students’ behavior, attitude, and attendance, but it is still practiced in schools around the country. Social promotion undermines students’ futures when they fail to develop critical study and job-related skills; however, it too is still practiced in many schools throughout the United States. These practices are ruining public education as we know it, and unless we innovate and find alternative strategies to replace them, the US. K-12 education system will continue to underperform.

BTW: That article says that both social promotion and retention in grade “are ruining public education.” A closer view might suggest that the prerequisite failure to learn is the problem, not the dilemma of retention v. promotion.

In any case, the data tell us that Richmond has elected for social promotion.

Table 7 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report gives the number of students repeating the same grade as in 2018. The 2018 Table 7 reports the 2018 Fall membership. The ratio gives the percentage of students held back. The SOL database offers the percentage of students failing the tests in each subject in each grade. With those data in hand, it is straightforward to produce a graph:

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Changing math failure rates for reading gives a similar picture.

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The other subjects are not tested in all grades 3-12. In that data desert, the 6th grade failure rate in writing probably says something about the fifth grade education in that subject.

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