And Then There Is Carver

Carver Elementary School serves a tough clientele:  91% economically disadvantaged this fall vs. 64% for RPS as a whole.  But the results there under the new Principal have been spectacular.

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There are two possibilities here: Either this Principal is a terrific leader or she has brought cheating to a new level.

When I had a chance to chat with our Superintendent in October, I asked him whether they are cheating at Carver.  He responded that I should pose that question to the Principal.

It is our Superintendent’s job to know the answer to that question and to have acted long before now if the answer is any flavor of “yes.”  The answer he gave tells me that either (1) he doesn’t know, or (2) they are cheating and he won’t admit it, or (3) he is being cute.

Wrong answer in any case. 

I’m hoping that our new School Board will ask that question and respond appropriately if they also get a wrong answer.

Carver Shines; Superintendent Does Not

Carver Shines

Delving further into the SOL database, I have created a spreadsheet to show the pass rate by year of any of Richmond’s elementary schools and compare it to the division pass rate. 

For example, here are the graphs it produced for Carver

(Recall that the nominal cutoff for accreditation is 75% for English, 70% for the other subject areas.)

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What About Other Schools?

The spreadsheet is posted on OneDrive

To look at a school that interests you, select the subject area, subject, and test level on the Division pivot table and select the school and its subject area, subject, and test level on the school pivot table.  The results will appear in the table below the pivot tables and in the graph to the right.

The graph output will tell you if you’ve selected something, e.g., fourth grade math, for which there are no or incomplete data.  The pivot table selection box will tell you if you’ve selected two or more subjects or tests or schools by saying “(Multiple Items).”  And, of course, both the pivot tables and the graph will tell you if you select different subject areas, tests, or test levels for the division and school.

Are Those Carver Numbers Real?

Those splendid numbers at Carver raise a troublesome question: Is that a terrific principal (she has been there since 2012) or is she running a massive cheating program?

We can get an inference from these data: Notice how the 3d Grade Reading and 5th Grade Science weathered the new tests in 2013 while the other data show hits from the new tests and recoveries later.  Fifth Grade Reading dropped with the new tests in ‘13 and started to recover the next year; 3d Grade Math dropped in ‘12 and took three years to bounce up; 5th grade math dropped in 12 and took 2 years to recover.

This suggests outstanding leadership.  A massive cheating program should have prevented all three drops or, at least, should have produced immediate recoveries.  Leadership is less likely to show immediate, across the board results.

Notwithstanding that happy implication of these data, the question deserves a definitive answer.

Does Our Superintendent Know?

Our new Superintendent has been in the saddle since January, 2014, so he is responsible for the awful division performances in 2015 and 2016.  In light of that, and the remarkable numbers at Carver, I pose the question to him: 

Are they cheating at Carver? 

The matrix below shows the possible answers and, given that the Carver principal still has her job, my suggested responses for each.

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BTW: The answer is available from the Superintendent’s computer.  All he needs to do is compare the middle school performance in the last two years of Carver graduates with students from other elementary schools.  (Hat Tip: The estimable Carol Wolf.)  If those Carver students have been taught well, they should outperform their peers; if Carver has been a cheating factory, its graduates will underperform.

Of course, VDOE could run those data, too.  But we won’t be holding our breaths: VDOE has demonstrated (several times [scroll down 2 paras. to Buchanan Co.]) that it doesn’t care about cheating so long as the numbers look good. 

Your tax dollars at “work.”

Where Are the Data

As a further look at the performance and underperformance of Richmond’s elementary schools, here is the range of 2015 pass rates on the reading tests.

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Here we see Carver and Fairfield Court outperforming (we’ll deal with Munford below) while Woodville underperforms at an unconscionable level.  In the meantime, the charter school, Patrick Henry, is in the middle of the pack.

The math scores paint a similar picture except that Cary joins the outperformers and Patrick Henry sinks to the bottom third.

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The Fall membership data from VDOE tell us that Munford, the green point, is blessed with a large population of more affluent kids while the other leaders, blue with Carver to the left, are not. 

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Woodville, with 79% economically disadvantaged students, is the orange point.

Here is the same graph for the math tests.  Cary joins the leaders as the left-hand blue point.

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For sure, the economic status of the students does not explain these data.

Here is the dataset.

School Name

% ED

Reading

Math

Bellevue Elementary

61%

64%

73%

Blackwell Elementary

53%

53%

66%

Broad Rock Elementary

70%

81%

83%

Chimborazo Elementary

68%

50%

57%

E.S.H. Greene Elementary

73%

55%

71%

Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary

68%

63%

68%

Fairfield Court Elementary

84%

88%

90%

G.H. Reid Elementary

65%

49%

51%

George Mason Elementary

81%

43%

61%

George W. Carver Elementary

71%

98%

97%

Ginter Park Elementary

58%

63%

79%

J.B. Fisher Elementary

42%

83%

90%

J.E.B. Stuart Elementary

69%

72%

80%

J.L. Francis Elementary

68%

59%

69%

John B. Cary Elementary

69%

72%

93%

Linwood Holton Elementary

29%

74%

69%

Mary Munford Elementary

11%

90%

91%

Miles Jones Elementary

70%

61%

70%

Oak Grove/Bellemeade Elementary

75%

41%

56%

Overby-Sheppard Elementary

68%

48%

62%

Patrick Henry School Of Science And Arts

31%

67%

65%

Southampton Elementary

54%

73%

75%

Swansboro Elementary

69%

52%

51%

Westover Hills Elementary

64%

53%

68%

William Fox Elementary

16%

85%

82%

Woodville Elementary

79%

29%

30%

The data do raise some questions:

  • Where is VDOE?  Where is their study that explains the over- and under- and mediocre-performance of these schools?  What are they doing to transmit that information to the other schools?
  • Carver and Fairfield and Cary (in math) are doing something right (or cheating extravagantly); what is it and why are the other schools not doing it?
  • Patrick Henry has absorbed a lot of money and energy but is not getting results.  What is wrong there?
  • Where are the Woodville parents?  Why are they not at the School Board every meeting to demand that RPS stop abusing their kids?
  • Where is VCU?  To date, their major “contributions” have been a study to validate the VGLA that, upon examination, is a whitewash and the hiring of Richmond’s failed Superintendent as an Associate Professor in “Educational Leadership.”  Perhaps they could do something constructive for a change.

A Tale of Two Schools

The Wall Street Journal this morning (Paywall!  If this link does not work, try Google and “tale of two schools one building”) has a tale of a charter and public school sharing a building and challenging student populations in New York.  The success of the charter, if real, is astounding.

All of which raises the question why our own Patrick Henry is not doing better.

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And, for that matter, what are Carver and Fairfield Court doing to achieve such excellent results?

 

Note added later in the day: Jim Bacon makes the point that the mediocre performance at PH is not an argument against charter schools: “The idea of charter schools is to foster experimentation. Not all experiments succeed. But you don’t know if a new approach will work until you try it. The good thing about charter schools is that if they fail and lose support, they will shut down. Conventional public schools are a monopoly.”

I’ll concede that, but real value is there only if somebody investigates and finds out why PH is not doing better.  Given the generally lousy state of RPS, the PH experiment should be charmed.

Yet another interesting issue is the superb results coming from Carver and Fairfield.  Either there is something VERY good going on there (with two of the most challenging populations in the City) or they have perfected cheating on the SOLs.  I wonder whether an independent look at those schools might teach RPS a thing or two.

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.