“Help” From the Hapless

Petersburg has been operating under Memoranda of Understanding (“MOUs”) issued by the Board of Education since at least 2004.  Let’s take a look at what that state supervision has accomplished.

To start, here are the Petersburg and state division average reading pass rates for the period of the VDOE database.

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Here is the difference between those two curves.

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As of this year, the state average was 4.6% above the benchmark for accreditation in English; Petersburg was 14.9 points below.  Thirteen years of “help” (in fact, command and control) from the state didn’t help.

How about math?

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The accreditation benchmark here is 70%.  The 2017 state average is 9.2 points above that; Petersburg is 17.8 below.

Let’s not fill up the Internet with graphs from the other three subjects; we’ll go directly to the average of all five:

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The Board of “Education” could sue Petersburg for this ongoing, massive violation of the Standards of Quality

§ 22.1-253.13:8. Compliance.

* * *

The Board of Education shall have authority to seek school division compliance with the foregoing Standards of Quality. When the Board of Education determines that a school division has failed or refused, and continues to fail or refuse, to comply with any such Standard, the Board may petition the circuit court having jurisdiction in the school division to mandate or otherwise enforce compliance with such standard, including the development or implementation of any required corrective action plan that a local school board has failed or refused to develop or implement in a timely manner.

They have not sued any division, not even Petersburg.

Why not? 

If they sued, the Board would have to tell the judge what the division must do to meet the Standards of Quality.  Yet Petersburg (it seems) has done everything the Board demanded for thirteen years now and it hasn’t worked.  Manifestly (and as they themselves admit), the Board does not know (Sept. 21, 2016 video starting at 1:48) how to fix these awful schools.

(I have not embraced the alternative explanation: Petersburg did not do what the Board required.  In that case also, the Board would have to know how to fix those schools in order to sue.) 

In the face of the Board’s primal incompetence, the Governor should long ago have fired the members for malfeasance.  This is a massive failure of the government to govern.

$104.6 million (this year) of your tax dollars at “work.”

Middle Schools by Grade and Year

Here are Richmond’s middle school reading and math pass rates by grade and by year.

AP Hill:

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Binford:

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Elkhardt/Thompson:

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Franklin.  Please recall that Franklin has a selected population so its numbers are not directly comparable to the pass rates at the other schools.

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Henderson:

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Brown:

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MLK:

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Finally, Boushall:

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SOL by School, 2016 and 2017

Here are the Richmond SOL pass rates by subject and by school for 2016 and 2017.  First the elementary schools.

BTW: The accreditation benchmark for English is 75; for all the other subjects, 70.

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Next, the middle schools.  Please recall that Franklin has high school grades as well as middle, and has a select student population, so its numbers are not directly comparable to the other schools.

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Last the high schools.  Franklin, Community and Open have select populations; Franklin also has middle school grades.  None of those schools’ performance is directly comparable to the five mainstream high schools.

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2017 SOL v. Poverty

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.”  They formerly had a handy database front end for enrollments; that looks to be under repair just now but they have the fall division enrollments in a pair of spreadsheets here.

Juxtaposing the 2017 Division pass rates with the ED percentage of the enrollment, we see the following for the reading subject area:

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The R-squared of 35% tells us that 35% of the variance in the pass rates is predictable from the %ED.  That is, to a considerable degree, the pass rates and %ED are related.

(Remember that correlation does not imply causation, so these data don’t say that increasing the ED population causes some portion of the decline in the pass rate.)

Statistics or no, the graph tells us that Richmond (the gold square) grossly underperformed the peer jurisdictions (red diamonds, from the left Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk) and, indeed underperformed all the Virginia divisions except for Greensville County and Danville, higher poverty or not.

Our Math performance was nearly as dismal, beating out only poor Petersburg and, to the rounded value, getting a tie with Danville.

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Similarly, the five subject average.

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For sure, we have a lot of students with low family incomes.  For sure, those kids on average don’t perform as well as students from more affluent families.  But that does not come close to explaining, much less excusing, the awful performance of our schools.

Change. And Not.

When looking at the pass rate changes from last year, it might be helpful to glance back at the starting point: The schools that did very well in ‘16 (e.g., Community) didn’t have much room to improve.  So, if a school enjoyed a large increase or suffered a large decline, that’s news; if it stayed nearly the same, we should look at where it started before we draw any conclusions.

With that caveat, here are the changes in Richmond’s elementary schools.

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It’s really good to see the progress at Patrick Henry.  The decline at Westover Hills, my neighborhood school, is another matter.  And what happened at Carver?

Next the middle schools.  Please remember that Franklin is not directly comparable to the other schools.  It has a select population and its scores include those from the high school, as well as the middle school, grades.

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And the high schools.  Please remember that Open and Community have selected student populations.  And, as above, Franklin has both middle school and high school grades.

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Richmond ‘17 SOL by School

A reader (the reader?) rightfully jumped on me about those complicated elementary school graphs

Here, as a penance, are the 2017 Richmond elementary pass rates by school and subject.

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While we are at this, here are the middle schools.  Remember that the Franklin numbers include high school pass rates and that Franklin has a selected population.

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And the high schools.  Please recall that Open and Community, as well as Franklin, have select populations and should not be compared directly with the five mainstream high schools.

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How’s that for readable?  Not to mention distressing.

High School Lows

Turning to the high school results from the 2017 SOL data, let’s start with reading.

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Franklin has both high- and middle school grades so its numbers are not directly comparable.  Moreover, Franklin, Community, and Open have select student populations, so the important results here are those of the mainstream high schools, Armstrong, Wythe, Huguenot, Marshall, and TJ.

Of that Five, only Wythe (barely) made the 75% benchmark for accreditation in English.  Huguenot’s pass rate fell 19% this year; Armstrong’s, 15%.

Next, writing:

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Of the Five, only TJ beat the writing benchmark.  Huguenot dropped by 17%; Armstrong, by 14%.

History & Social Sciences:

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The History & SS benchmark is 70%.  Marshall and Huguenot met that requirement.

Marshall improved by 13% this year.  Armstrong’s pass rate rose 7%, but only to 48%.

Math:

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Even Community had problems with the math tests, and that was a nine point improvement from 2016.  None of the Five made the 70% benchmark.  Armstrong dropped by 14% (to 34%!); Wythe fell by 11%; Marshall, by 9%.

Science:

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None of the Five made the 70% science benchmark.  Armstrong fell 21% to a 39% pass rate; Marshall dropped by 18%; Huguenot, by 10%.

Five Subject Average:

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The average of the five pass rates shows 11% declines at Armstrong and Huguenot, a 5% drop at TJ, and a 2% decrease at Wythe.  Marshall rose by 1%. 

The 39% average at Armstrong is a disaster.  Wythe, Huguenot, Marshall, and TJ all did much better than Armstrong, but surely not well enough.

After the middle school numbers, especially MLK, even Armstrong looks pretty good.  But that happy aura dissipates once we notice that the high school pass rates are boosted by Richmond’s dropout rate (Richmond’s cohort rate was 9.9% last year, vs. 5.3% for the state average).

Middle School Shambles

VDOE posted the 2017 SOL data yesterday.  They are bad news for Richmond, particularly for the middle schools.

Here, for a start, are the middle school reading pass rates.

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I’ve included Franklin, which has middle school grades, but the numbers there are not directly comparable because the high school grades are included in the Franklin averages.

Notice that Elkhardt and Thompson disappeared in 2016, being merged into the new Elkhardt-Thompson.  That didn’t do anything for the pass rates but it did create a “new school” that can’t be denied accreditation for another two years.

Franklin aside, none of these schools made the accreditation cutoff of 75%.  Henderson, Boushall, Elkhardt-Thompson, and, especially, MLK all are disastrously below 50% (i.e., above 50% failure rates).

The writing scores improved this year, from appalling to merely terrible.

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Again, Franklin aside, no school made the accreditation cutoff.

The history & social sciences numbers are better: Three schools, other than Franklin, made the 70% benchmark.

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The math scores are another disaster, with only AP Hill (barely) making the 70% accreditation cutoff.

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Two schools (other than Franklin) beat the science benchmark.

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The average of the five subject pass rates shows three schools below 50% with Boushall barely above that and headed the wrong way.

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I said “bad news” at the top of this post.  That is far too weak.  I’m not sure there are words that are acceptable in polite company that describe the magnitude of this assault on Richmond’s schoolchildren.

Bad News at Westover Hills

On the four subject average (reading, history & social sciences, math, and science; they’ve discontinued the writing test for the elementary grades), our neighborhood school dropped fourteen points this year, to fourth lowest among Richmond’s elementary schools.

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That decline is the composite of lower scores in all four subject areas:

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Elementary, My Dear Bedden

Here we have the SOL pass rates for Richmond’s elementary schools for 2011 to 2017.

For sure, these graphs are cluttered.  The only way to paint a complete picture is to include all the schools on one graph, albeit the resulting information density makes it difficult to follow some schools.  For a nice picture of the recent results at any particular school, see the VDOE page here and put the school name in the search box.

To start: the reading tests.  The schools in the legend are sorted by the 2017 pass rate.

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Nice improvement this year at Redd and Mason; nicer still at Stuart (24%!).  Problems at Carver and Francis.

The new English tests in 2013 hit most of the schools quite hard.  Some have recovered; many have not.

Our star performer, Carver, has slid (Dizzy Dean would have said “slud”) to fourth place.

History and Social Sciences did not have a new test to lower the scores but too many of our schools found a way to slide anyhow.

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Big gains here at Stuart (28%), Patrick Henry (25%), and Ginter Park (21%).  Chimborazo, Swansboro, Cary, and Westover Hills all went the other way.

Next math.  The new tests came in 2012; a number of schools suffered a further hit in 2013, perhaps because of fallout from the new English and science tests that year.

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Stuart was the big gainer here (after a similar loss the year earlier).  Carver, Francis, Westover Hills, and Bellevue led the losers.

Next, science.

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2013 was the year of the new, tougher tests

I didn’t have the heart to expand the axis to include Woodville’s 82% failure rate in 2017.  But that was from a mere 3% drop in the pass rate: Westover Hills fell 24% and Oak Grove 20%, with Francis, Ginter Park, and Southampton all more than 10%.

Finally, the four subject average.

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Stuart was the big gainer here at +17%, followed by Blackwell at 10%.  Westover Hills dropped 14%; Carver, 12%; Swansboro, 11%; and Francis, 10%.

For the view from thirty thousand feet, here are the averages of the elementary school pass rates:

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The accreditation benchmark is 75 for English, 70 for the other subjects.  So we see the average of the Richmond elementary schools not only declines on every subject but reading; it flunks on every subject but Hist & SS.

But if you think this is bad (and it is), wait for the middle school numbers, up next.