Blarney à la Bedden, II

The Times-Dispatch yesterday reported on the Superintendent’s State of the Schools speech.

Bedden returned to the old excuses for Richmond’s awful performance: poverty, handicapped students, and students whose native language is not English.  I commented earlier on those bogus arguments: In short, those populations in Richmond are underperforming the state averages for the same populations so we should be looking to inferior instruction, not the students, to explain our lousy scores.

Much of the speech seems to have been devoted to explaining the needs of RPS for more money.  Crucially absent was any discussion of what RPS is doing to reduce the $50 million of excess spending that does not seem to be helping our students.

The RT-D also quoted the Superintendent for five specific statements, none of which withstands close examination.


10 out of 28 of elementary schools met the state’s standards for full accreditation; up from 43 percent last year.

Just a week ago, VDOE updated its accreditation data.   Their spreadsheet shows eleven of twenty-seven Richmond elementary schools to be fully accredited if one counts Richmond Career Education and Employment as an elementary school; if we notice that the school is oriented to “employment for Richmond students ages 14-21” and do not count it as an elementary school, the fully accredited count is ten of twenty-six, not twenty-eight.


In any case, ten of twenty-eight is 36% and ten of twenty-six is 38% and eleven of twenty-seven is 41%, none of which is greater than 43%. 


Five out of seven middle schools are partially accredited

Franklin Military, which has both middle and high school classes, is fully accredited.  Hill is “Partially Accredited Improving School – Pass Rate,” i.e., it is not accredited and “[does] not qualify for a rating of Partially Accredited . . . but [is] making acceptable progress toward full accreditation.”  Binford, Henderson, Brown, and Boushall all are “Partially Accredited” only insofar as they are being reconstituted after being denied accreditation.  Elkhardt-Thompson is “new” and gets a pass, erasing the “Denied” ranking for Thompson last year.


The Superintendent gets a “True But Vastly Misleading” rating on this statement, whether we read it as “five of seven” or “five of eight.”

Six out of eight of the comprehensive and specialty high schools met the state’s standards for full accreditation, up from 37 percent last year.

Actually it was 29% last year, 20% if you count Franklin.


This year, it indeed is six of eight (if you count Franklin).



28 out of 45 schools posted gains in English scores for Standards of Learning tests, and 9 schools demonstrated double-digit gains. 

There are two English SOL test classes, Reading and Writing, but a single score for accreditation purposes.  Since the Super speaks of “English” scores, let’s look at the accreditation scores.

Thompson and Elkhardt had awful English scores last year (thirty-eight and forty-two, respectively) but the combined school has no English score reported this year.  That leaves forty-three scores reported, not forty-five.  Of those, twenty-four, not twenty-eight, improved, seven, not nine, by double digits; eighteen schools declined; and one remained unchanged.  


Note that these accreditation scores have been “adjusted” in many  cases to depart significantly from the actual pass rates.


33 out of 45 schools posted gains in math SOLs.

As to math, it’s twenty-eight up, not thirty-three, with twelve by double digits; twelve down; and three with no change.


Just in case the Super is speaking of actual SOL math pass rates, the results are:


That’s thirty-two up, one the same, and twelve down.

Overall, those score increases did not move Richmond from its second-from-lowest place in the state for reading pass rate and improved our math pass rate from fifth worst to sixth.  That’s not much to brag about.



In light of all this, I’d make four suggestions to the Superintendent:

  1. Stop blaming the kids for the awful instruction in your schools;
  2. Recheck the numbers your staff give you;
  3. Try telling the whole truth – good and bad — when you are bragging on your performance; and
  4. Spend more effort improving instruction and finding out where RPS is wasting the money it has (and talking about these!), and spend less time kvetching about the amount of money in the Mayor’s budget.

The estimable Carol Wolf makes two further suggestions:

  1. Take some credit for cleaning your administrative house, making the budget more transparent, and the money you have saved; and
  2. Think about other metrics, e.g., scholarships earned by seniors, student and staff accomplishments that don’t fit into the bureaucratic categories, Franklin students who have served with distinction in the military..