Student Demographics and the Ninth Grade Bump

To follow up on the data showing Richmond’s steep enrollment (in educratese, “Average Daily Membership,” aka “ADM” ) drop from grade to grade

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and the Richmond system’s general failure to retain students in grade until the ninth grade, I pulled some more detailed Fall enrollment data.

The state data by year show that the ninth grade bump and the population drops in the 10th through 12th grades (can you spell “dropouts”?) have been with us for the period of the database.

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That bump, expressed as a percentage of the eighth grade enrollment, has dropped some in recent years.

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Note, however, that the drop halted after VDOE installed new math tests in ‘12 and reading tests in ‘13.

The recent Richmond data show a different picture.

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The large elementary and middle school populations in the middle and late ‘noughties led to large 9th grade bumps.  When those students worked through the system, Richmond settled down to about the state average until the new tests, along with the former Superintendent’s failure to prepare for those tests, reinflated the 9th grade population.

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The database also breaks out data for five student groups: disabled, economically disadvantaged (“ED”), limited English proficiency (“LEP”), homeless, and migrant.

The migrant numbers are quite small statewide and zero in Richmond, except for a 23 count in 2010.  The statewide variation of the other counts by year looks like this:

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The statewide ED population increased from 28% in 2004 to 39% this year.  Over the same period, the LEP population doubled to 10%.

The violet line is the difference between 100% and the sum of the groups.  Note: there will be some students in more than one group — e.g., both homeless and economically disadvantaged — so the “other” number is probably low; indeed, as we’ll see below, it goes negative in Richmond.

There’s no telling how much of the increase in the ED count is driven by the ardor of local divisions to qualify for Title I funds.

The Richmond data paint a different picture.

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The drop in the ED population in 2007-09 is bound to be a data problem.  The very large ED populations in 2013-14 lead to negative values for the calculated “other” category.

The Richmond data show year-to-year increases in the elementary grades but not after the ninth grade.

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Notice that the drop from grade 5 to grade 6 has been with us since at least 2008, suggesting escapes to the Counties to avoid our awful middle schools, not overall population changes.

The Richmond LEP population increased 5.3 fold over the period of these data, from 1.6% in 2004 to 8.5% in 2016.  That doubtless contributed to the increases in the LEP populations in the lower elementary grades in recent years.

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I shudder to think what will happen when those elementary and middle school populations hit the ninth grade.

Note that the 8th grade LEP population has been approximately constant in the past four years (58, 48, 63, 52, respectively), but the ninth grade population has exploded.

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That increase is too large to be explained solely by 9th grade retention.

Whatever the underlying reasons, these numbers surely illuminate the challenge posed by the increasing LEP population.

The data also tell us that Richmond is dealing with a tougher clientele (i.e., more students classified in one of these groups) than the statewide average.  Stay tuned for the data showing how well we deal with that challenge.