The Indifferent Leading the Inept

As we have seen, Woodville is one – perhaps the worst – of twelve Richmond schools that flunked accreditation for a third year running and applied for “reconstituted” status.

Before we turn to the Woodville application, here is a summary of Woodville’s performance:

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Notes:

  • The “All” entries refer to all the tests on the selected subject:  In the graph above, reading at all the elementary grade levels tested, grades 3-5.
  • These are pass rates, not the inflated accreditation rates.

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The regulation at 8VAC20-131-315.C tells us:

[A] local school board may choose to reconstitute a school rated Accreditation Denied and apply to the Board of Education for a rating of Partially Accredited: Reconstituted School. The application shall outline specific responses that address all areas of deficiency that resulted in the Accreditation Denied rating . . .

Woodville’s application can be found in the agenda for the Sept. 22, 2016 meeting of the Board of Education.  It provides some basic data:

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See the note below regarding that 93%.

The application also provides some Virginia Studies scores (probably accreditation scores) that my spreadsheet did not:

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We saw earlier that 74% of the Woodville teachers were rated “proficient” and 26%, “needs improvement” in 2016.  So this school suffers one of the worst pass rates in Virginia but the Principal tells us that three quarters of the teachers are “proficient.”

That Principal has one year of experience as a principal.

The application proposes reconstitution in the areas of governance, instructional program, and staff.

Governance:  Woodville will add a administrative dean to the current Principal and two assistants.  The rationale:

The administrator’s (sic) ability to monitor and support teachers will increase as administrative duties will be equitably distributed.  All administrators will be tasked with the daily monitoring of instructional practices . . .   Administrators will increase formal and informal observations by at least 50%.

Aside from the problem with the English of these folks who supervise the teaching of English to our children, we have the fundamental issue: Instead of replacing the bureaucrats (and teachers) who led Woodville into the subbasement of failure, they propose to add a new bureaucrat and “increase . . . observations”  by the “leaders” who have demonstrated their incompetence.

And, most important: There’s no accountability in here for anybody.  They’re going to monitor and support and conduct observations but with no standards of performance for themselves or the monitored.  

Instructional Program, Reading:  The application tells us that many teachers now use the Benchmark Literacy Reading Program.  Woodville will implement it “with fidelity” this year, albeit they don’t say how the previous use has failed to be faithful or whether this year’s faithful implementation will include more teachers than used the program before.  More fundamentally, the application doesn’t tell us how many of Woodville’s manifestly incompetent reading teachers will be replaced.

Instructional Program, Math:  The application says:

Currently, the use of the array of math resources provided with the EnVision math program are (sic) inconsistent with many teachers.

Even aside from the problem with subject-verb agreement, it’s hard to know what that sentence means.  The proposed new practice does not shed light on that question:

It will be required that the EnVision math program components and activities be used more consistently during math instruction as it aligns with the outlined curriculum.

Whew!

  • Will EnVision be used all the time or just more often?
  • Will it be used by all the math teachers or a few more or no more?
  • Is the antecedent of “it” the program or the (plural) components and activities?  In any case, why is the current program not aligned with the curriculum; who is responsible for the lack of alignment; will that person or those persons be fired?
  • So it “will be required.”  Will they assess whether it’s used?  What will happen to math teachers who don’t use it?
  • What will happen to that minority of teachers who were evaluated as needing improvement and most of that majority who, while evaluated as “satisfactory,” plainly can’t teach?
  • Will the “more consistent[]” use just be a bit more consistent or entirely consistent?
  • Why should we think that “more consistent[]” use of the program will, in the hands of incompetent teachers and administrators, improve anything?

Staff, Title I Math Resource Teacher:  The application says:

The Title I Math Resource Teacher was added to our school this year.  Until the 2015-16 school year, we only had one Title I Math Teacher.

The Title I Math Resource Teacher retired at the end of the school year.  We plan to hire a new Title I Math teacher for the upcoming school year.

The only interpretation that makes sense of that mishmash is: “We hired our first Title I Math Resource Teacher in 2015-16.  He/she retired at the end of the year.  We’ll hire a replacement.”  But I wouldn’t bet you a #2 lead pencil on that or any other attempted translation.

Then we have what this Resource Teacher will do:

The . . . Teacher will share the responsibility of supporting, coaching, modeling best practices in math while supporting individual and small groups of students based on weak skills.  Students will reduce the failure rate in the area of math by at least 10%.

Hmmm:

  • “Supporting” and “coaching” and “modeling” but not supervising?
  • “Supporting” practices or teachers?
  • “[B]ased on weak skills”:  Whose?
  • “Students” will reduce the failure rate, not the learning imparted by this Resource Teacher or the coached teachers?
  • Given that the former Math Resource Teacher failed to accomplish anything useful, why should we think this one will perform differently?
  • Will they do nothing more about retraining and nothing at all about replacing their cadre of awful teachers?

Staff, PBIS Coach:  (The Web site says that the theme of  Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support is “teaching behavioral expectations in the same manner as any core curriculum subject.”)

The school added a PBIS coach near the end of the 2016 year.  They propose to keep that coach and create “a more positive climate and environment” and reduce suspensions by 20%.

Again, no discussion of why more inputs will improve the grossly deficient output.  And no discussion of retraining or replacing ineffective teachers.

Family Engagement:  The application provides a page and a half of “Activit[ies]” to involve parents and “Impact[s]” of that involvement without discussing how the school intends to lure the parents into participating in the activities.

Closing Rationale . . .:  Woodville’s peroration claims a 5% reading increase and an 11% math increase from “2015/16 to 2016/17” (presumably accreditation years; testing years are one year earlier).  In fact, for the 2015 to 2016 school years, the reading pass rate increased 4.7% (to 33.2%) and the math rate, 8.9% (to 38.5%).  At those rates of increase, Woodville would be accredited for reading based on the 2025 testing and for math, 2021.

Woodville projects English score increases to 55 in 2020 (accreditation year, based on the 2019 testing) and math increases that year to 60.

Facial Insufficiency:  Never mind the incompetent use of the Mother Tongue by people who purport to teach English to our children.  Never mind the confused and vacuous proposals that fail to deal with the incompetent teachers and administrators who sank Woodville into a quagmire of failure.  Never mind the absence of any kind of accountability.  The application is defective on its face:

The regulation is not a marvel of specificity as to the requirements for reconstituted status:

The application shall outline specific responses that address all areas of deficiency that resulted in the Accreditation Denied rating . . .

The regulation nonetheless provides:

The school will revert to a status of Accreditation Denied if it fails to meet the requirements to be rated Fully Accredited by the end of the three-year term. . .

Yet Woodville proposes to miss the standard for English accreditation by twenty points and the math requirement by ten at the end of the three year reconstitution period.  Woodville thus proposes to “address” its failure to be accredited by failing to be accredited.

The Chairman of our School Board embarrassed himself by signing this thing.  The Secretary of Education embarrassed himself by forwarding it to the State Board for action. 

Then we have the State Board: The video of the Sept. 22 meeting tells us (start at 1:48):

  • These applications have been reviewed by a subcommittee (1:48:56);
  • The plans were prepared in collaboration with VDOE (1:51); and
  • The federal requirement that the principal of the failed school be replaced is going away (1:53).

At 1:51:50 of the video, staff recommended that the Board “receive” the requests “for first review.”  The video does not show a vote on that recommendation (at least not there or immediately thereafter).  We’ll see what the minutes say.

To the point, this embarrassing application was created in “collaboration” with VDOE and it has survived review by a subcommittee (presumably of the Board).  We’ll see whether the Board affirms all this fecklessness by a final action in October.

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Note:  The 93% Free and Reduced Lunch rate reported above looks in fact to be the Economically Disadvantaged rate.

93% certainly is high.  And we know that academic performance decreases with increasing poverty.  But poverty tells only part of the story.

Here are the Richmond elementary school data for the 2016 school year:

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Woodville is the red circle.  And it is the low scoring outlier.  The outliers in the other direction are:

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Doubtless poverty makes the job more challenging at Woodville.  But poverty is not the explanation for Woodville’s awful performance.

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Next up: An even larger Another embarrassment (if that were possible): Blackwell.