School Improvement Theater–Chapter 3

We’ve already seen the applications for “reconstituted” status of Woodville, the worst performer of the twelve Richmond applicants this year, and Blackwell, the second worst.  Both of those posts set out the background on the reconstitution process.

Next up:  Third worst, Chimborazo

Chimborazo’s already unacceptable performance deteriorated this year in reading and math:




  1. The “All” entries refer to the tests on the selected subject.  In these graphs, it means grades 3-5 for reading and math, grades 3 & 5 for science.
  2. These data are pass rates, not the inflated accreditation rates.

Chimborazo has been a Focus School since 2015.  Fat lot of good that did.

The science data paint a far happier picture:


The application [Item F] tells us that Chimborazo is a Title I school with no English language learners and 61 of 416 (15%) Special Ed students. 

The application is blank at the “Free/Reduced Lunch Eligible Percentage.”  VDOE tells us that this school’s student population is 83% economically disadvantaged. 

We know that academic performance decreases with increasing poverty.  But 83% ED does not tell the whole story. 


Chimborazo, the red circle on this graph, considerably underperforms other Richmond schools with similar or more challenging populations.


Moreover, notice above that Chimborazo gets nearly state average science pass rates from the same students who suffer miserable pass rates in reading and math.  The difference between science and reading/math can’t be the students; it must be the teaching.

As we saw earlier, the (former) Principal at Chimborazo rated six teachers (15% of 39) as Exemplary, twenty-eight (72%) as Proficient, four (10%) as Needs Improvement, and one (2.6%) as Unacceptable.  Yet, with all those purportedly fine teachers, Chimborazo’s subject average pass rate was the 26th worst (of 1715) in the state.

The Chimborazo application proposes reconstitution in Governance, Instructional Program, and Staff.

Governance:  Chimborazo will have a new Principal and Assistant. 

They do not tell us whether the departures of the incumbents were forced or adventitious.  As to what these new bureaucrats will actually do, they say only:  “New principal and new assistant principal to present new ideas and relationship building activities to assist teachers and students with bonding.”  There’s no mention there of rigor, or evaluation, or accountability.

There will be two teachers, one an eleven month employee, acting as IB coordinators and providing “intense” teacher training.  There is no discussion of the place of the IB program at a school that can’t teach its students to read.

Instructional Program:  Currently the teachers handle all subjects, K-5.  The school will “departmentalize[]” teams in grades 3-5 “to allow teachers to focus on specific subject matter.”  Nice jargon; wonder what it means.

Collaborative planning will be doubled from one to two days per week at all grade levels.

“All grade levels will move toward co-taught classrooms and away from the self-contained model for students with special education needs.”  Whatever that means.

Staff:  All new teachers will be mentored.

Family Engagement:  The application contains a page and a half of family activities but no information as to how the families will be enticed to participate.

Peroration:  Quote without comment:


Then, without any further explanation, the Trajectory of Progress shows English and History scores improving to the accreditation minima by 2019 but the math score increasing only to 61, which is nine points short.


So, entirely aside from the jargon, the occasional statement that does not make sense, the lack of any explanation as to how the proposed changes will produce the trajectory of increasing scores, and the absence of any kind of accountability, Chimborazo proposes to “reconstitute” in order to remain unaccredited.

This reminds us of Woodville’s plan to not be accredited and Blackwell’s better but wholly nonspecific plan.  And this “plan” is the twin of those plans in its failure to hold anybody accountable for anything.


  • The Chairman of our School Board signed this application [item F];
  • VDOE collaborated [9/22 video at 1:48:56] in its creation; and
  • A subcommittee, presumably of the Board of Education, reviewed it [9/22 video at 1:53].  (See below)

The level of fecklessness in this application (as with the astounding level in the Woodville application and the lesser but still unacceptable level in the Blackwell document) is troublesome, of course.  But the involvement of VDOE and the Board of Education in this school improvement theater raises an ugly question: Does the state education bureaucracy not care about the awful performance of these schools or does it not know how to improve that performance?


The always helpful Chuck Pyle points out that the Board of Education’s Accountability Committee (a committee of the whole)  met on these applications the day before the 9/22 Board meeting.  Perhaps that is the “subcommittee” mentioned at the Board meeting.

The committee minutes are not yet up but the video of the meeting [click the 9/21 video link] is instructive.

  • 56:20: Intro to the discussion.
  • 1:08: Intro to discussion of schools that did not demonstrate progress.
  • 1:30:40 to 1:32:58: “Discussion” of Blackwell, Chimborazo, Mason, Overby, Westover Hills, Woodville, and TJ.
  • 1:42:35: What is the recourse for the awful decline at Woodville?  Following discussion suggests that they will demand an MOU (incorporating a “corrective action plan”) at Woodville; beyond that they do not have an answer. 
  • One happy moment at 1:48:18: Dan Gecker makes the only sensible statement: Another MOU won’t change anything; we’ve had thirteen MOUs at Petersburg; we need a systemic approach.

Bottom line:

  • Much talk;
  • Gecker knows that what they’re doing doesn’t work;

Your tax dollars at “work.”