Middle School Mess

We have noticed that Richmond’s elementary schools have performed fairly well but our middle schools have not.

(Well, at least that was true before the new math tests in 2012 and the new reading tests in 2013 whacked both Richmond’s elementary and middle school pass rates.)

This suggests a question: Is it all those hormones affecting middle school students or are Richmond’s middle schools unusually awful?

We can get a look at the situation by following class performance of the same group of students from year to year.

For example, here are the reading pass rates for Richmond and the state for third graders in 2006, fourth graders in 2007, etc., up to eighth graders in 2011.


Hmmm.  Hormones or not, it looks like Richmond took fifth graders who performed just below the state average in elementary school and dropped them by ten points in the sixth grade.

Here is the same graph, following the 2007 third graders.


And the 2008 third graders.


This last graph paints much the same picture (well, actually middle school performance was deteriorating), except that the new tests in 2013 lowered the state average for this group by seventeen points but clobbered the Richmond pass rate by thirty-three percent.

The math data show similar patterns, except that the new tests came in 2012 when the 2007 third graders reached the eighth grade.



Thus we see that the pre-teen and early teen years have left reading performance essentially untouched and math performance somewhat reduced in Virginia but brought much impaired performance in both subject areas in Richmond. 

The obvious explanation: It’s not the kids; Richmond’s middle schools are particularly awful.

But, then, we already suspected that.