Our Superintendent gave his third annual State of the Schools speech the other night. He again trotted out the old excuses: poor kids (the euphemism is “Economically Disadvantaged), handicapped kids (“Special Needs” or “Exceptional Education”), and immigrants (“Limited English Proficiency” or “English as a Second Language”).
Our challenges include poverty, neighborhood crime that spills over into our schools, language barriers and limited resources to deal with very special circumstances, like the fact that:
1) A large percentage of students ages 0-17 live in poverty,
2) More than 3 out of 4 students qualify for free/reduced lunch,
3) 19% or put another way, over 4000 students receiving special education services, and
4) The growing ESL population, which has risen from 5% in the early 2000s to approximately 12% today.
For sure, our overall performance has been, and remains, awful. Here it is in terms of reading and math SOL pass rates, along with those of Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.
Next, let’s look at the “over 4,000 students receiving special education services,” as the Super. put it.
Here we see our disabled students performing at about the same (dismal) level as their peers in the peer cities in reading but underperforming in math. And falling farther behind.
Next, the performance of the “Economically Disadvantaged” students.
The problem there is not the large population of ED students, it’s Richmond’s inability to teach those students (with whom our peers are doing a much better job).
Finally, the non-English speaking students.
Again, we see Richmond underperforming and, especially as to the reading tests, losing ground vis-à-vis the peer cities.
In every respect except reading by disabled students, Richmond’s reading and math pass rates are being dragged down, not by the large or growing populations of challenging students but by Richmond’s failure (worsening in some cases) to educate those students.