Richmond’s Underperformance

An earlier post looked at the division average pass rates of Economically Disadvantaged and Disabled students, as well as the All Students averages and the performance of the No Group students who are not members of any disadvantaged group (definitions are here). 

I’ve updated those graphs to show Richmond’s performance in each case.  These are 2016 data from VDOE’s excellent database.

Let’s start with reading:


Richmond is the square points at 69.9% Economically Disadvantaged. 

Given that the ED group (yellow on the graph) scores some 15 points below the All Students population (blue points), this large ED population in Richmond surely lowers the All Students pass rate.

Aside: The 39% R-Squared (R=0.62) for the All Students fitted line gives some confidence about the correlation of those scores with the percentage of ED students.  If we extrapolate that line to 100% ED, we get a 62.8% pass rate.  The fit of the ED population is tenuous (R-squared = 2.9%) but the extrapolated value of 63.9 is close enough to the extrapolated All Students value to suggest that the lower scoring ED students are a major influence in lowering the All Students average.

Unfortunately, Richmond’s All Students pass rate is lower than all the other divisions with similar ED populations  Indeed, the Richmond pass rate is lower than all the other divisions and well below the All Students fitted line.   This tells us that Richmond’s problem is more than just the large ED population.

Further, the pass rate of Richmond’s Economically Disadvantaged group is third lowest in the state.  That is, Richmond ED students are underperforming their peers statewide.  Ditto the No Group students (green points on the graph).  And those low pass rates surely contribute to Richmond’s bottom-of-the-barrel All Students average.

Richmond’s Disabled performance falls in the bottom half of the divisions.  The divisions’ Disabled performance correlates modestly with the ED population (R-squared = 18%) but only slightly with the Disabled (R-squared = 1.9%).

Turning to the effect of increasing Disabled population: 


Notice that these latter trendlines suggest Disabled and ED pass rates that increase with increasing Disabled populations.  This might raise some question as to the accuracy (or potential for cheating) in the testing of the disabled students.  The R-squared values, however, tell us that the correlations are tiny.

To put some numbers on these groups, here are the Richmond and averaged division average reading pass rates for each group.


Richmond’s No Group students, who are not members of any disadvantaged group, underperform their peers statewide by about eight points; the Economically Disadvantaged students underperform by fourteen points; while the Disabled students also are low by almost eight percent.

The math data paint much the same picture.



Here, Richmond’s underperformance is, except for the ED group, even more dramatic.


There are two possible explanations for these data: Either Richmond’s public school students are particularly slow learners or Richmond is doing an inferior job of educating all its students. 

We have the evidence of Carver Elementary School to buttress the inference that Friar Occam would suggest.  Carver serves a particularly tough clientele: The Carver population is drawn from a part of the inner city that includes an RRHA project.  Carver’s students were 89% Economically Disadvantaged in 2016, vs. 69.9% for the division.  Yet Carver breaks the Richmond pattern by turning in outstanding and division-leading results.

The next time our Superintendent starts talking about “challenges,” please listen carefully to hear whether he’s again blaming the students or whether he’s beginning to notice the generally substandard teaching in his school system.