2017 SOL v. Poverty

The excuse we often hear for Richmond’s poor performance on the SOL tests is poverty.

VDOE has data on that.  They define a student as “economically disadvantaged” if that student “1) is eligible for Free/Reduced Meals, or 2) receives TANF, or 3) is eligible for Medicaid, or 4) [is] identified as either Migrant or experiencing Homelessness.”  They formerly had a handy database front end for enrollments; that looks to be under repair just now but they have the fall division enrollments in a pair of spreadsheets here.

Juxtaposing the 2017 Division pass rates with the ED percentage of the enrollment, we see the following for the reading subject area:


The R-squared of 35% tells us that 35% of the variance in the pass rates is predictable from the %ED.  That is, to a considerable degree, the pass rates and %ED are related.

(Remember that correlation does not imply causation, so these data don’t say that increasing the ED population causes some portion of the decline in the pass rate.)

Statistics or no, the graph tells us that Richmond (the gold square) grossly underperformed the peer jurisdictions (red diamonds, from the left Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk) and, indeed underperformed all the Virginia divisions except for Greensville County and Danville, higher poverty or not.

Our Math performance was nearly as dismal, beating out only poor Petersburg and, to the rounded value, getting a tie with Danville.


Similarly, the five subject average.


For sure, we have a lot of students with low family incomes.  For sure, those kids on average don’t perform as well as students from more affluent families.  But that does not come close to explaining, much less excusing, the awful performance of our schools.