Enthusiasm v. Data at Westover Hills

The RT-D’s Ned Oliver did a piece the other day about the flight from Richmond’s public schools.  As a contrast (an antidote?) to that, Oliver discussed Westover Hills Elementary School, where

Principal Virginia Loving said the parents who come to open houses to check out the school rarely ask about test scores, instead focusing on class size and extracurricular opportunities — two points where her school is strong.

Indeed, Oliver quotes a spokesperson for RPS for the proposition

I know that’s (Superintendent Jason) Kamras’ vision — to have all of our schools look like Westover Hills — look like the city.

Let’s take a look at those “rarely ask[ed]” about test scores.  First, the reading pass rates.

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Recall that VBOE installed new English and science tests in 2013 that lowered pass rates statewide.  The decreases were generally exaggerated in Richmond because our then-Superintendent failed to align the curricula to the new tests. 

At Westover Hills, we see 2013 reading decreases that more closely mirrored the state averages than did the Richmond decreases, presumably reflecting better preparation at the school. 

In 2014, the third grade enjoyed a reading renaissance.  Unfortunately, that lasted only the one year and was followed by a decline that persisted through 2017.

The fourth grade decline anticipated the 2013 drop and then continued to 2014.  The smaller gains in 2015 and 2016 were wiped out by a further plunge in 2017.

The fifth grade suffered a further drop in 2015, from which it has only partially recovered.

The reading scores for all three grades remain below the 2017 Richmond averages while, on the division average, Richmond was third worst in the state.  Those differences are appalling: Third Grade, 19 points below Richmond, 35 below the state average; Fourth Grade, 29 and 42 points down; fifth Grade, 11 and 22 points.

The mathematics pass rates paint a similarly dismal picture.

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The new tests here were in 2012.  In 2017, Richmond had the second lowest division pass rate in math. 

The 2017 Westover Hills deficits were:

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Finally, science:

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Before the new tests, Westover Hills was running well above the state average on the 5th grade science test (the only grade tested to the present).  In 2017, it was 18 points below Richmond, 33 below the state.

If our new Superintendent really wants “to have all of our schools look like Westover Hills,” he is prescribing a massive (but happy, it seems) failure that is far beyond even the current, appalling state of our schools.