Cheating: Ignoring the Obvious

In the summer of 2017, VDOE investigated an allegation of cheating at A.P. Hill Elementary School in Petersburg.  As a result, Petersburg fired “several” school employees and the Board of Education withheld accreditation of the school “due to testing irregularities.” (pdf at 137)

A cursory look at the SOL pass rates for A.P. Hill raises the question why it took a “tip” to cause VDOE to investigate.

Let’s start with the 3d grade reading pass rates for Hill and the state for both the disabled and non-disabled populations:

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VDOE’s suppression rules hide all of Hill’s disabled pass rates but the one for 2015; that datum is well above the state average.  The non-disabled data tell the tale, however: Between 2013 and 2016, Hill went from a failing pass rate (the accreditation level for reading is 75) to matching the state average for two consecutive years.

The fourth grade data are even more remarkable.

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The fifth grade numbers show both another tremendous increase in the non-disabled rate and one extraordinary datum for the disabled students.

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The math data tell much the same story:

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An alert Superintendent in Petersburg or a competent VDOE would have taken a hard look at that school in 2015. 

There are at least two explanations for what actually happened:

  • “Alert Superintendent in Petersburg” and “competent VDOE” are oxymoronic (we know that is the case for VDOE); or
  • The Superintendent and/or VDOE were/was too happy with those unbelievable numbers to contemplate the obvious explanation.

Closer to home, we’ve seen the same behavior by both our (former) Superintendent and VDOE as to Carver Elementary.  Neither bothered to look behind the phenomenal increases in test scores there, e.g.,

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Unfortunately, Carver is just the tip of an iceberg of uninvestigated, unbelievable pass rate increases in Richmond.  For example:

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Or see Ginter Park, where, as with Fairfield, the obvious VGLA abuse prior to the new tests in 2012 (math) and 2013 (reading) serves as a preview of what has happened more recently:

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That off-scale 2012 disabled datum is a 19% pass rate.  The plummet from the 100% pass rates reported in the previous two years is an example of what can happen when VDOE eliminates the test a school was using to cheat.  But, as you can see, the school found another way to improve the scores.

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We’ll see whether our new Superintendent looks into the remarkable score increases at these and other schools.

ASIDE: We learn from the RT-D that our Superintendent is concerned about the colors of graduation robes and hats.  We can hope most fervently that the colors are a smokescreen to keep the press busy while he looks at the real, massive problems in Richmond’s public schools.

For sure, we’ll all attend our own funerals before VDOE undertakes a systematic look at this issue.

Your tax dollars at “work.”