Accreditation Euphemism

The School Quality Profiles on the VDOE Web site offer an interesting look under the hood of the new accreditation process.

There’s no central source of the numbers so one must pluck them out, subject by subject and school by school.  The English data for Richmond took a chunk of an afternoon.

Here are those English data.  First, the elementary schools:


The red line at 75% marks the nominal (“adjusted”) accreditation benchmark, “Level 1” under the regulation.  The purple marks the new, good-enough-for-four-years “Level 2” at 66%.  The various “adjustments” [subsection F.1] are color coded atop the blue pass rates.

As you see, only four schools made Level 1 directly; with the adjustments, add another eight.  Four schools were adjusted into Level 2; eight others did not make Level 2, even with the help of the adjustments. 

There are other adjustments, however.  For example, Miles Jones made Level 1 on the three year average; Bellevue and Fairfield Court made Level 2 on that average. 

(The Greene “Growth” and “English Language” boosts are remarkably large.  FWIW, the growth boost, while extravagant, looks to be in line with other low-performing schools.  The database tells us that 220 of 303 Greene students taking the reading tests, 70%, were English Learners; those EL students passed at a 28.18% rate while 65.59 of the non-EL passed.  And, boost or no, Greene was accredited on the three year average.)

After everything, the elementary school accreditation data look like this (with math, science, and absenteeism shown along with English but the “achievement” gaps and “Accredited on 2015 Standards” items omitted) :


Miles Jones is anomalous there.  It looks fine on the items in this list but still is “with Conditions.”  Among the items not in the figure, Jones hit L3 on both math and English for its disabled students as well as math for black students and the math “achievement gap.”

Next the middle schools.



Hill looks fine on this figure but was L3 on the achievement gap and performance of disadvantaged and disabled students in both English and math, as well a the math performance of its black students.

The VDOE spreadsheet shows Brown at L3 in English; the School Quality Profiles show L2.  I can’t reconcile the two.  In any case, there are some L3’s in the achievement gaps that would explain the “with Conditions” at Brown.

The high schools look good, at least until you look past the reading scores.



And the specialty schools look good, period.



Here are the 2017 and 2018 Richmond lists (omitting Amelia Street and Richmond Career).


Or, in summary (leaving Carver out):


The old accreditation process was riddled with “adjustments” that improved the scores and allowed more schools to be accredited.  Even so, one Virginia school in twenty was denied accreditation in 2017.  The new regulation solves that problem.  In addition to providing a spectrum of helpful “adjustments” to boost the scores, the regulation provides:

If a school is [in such bad shape that even the adjustments don’t save it] and the school or school division fails to adopt and implement school division or school corrective action plans with fidelity as specified by 8VAC20-131-400 D, it may be designated by the board as “Accreditation Denied” as provided in 8VAC20-131-400 D 4. [Emphasis supplied.]

In short, as long as a school makes nice to the Board of Education, it won’t be denied accreditation.

Looking at the data above, the conclusion is clear: “Accreditation Denied” has gone away; “Accredited with Conditions” is the new, more Superintendent-friendly euphemism that means roughly the same thing. 

Thus, if we read the new system for what it means, not what it says, it might even be taken as an improvement on the old, bogus system.  Let’s call it the new, bogus system.

But, then, “Board of Education” is itself a euphemism, if not an outright lie (for example, see this and this and this and this) so there’s no reason to expect honest reporting from their “accreditation” process. 

Even more to the point, that Board has demonstrated (and members have admitted [Sept. 21, 2016 video starting at 1:48]) that they don’t know how to fix awful schools such as those in Petersburg.  So the labels they apply to failing schools provide bureaucratic camouflage: Those schools, and our Board of “Education,” can put on a happy face while they persist in failing to educate far too many children.