Feckless “Supervision” of Petersburg

Despite fifteen years of “supervision” by the Board and Department of Education, the Petersburg schools marinate in failure.

Va. Code § 22.1-8 provides: “The general supervision of the public school system shall be vested in the Board of Education.”

Va. Code § 22.1-253.13:8 provides:

The Board of Education shall have authority to seek school division compliance with the foregoing Standards of Quality. When the Board of Education determines that a school division has failed or refused, and continues to fail or refuse, to comply with any such Standard, the Board may petition the circuit court having jurisdiction in the school division to mandate or otherwise enforce compliance with such standard, including the development or implementation of any required corrective action plan that a local school board has failed or refused to develop or implement in a timely manner.

The agenda package for the October, 2018 meeting of the Board of Education contains a summary of the “supervision” the Board has provided to Petersburg:

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“MOU” is bureaucratese for “Memorandum of Understanding,” which in turn is bureaucratese for an edict to which the Board can point in order to claim it is doing something about lousy schools. In the Real World, the Board’s MOUs are feckless nonsense.

The 2019 SOL data now are out; they add a fifteenth year to the span of the Board’s sterile attempts to improve the Petersburg schools.

Aside: On average, Virginia’s economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by about 20%. The SOL average pass rate thus is lowered for the divisions with larger ED populations. To avoid the Biased SOL average, let’s look at the underlying averages for the ED and Not ED groups.

To start, here are the reading pass rates:

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Until 2017, Petersburg’s Not ED pass rate was slightly above the state average ED rate. Then the Petersburg rate dropped.

At all times on this graph, Petersburg’s stronger group was well below the nominal benchmark for accreditation in English, the red line on the graph. The ED average was flirting with the 50% level.

Both Petersburg groups slid this year: The 2019 Petersburg Not ED average was 5.3 points below the state ED average; the Petersburg ED average dropped to 49.8%. Said otherwise, 40.5% of Petersburg’s Not Ed students and half the ED students flunked the 2019 reading SOL. 

Petersburg’s “progress” on the writing tests has been even less edifying.

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Likewise, History.

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On the math tests, the raw data suggest that Petersburg improved a bit this year.

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That impression fades when we notice that the 2019 math tests were new and the relaxed scoring boosted the state Not ED average by 3.4% and the ED by 6.6% over the 2018 pass rates. In light of those increases, Petersburg’s increases of 2.0 and 3.4%, respectively, are, in fact, decreases.

Finally, science, where Petersburg again reached toward lower pass rates.

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Despite fifteen years of “supervision” from the Board and Department of Education, Petersburg wallows in failure.  The Board has yet to sue any school division, much less Petersburg, under the authority of § 22.1-253.13:8.

Isn’t it long past time for the Board of Education and the senior bureaucrats at the Department to be directed to employment that is better suited to their talents?