Patrick Henry Performance

The estimable Jim Bacon raised the question of the performance of Richmond’s Patrick Henry, a charter school.

As to the 2019 SOL pass rates, the answer is: fourth place among the Richmond elementary schools on the reading tests (but 1.9 points below the 75% nominal benchmark for accreditation), seventh place in math (and 6.9 points above the 70% math benchmark).



But the testing universe is more complicated than that. The major predictor of school performance is none of the usual input measures such as class size, teacher salaries, teacher degrees, or the like; the students’ socioeconomic background is the most important factor. As to matters at the school, teacher quality is most important, ahead of facilities and curricula.

Virginia resolutely refuses to measure teacher quality but we do have data on the major factor, poverty.

The (very nice) VDOE database offers pass rates of students who are, to use the official euphemism, “economically disadvantaged,” (here “ED”), or not (here “Not ED”). So let’s look at Patrick Henry in light of those data.

On the 2019 reading and math testing, Patrick Henry was 40.3% ED, well below the Richmond median of 76% in the group tested in reading, 75% in math.

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For reference, the state average elementary ED population on these tests was 44%.

The 2019 Not ED reading pass rate at Patrick Henry was 86.25, behind only Munford and Fox, and well above the 75% benchmark. The math rate, 87.5, was one notch farther down the list but still in good company and far above the 70% benchmark.



Note: Jones and Fairfield Court are reported with no data because they had too few Not ED students to get past the suppression rule.

In terms of its ED students, Patrick Henry was eleventh in Richmond on the reading tests with a 53.7% pass rate; it was tenth in math at 61.1 and still farther behind the Richmond leaders.



In short, Patrick Henry owes those pretty good SOL averages to its very good Not ED scores and its relatively small population of ED students.

In reading, the ED students at Patrick Henry were 32.6 points below the Not ED; in math, it was 26.4. Statewide, the ED/Not ED average differences for the elementary grades were 22.4 and 16.5. That leaves Patrick Henry’s ED pass rates lower than normal by just about ten points.


Another ten points on the ED pass rates would put Patrick Henry’s reading at 64, still too low but among the leaders in Richmond, and its math at 71, above the math benchmark.

This is a surprisingly poor showing as to the ED students for a school where the families care enough to apply for admission, to commit to contribute 24 hours per year, and, by implication, to provide an encouraging environment at home.

Of course, these data do not measure the degrees of affluence or poverty within the ED and Not ED groups. Nonetheless they suggest that Patrick Henry is doing quite well with its Not ED students (at least as measured in the Richmond milieu) but not well with its ED kids.

BTW: Patrick Henry joins Fox and Munford in this respect.

It would be interesting to know whether the Patrick Henry principal and the RPS Superintendent are doing something about this gap. Patrick Henry was accredited this year (on the Board of Education’s new, Lake Woebegone system) so we might doubt it.