Richmond: The Excellent, the OK, and the Awful

While we wait to see how far the Board of Education will punt on the 2021 SOL testing, let’s look in some detail at the 2019 performance of Richmond’s schools (there having been no testing in 2020).

But first, some important background: Statewide, “economically disadvantaged” (here, “ED”) students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by some 17 to 22 points, depending on the subject. Thus the school and division average pass rates depend both on student performance and the relative numbers of ED and Not ED students. This punishes the schools and divisions with large ED enrollments. We’ll avoid that issue here by looking at the rates for both groups.

To start, here are the ED pass rate distributions of Virginia and Richmond schools on the reading tests.


The blue bars are the counts of Virginia schools with the indicated (rounded) pass rates. The red bars, with open middles so the state data can show through, are Richmond; the Richmond scale is on the right-hand axis.

The state data here (and even more in the next chart) are skewed toward the low end. That renders the usual measures of a distribution, the mean and standard deviation, less useful. The measure reported here is the median.

The two Richmond schools that aced the reading tests are Open and Community. The next entry, at 86%, is the other selective school, Franklin. The best of the mainstream schools is Marshall at 71%. The only other school to beat the state median was Cary at 68%. The eight Richmond schools in the cellar are, from the bottom, Alternative, Fairfield Court, MLK, Carver, Woodville, Chimborazo, and Mason.

The Not ED data portray another disaster.


Community and Open again aced the tests. They are followed by Munford, Hill, Franklin, Fox, Alternative and, barely above the state median, Patrick Henry. At the other end, the largest failures are, from the left, Greene, MLK, Boushall, Woodville, Elkhardt-Thompson, and Henderson. Fairfield Court would surely be in that latter list but for the suppression rule (<10 Not ED students).

Turning to the math tests, the Richmond pass rates are even less encouraging:


The schools that beat the state median are, from the top, Open, Community, Cary, Franklin, and Redd. At the other end, the basement dwellers are, from the bottom, Alternative, MLK, Fairfield Court, Carver, Boushall, Wythe, and Henderson.


As to Not ED, Open, Community, Munford, Fox, and Ginter Park beat the state median. Boushall, MLK, Wythe, Greene, Henderson, Elkhardt-Thompson, and Blackwell all scored below 50%.

These data emphasize the huge spreads between Richmond’s best and worst schools as well as the stunning under-performance of flocks of Richmond’s students.

For the record, here are the data, sorted by decreasing averages of the four data points. The “#DIV/0!” entries are for cases where the student count was zero or, more likely, suppressed by VDOE because it was <10.