2020 (And Earlier) Dropouts from Richmond Schools

We have seen that Richmond’s public schools have a high 4-year cohort dropout rate among economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students and an appalling rate of dropouts among the more advantaged (“Not ED”) students.

Note: The #N/A entries represent cases where the numbers of students in the particular group is sufficiently small (<10) to trigger VDOE’s suppression rule.

The 2020 4-year cohort report includes data for schools with a graduating class. Here are those data for the Richmond schools, sorted by the school names, along with the state averages, .

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As to the selective high schools, Franklin, Open, and Community, those numbers are what we might wish to see everywhere, zero.

Looking only at the mainstream high schools, here sorted by school names, we see a different situation.

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Marshall and, especially, TJ report single digit rates. The dropout rates at the other three schools range from high to stratospheric, and all exhibit the counterintuitive inversion where the more affluent students dropped out at higher rates than the ED students.

Wythe holds last place with a 21% ED rate that is 3.1 times the state average and a 70% Not ED rate, 17 times the state average. The rates at Armstrong and Huguenot are perhaps less appalling but in any case plainly unacceptable.

The 2020 data are bound to be anomalous because of the pandemic so let’s look at some history.

But first a note on the data source: The (usually very helpful) VDOE cohort database access has been removed but the “Cohort Graduation Build-A-Table” is on the page. Clicking the link brings up a display that seems to offer the cohort dropout rates (along with the graduation rates) but if one has selected the (more honest) Federal graduation rate, the dropout data are absent. Select the (rigged) “On-Time”) graduation rate and you also can get dropout data. Go figure.

Here, then, are the recent dropout histories for Richmond and the state:

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Two things jump out here:

  1. As we would expect, the statewide dropout of ED students is higher than for their more affluent peers; in contrast, the Richmond difference is reversed and is huge; and
  2. The COVID effect (alone or with some other cause) reduced the ED rate statewide by 1.4% (17% relative) but in Richmond by a whopping 7.6% (38% relative).

The RPS people will want to claim credit for the reduction in the ED rate but that explanation does not comport with the increase in Not ED dropouts. In any case, something weird is going on in Richmond. If you have it figured out, please share that information. The estimable Jim Bacon has one take on that.

Turning to the Richmond schools with graduating classes, we see the wonderful,

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. . . and the awful (notice the different scales!),

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. . . and the much less disturbing,

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. . . ranging to right fine (in ‘20, at least).

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As with the strange ED/Not ED inversions in all the mainstream high schools, these data do not clearly answer the question whether our new Superintendent has done anything useful about the dropout rate.