Having looked at the 2019 pass rates of Richmond’s elementary schools and middle schools, let’s turn to the high schools.
Note: The Board of Education has designed its SOL reporting to discriminate against Richmond and other divisions with large populations of economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students. Those students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by about 20 points on average. As a result, the SOL averages for divisions such as Richmond (ca. 2/3 ED) are lowered relative to divisions with similar ED and Not ED pass rates but fewer ED students. Fortunately, the database provides both ED and Not ED pass rates.
The End of Course (“EOC”) tests are primarily administered in the high schools. The standard diploma requires that the student pass the EOC tests in two English courses and one math course.
To start, here are the EOC reading pass rate averages by school for Not ED (more affluent) students.
All three of the selective schools aced these tests. Of the mainstream high schools, only TJ met the nominal benchmark for accreditation (75%). And notice, this is the result for the more affluent (and presumably higher-scoring) students.
The Not ED pass rates for the mainstream high schools were reduced by the loss of some better-performing students to the three selective schools. At the same time, the rates for those five schools were boosted some by the scores of Maggie Walker students; those are reported at the high schools in those students home districts, not at Walker. VDOE does not report the magnitude of those effects.
Turning to the ED pass rates:
Again the selective high schools turned in superb numbers. Marshall was the pick of the mainstream high schools, 4.3 points below the nominal benchmark for accreditation; the other schools worked together to lower the Richmond average to 61.4.
Again, the selective schools skimmed some of the most capable ED students from the pool. That cannot have affected the division average. To the contrary, the Richmond average was boosted some by the rip-off of the Maggie Walker results.
Even so, the averages told a sad story about the state of our high schools.
The Not ED minus ED data showed a curious pattern.
The Richmond average difference was inflated in some measure by the Maggie Walker swindle. The selective schools showed the effect of attracting some of the more capable ED students. The mainstream high schools were all over the place. The TJ difference was as astounding in one direction as the Marshall in the other.
Except perhaps at Franklin, the numbers tested were not so small that a few high or low scores could have produced a large fluctuation in the pass rate.
Either the nonselective schools were showing wildly variable performances in their teachers or in their learners. Or both.
Turning to the math tests and the Not ED pass rates:
The nominal accreditation benchmark here is 70; only the selective schools met it.
As to the ED pass rates, none of the mainstream high school came close to the benchmark. The Richmond average barely broke 50%.
There is a complication: The Richmond math averages include results from middle schools. Those offer advanced classes, including some in the high school math subjects, that allow some of their better students to get a jump on the graduation requirements. The entire picture looks like this:
In light of that selection process, is is no surprise that the middle schools outscored the high schools.
The state averages are subject to the same issue. Thus, the comparison with the overall Richmond averages should be a fair one, albeit it does not directly measure the average high school performance.
Richmond has a very large math problem.
As to the Richmond average, the Not ED/ED difference was within the realm of reason. Otherwise another unexplained spectrum.
And, again, the numbers tested were not so small as to explain all the scatter.
On these data, the scatter in the Not ED/ED pass rate differences will remain a puzzle.
However, the message of the averages (and of the pass rates of too many schools) is clear.