Middle School Mess

The VDOE database is glad to produce pass rates by grade. 

We must view these numbers with some caution.  The high school pass rates are boosted by inclusion of the Maggie Walker students who live in Richmond, albeit Walker is not a Richmond public school.  They still are giving the notorious VGLA to LEP students in grades 3-8 (albeit it’s now graded by the state, not the local schools). 

Here, then, are the pass rates for the 2015 reading tests for Richmond and the State. 

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And here are the pass rates on the math tests.

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We can simplify the pictures by taking the difference between the Richmond and state pass rates.

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So we see the elementary schools underperforming, the middle schools failing their students miserably, and the high schools a very mixed bag.

For sure, if RPS elects to attack the worst of the awful, they’ll start with the middle schools and eleventh grade reading.

. . . Garbage Out

I’ve already discussed VDOE’s byzantine, opaque process for “adjusting” pass rates to calculate accreditation status.  So, without further comment, and for whatever these numbers may mean, here is the distribution of Full accreditations by division.

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Richmond is the yellow bar.  The red bars are, from the left, Petersburg, Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton.  The blue bar is the state average.

VDOE invented several forms of “nearly pass” categories this year.  Here is a list of the categories that appear in this year’s database, along with the abbreviations I had to use to fit the table below on the page. 

Accreditation Denied Denied
Conditionally Accredited (New Schools) New School
Fully Accredited Full
Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-GCI Close, GCI
Partially Accredited: Approaching Benchmark-Pass Rate Close, Pass Rate
Partially Accredited: Improving School-Pass Rate Improving, Pass Rate
Partially Accredited: Warned School-Pass Rate Warned, Improved Pass Rate
To Be Determined TBD

The complete list is here and the press release explaining the new categories is here.

Finally, here is the table, sorted by division.

  Denied New School Full Close, GCI Close, Pass Rate Improving Pass Rate Warned, Improved Pass Rate TBD Total % Full
Accomack County     8     2 1   11 73%
Albemarle County     19   1   6   26 73%
Alexandria City 1   12     2 1   16 75%
Alleghany County     4       1   5 80%
Amelia County     1   1 1     3 33%
Amherst County     7     1 2   10 70%
Appomattox County     4           4 100%
Arlington County   1 31           32 97%
Augusta County     14   1 1 4   20 70%
Bath County     2       1   3 67%
Bedford County     12       6 1 19 63%
Bland County     1   1       2 50%
Botetourt County     10       1   11 91%
Bristol City     4       2   6 67%
Brunswick County     2     1 2   5 40%
Buchanan County     7   1     1 9 78%
Buckingham County     1   1   2   4 25%
Buena Vista City             1 3 4 0%
Campbell County     12         1 13 92%
Caroline County     3       2   5 60%
Carroll County     7       2   9 78%
Charles City County     1       1   2 50%
Charlotte County     4       1   5 80%
Charlottesville City     9           9 100%
Chesapeake City     34   2 5 4   45 76%
Chesterfield County     52   1 3 5   61 85%
Clarke County     3     1     4 75%
Colonial Beach     2           2 100%
Colonial Heights City     5           5 100%
Covington City     2   1       3 67%
Craig County     2           2 100%
Culpeper County     7   1 1 1   10 70%
Cumberland County             3   3 0%
Danville City     3   1 1 5 1 11 27%
Dickenson County   2 1     1 1   5 20%
Dinwiddie County     5       1 1 7 71%
Essex County           1 1 1 3 0%
Fairfax County     177 1 2 3 9   192 92%
Falls Church City     4           4 100%
Fauquier County     17       2   19 89%
Floyd County     5           5 100%
Fluvanna County     5           5 100%
Franklin City     1         2 3 33%
Franklin County     16           16 100%
Frederick County     12   1 1 3 1 18 67%
Fredericksburg City     4           4 100%
Galax City     3           3 100%
Giles County     4       1   5 80%
Gloucester County   1 7           8 88%
Goochland County     5           5 100%
Grayson County     6       1   7 86%
Greene County     2   1   2   5 40%
Greensville County     1     1 2   4 25%
Halifax County     4     2 3   9 44%
Hampton City     12   4   8 5 29 41%
Hanover County     23           23 100%
Harrisonburg City     6     1 1   8 75%
Henrico County 1   45     3 17 1 67 67%
Henry County     11   2   1   14 79%
Highland County     1     1     2 50%
Hopewell City     1       4   5 20%
Isle of Wight County     8       1   9 89%
King and Queen County     3           3 100%
King George County     4     1     5 80%
King William County     4           4 100%
Lancaster County         1   2   3 0%
Lee County     8       2   10 80%
Lexington City     2           2 100%
Loudoun County   1 83   1   1   86 97%
Louisa County     5     1     6 83%
Lunenburg County     1       3   4 25%
Lynchburg City     3   1 1 8 3 16 19%
Madison County     2       2   4 50%
Manassas City     6   1 1     8 75%
Manassas Park City     3       1   4 75%
Martinsville City           1 3   4 0%
Mathews County     3           3 100%
Mecklenburg County     3   3   1 1 8 38%
Middlesex County     3           3 100%
Montgomery County     18       1   19 95%
Nelson County     3       1   4 75%
New Kent County     4           4 100%
Newport News City 3   15   2 6 9 3 38 39%
Norfolk City 4 1 17   2 4 10 7 45 38%
Northampton County 1   1     2     4 25%
Northumberland County     2   1       3 67%
Norton City     2           2 100%
Nottoway County     1     3 2   6 17%
Orange County     9           9 100%
Page County     4     1 3   8 50%
Patrick County     6     1     7 86%
Petersburg City 1   1       3 2 7 14%
Pittsylvania County     16     1 1   18 89%
Poquoson City     4           4 100%
Portsmouth City     11     2 4 2 19 58%
Powhatan County     6           6 100%
Prince Edward County     1       2   3 33%
Prince George County     6       2   8 75%
Prince William County   1 80   4 1 1 1 88 91%
Pulaski County     7       1   8 88%
Radford City     4           4 100%
Rappahannock County     2           2 100%
Richmond City 2 2 17     3 14 7 45 38%
Richmond County     2           2 100%
Roanoke City     15   1 3 5   24 63%
Roanoke County     26           26 100%
Rockbridge County     5       1   6 83%
Rockingham County     22   1       23 96%
Russell County     11       1   12 92%
Salem City     6           6 100%
Scott County     13           13 100%
Shenandoah County     5     1 3   9 56%
Smyth County     12       1   13 92%
Southampton County     5         1 6 83%
Spotsylvania County     27     1 1   29 93%
Stafford County     30           30 100%
State 13 9 1414 1 46 76 215 49 1823 78%
Staunton City     3     1   1 5 60%
Suffolk City     11     3 4 1 19 58%
Surry County     2     1     3 67%
Sussex County     2   1       3 67%
Tazewell County     15           15 100%
Virginia Beach City     73   3 1 3 2 82 89%
Warren County     6   1 1     8 75%
Washington County     14   1       15 93%
Waynesboro City     2       4   6 33%
West Point     3           3 100%
Westmoreland County     1     2 1   4 25%
Williamsburg-James City County     15           15 100%
Winchester City     5       1   6 83%
Wise County     12           12 100%
Wythe County     11       1   12 92%
York County     19           19 100%

In the Accreditation Basement

VDOE has posted the 2016 Accreditation Ratings, based on the 2015 test scores.

I’ll have more to say later about VDOE’s manipulation of the Accreditation Ratings, to include the newly minted “junior is flunking but by less than before” ratings.  For now, here are the Richmond results.

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It’s hard to know what all those “TBD” entries mean.  I’ll have a look at the pass rates and post them here, soon.  For sure, 38% fully accredited is not good news.

And, also for sure, Thompson was denied accreditation last year but the newly-minted Elkhardt-Thompson is getting a free pass.

Preliminary Graduation Data

VDOE is out today with a press release bragging on the increased On-Time graduation rate

The VDOE Web site was down today until suppertime; I will not have time to analyze the data until tomorrow.  Until then, here are some early data (“Actual” rate refers to the advanced+standard diploma rate; “on-time” includes counts of those diplomas plus the modified standard, special, and general achievement  diplomas):

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How About Those Salaries?

As a further look at the effect of expenditures on performance, here are the 2015 division average reading pass rates v. the 2015 division average budgeted teacher salaries (the actual 2015 salary data won’t be available until around the first of the year).  Data for Accomack are missing for lack of a report to VDOE.

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Richmond is the gold square; the blue circle is the statewide division average.

The fitted curve suggests that an additional $10,000 average salary is associated with a 2% increase in the pass rate but the R2 tells us that the two variables are essentially uncorrelated.

The math data paint a similar picture.

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Of course, we know that increasing economic disadvantage of the student population is associated with lower pass rates.  We can account for the average effect by using the correlation between pass rate and economic disadvantage to normalize the pass rates, i.e., express the pass rates as percentages of the economic disadvantage trendline rates.   That produces these graphs:

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Again, only minuscule correlations.  And the fitted curves, to the extent they mean anything, say “no benefit from the higher salaries.”

So it seems that the divisions that pay their teachers more do not get better SOL performance; they merely pay more for the performance they get.

Finally, here for two of my faithful readers (maybe the only two) are the last two graphs showing the results for Charles City (purple circle) and Lynchburg (red circle).

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Data are posted here.

JLARC Punts

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has just published its draft report “Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending.”  Unfortunately, that report does not even look carefully at where Virginia is spending its educational dollars, much less answer the (much harder) question of what we are getting for that money.

The Mandates

The General Assembly gave JLARC two decently clear mandates.

SJR328 (2013): JLARC shall

study the efficiency and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school spending in Virginia.  [It] shall (i) study the efficiency and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school spending in Virginia, including evaluating the findings from School Efficiency Reviews and assessing the extent to which recommendations have been implemented; (ii) compare to other states how and to what extent Virginia funds elementary and secondary education; and (iii) identify opportunities to improve the quality of education students receive in consideration of the funds spent.

2014 Appropriation Act, Item 30 (at p. 62 of the link): JLARC to examine virtual instruction, to include “effectiveness of  virtual schooling in terms of  student academic achievement outcomes on assessment tests and course completion or graduation rates.”

The “Study”

The result is a 112 page draft that ignores the instructions of the General Assembly. 

Of the nine recommendations, six talk about efficiency; half of the six deal with school busses; only one of the six deals with something that relates to education.  None tells us about the educational effectiveness of our school spending or how to improve it:

  1. Track teacher turnover.
  2. Provide facilities management expertise.
  3. Provide “guidance” regarding sharing information about facilities management best practices.
  4. Consider statewide contract for bus routing and monitoring software.
  5. Provide transportation management expertise.
  6. Assist with transportation management best practices.

As to virtual schooling, JLARC again avoids answering the question.  The three recommendations:

  1. Provide information about online schools.
  2. Estimate costs of online learning.
  3. Compare achievement of virtual v. physical schools

That last one is particularly rich: JLARC is recommending that VDOE do what the General Assembly told JLARC to do.

Cranky’s Conclusion

This study is a wordy waste of money.  It does not answer the questions posed by the General Assembly.  Instead, it raises a new question: Why are we paying JLARC to not do what it’s been told to do?

A Reader’s Conclusion (added on 9/17)

A reader suggests an alternate (and more pertinent) conclusion: Why are we paying JLARC not to do what it’s been told to do, when we already are paying VDOE that should be doing [what JLARC failed to do]?

New (Federal) College Data

USDOE has just posted a considerable trove of college data.

CAVEAT:  These data are mostly for students who received federal financial aid. 

  • “Average Annual Cost”: The average annual net price for federal financial aid recipients, after aid from the school, state, or federal government. For public schools, this is only the average cost for in-state students.
  • “Graduation Rate”: The graduation rate after six years for schools that award predominantly four-year degrees and after four years for all other schools. These rates are only for full-time students enrolled for the first time.
  • “Salary After Attending”: The median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school.

My quick reading of the data does not disclose what fraction(s)of the student populations are represented here. 

With that warning, here is a look at the Virginia public and not-for-profit colleges.  First the graduation rates:

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The winners there are UVa in red, W&L in yellow, and W&M in green.

Next, the median salary ten years out:

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W&L, in yellow, is the big winner here.

Finally, a bang/buck calculation, ((Salary * Graduation Rate) / Average Cost):

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Colors, as before, are UVa in red, W&L in yellow.

Here is the dataset, sorted by school name.

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You might be interested in comparing these data with the results of the Brookings “value-added” study.