Dear Dr. Brandon,
I regret that I must write to you again about the false expulsion data (still) on the Virginia Department of Education website. It is truly baffling to see RPS still claiming there were no expulsions for 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. Having served on the board during those years, most recently as co-Chair of the Student Disciplinary Committee, I can state with absolute certainty that this information is false.
Documents obtained by a Freedom of Information request to the Virginia Department of Education show that you wrote to Virginia State Superintendent Dr. Patricia Wright on August 6, 2009 requesting permission to re-submit expulsion data for the 2007-2008 and the 2008-2009 school years. She responded affirmatively to your request on August 12, 2009.
Given that this data was supposed to be already compiled and, per regulations, you had signed a verification certificate, why wasn't the data re-submitted immediately, instead of waiting until August 19th and 20th respectively? Would you please provide a copy of the original data that your staff maintains was lost in "transmission" and the verification certificates for the five years in question?
I would also appreciate knowing why you have not yet requested permission to submit the accurate data for the years 2004-2007?
I read with great interest Chris Dovi's article in Style Weekly concerning this issue, your Superintendent's Update of Oct.16th, the Press Release you posted Oct. 20th on the RPS website and sent to various media outlets and, of course, the response Scott Bass, Style Weekly's editor, posted on Style's website, on behalf of Style and reporter, Chris Dovi.
Various comments you have made about this "cauldron of confusion," as you put it in your Superintendent's Update and in the Press Release, prompt me to request the following:
- A copy of the information you reference in the following statement: "January 2009 quality audit of the multiple sets of data RPS was required to send to the VDOE beginning March 31, 2009. This data audit revealed that the data entry software used in one of our departments was not interfacing with our Comprehensive Information Management System (CIMS)."
- A copy of the inaccurate and accurate data that you referenced in this statement: "We immediately rectified inaccurate data previously submitted."
- An explanation as to why the data you sent me on August 17th was inaccurate, given that you further state that " .... were able to upload additional information during the correction and verification process the state allowed after August 16, 2009."
- A copy of the data report review process for all departments responsible for submitting VDOE required statistics.
And, from your August 6, 2009 letter to Dr. Patricia Wright, the State Supt. of Public Instruction:
- What do you mean when you state: "This re-submission will in no way alter the "cautioned" status that schools were sanctioned."
- Why did you only ask to re-submit two years of data, when there were actually five years of data that needed to be corrected?
- How many schools in Richmond have been sanctioned, the names of the schools and the dates and nature of the actions taken?
Lastly, but by no means least, I must reiterate that during my six-year tenure on the Richmond School Board, we always agreed that the number one mission was student achievement. I recall the many times we discussed community concerns about RPS zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that continue to generate extraordinarily high numbers of suspensions and expulsions. I completely agree with your statement in the press release "that in order to realize progress, a student must be in school."
Similarly, if the data we collect to drive decisions is to be of good use to us in school, then it must be accurate. By allowing inaccurate data to continue to exist, the district does itself and our children harm. By not acting with dispatch to correct these errors, we run the risk of causing our children, our families and our community to distrust our information.
Your unprecedented attack on Chris Dovi and Style Weekly was particularly ill-advised, given the irrefutable facts of the matter. Dovi and Style had their facts about RPS straight -- five years of false data that no one bothered to correct until I wrote to you about it. Dovi had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information given to him by VDOE, an honest mistake immediately corrected in a calm and measured manner the very next business-day by VDOE and Style.
As we both know all too well, Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOLs) and the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) aren't simply about measuring how well our children, in or out of special education, do in public school. The SOLs and NCLB are supposed to help us measure how well the teacher, school, school district, Superintendent and state perform their jobs. And if a school district's problems are intentionally disguised and distorted, or if no one bothers to make sure the data is accurate, how can we ever expect to be able to use data to help fix the problems and give all our children the schools they deserve?
Carol A.O. Wolf