Richmond Public Schools: Second Worst Grade 6 Math SOL Scores in Virginia

Richmond is the yellow bar. Red bars, from the left, are Petersburg (!!), Hampton, Norfolk, and Newport News.  (Many thanks to John R. Butcher for all the charts that appear on the SaveOurSchools.rva blogsite).

"We're not where we want to be."

-- Victoria Oakley,  assistant Superintendent, 
City of Richmond Public Schools (RPS)

Were the academic situation facing our children and our community not so damning and desperate, Victoria Oakley's comment to The Richmond Times Dispatch yesterday could be read as a mildly droll understatement. 

But, given the Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores recently released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) that show some RPS schools with pass rates in the single digits and "teens,"one might hope that Oakley or RPS Supt. Yvonne Brandon might have had something more substantive to say.  

Similarly, Brandon's comment that there are "challenges to conquer but that the goals [are] attainable," sounds more platitudinous than plucky:  "When the state first adopted the SOL testing program (in 1998), only three of our schools earned full accreditation that first year," she said. "Two years ago, every Richmond city school was fully accredited. We have a history of meeting the challenge, and we will do so again."

Brandon's comment begs the question of why it is then that so many fifth-grade students in the city's fully accredited elementary schools suddenly become as dumb as a bag of rocks when they move up to middle school. 

Would that someone -- anyone with RPS -- could explain what happened at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School where only three percent (yes, 3!) of seventh graders passed the math SOL test?  Or how about Henderson Middle School where only seven percent (7!) of the seventh graders passed? Binford at least made it into the "teens" with a 17 percent pass rate for 8th grade math.  To see a chart with score results for Richmond schools, click here.

Could someone please explain why it is that having had a full two years of advance notice on these tests, why is it that some districts actually IMPROVED (see Petersburg, especially) and others nose-dived?  Since this was no pop-quiz of an SOL tossed at Virginia division Superintendents and teachers at the last minute, some hard questions need to be asked and some plausible explanations proffered.   Given that there was plenty of advance warning and presumably some serious in-service trainings provided, someone needs to tell Virginia taxpayers and parents what happened and the "lesson plan" is to ensure this never happens again.

How many more generations of Richmond students will be forced to suffer the consequences of the soft bigotry of diminished expectations that permeates both state and district school systems?  How long will Richmond parents and taxpayers tolerate the insulting incompetence of  RPS administrators and School Board members who prefer to make excuses while attempting to defend the indefensible? Wouldn't it be simpler and saner to simply get it together and figure out how to stop wasting time, money and children's minds?
Why must my friend John R. Butcher, a retired assistant Attorney General and former chemistry professor at Hampden-Sydney, be forced to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain testing data when VDOE gets the SOL scores just days after the tests are administered and in plenty of time to find out who gets to graduate in May?  

He used the spreadsheet of scores he obtained which details the test scores by test for each grade tested and the end of course tests to create some revealing graphs and provides some excellent analysis on his Cranky Taxpayer website. The following information is a sampling of the wealth of information on the site.  This link will take you to the Virginia Department of Education website where you can investigate for yourself.  Meanwhile, please check out the following information from Butcher's Cranky Taxpayer website.  You can find this information and much, much more by clicking this link.


A first look at what we do have is disheartening.  Here, to start, are the Richmond and state data for the two years for which they posted data.

Reading Problem; RPS Nonsense

Richmond reading scores State reading scores

These raw data are less interesting than the differences betweeen the Richmond and state data, which show Richmond's performance versus the state average.

Richmond v State reading scores

Here we see Richmond outperforming the state average in both years on the fifth grade test and behind the state on all the other tests.  Of particular note is the terrible performance of Richmond's junior high schools (grades 6-8) and the general falling behind from 2011 to 2012.

The 2012 8th grade reading score is particularly lousy, being 20 points below the state average, down from 11 points the previous year. 

Math Disaster

The decline in reading performance is a mere trifle compared to the disastrous drop in math scores.  We start with the raw scores:

Richmond math scores State math scores

As expected, the statewide scores on the new math test dropped.  
But the Richmond scores cratered.

Richmond v state math scores

Relative to the state average, the Richmond score average dropped to 21 points below.  The 6th grade score led the disaster with a drop from 30 to 43 points below the state average.

Just for amusement, here is Norfolk's performance on these tests.

Norfolk v state reading scores Norfolk v. state math scores

Still lousy scores but showing improvement in the 6th grade reading score and showing much smaller drops in the math scores. I have renewed my FOIA request for the division average scores so we can see these numbers in full historical context.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, isn't it about time for Richmond to have a Superintendent (and a School Board) who can do the job?