Despite repeated telephone calls to Victoria Oakley, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) assistant superintendent for instruction and accountability and to RPS Superintendent Yvonne Brandon, I have yet to hear back from either concerning the recently released math Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores.
Just as my math teachers demanded that I show my work when submitting homework or tests, I am asking that RPS central administrators show "their work" and help us understand what they did to prepare our students and teachers for these tests.
Given that neither Oakley nor Brandon has provided any detailed accounting or academic analysis of how it is that RPS managed to earn some of the lowest grades in the Commonwealth on the recently reported math Standard of Learning (SOL) tests, students, parents and teachers deserve to know what went wrong and what the plan is for ensuring that our students and teachers not waste another year in math class only to have a 97 percent failure rate.
I have heard from several math teachers in central Virginia since I wrote about the truly awful math SOL scores recently released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
The most poignant comments have come from teachers who work in Richmond Public Schools (RPS). While each accepted responsibility for what did (and did not) happen in their individual classrooms, many noted that there was little to no professional development devoted to the new SOL math tests.
All RPS teachers said they were completely unaware of the resources from VDOE that I listed at the end of my blog posting, until, say a week before the tests were administered.
Several teachers placed a lot of blame on the math instructional specialist, who in the opinion of one teacher: " ... was MIA, unqualified, and largely useless, by many accounts one who was promoted because he couldn't do his old job. Schools didn't have books that even covered new standards."
In contrast, teachers in Chesterfield said they got together at the beginning of the year and wrote instructional materials and practice exams which were then sent to the state to see if they were consistent with the new standards.
The teachers who contacted me said that the state was largely helpful and certainly responsive at a level that goes above and beyond – the people at VDOE “are always willing to answer questions, come and speak and provide help upon request.”
In Henrico, instructional specialists there developed materials the year before, which might explain why Henrico actually had math scores improve, despite the additional rigor on the tests.
Meanwhile, Richmond teachers didn't all find or develop new materials themselves, weren't given PD time to come together and develop materials, weren't given the help they needed from the instructional specialists or others in central administration.
While Oakley recently told the School Board that she and her staff are working hard to ensure that what happened last year is not repeated, no one has been held accountable for this mess.
If RPS central administrators cannot explain what they did
wrong last year, how can we believe they will get it right this year?