Petersburg Beat Richmond in Reading and Math ... The Seen, the Unseen and the Obscene II

The results of the state-wide testing released by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) today showed that Richmond's SOL scores didn't just slide this year, they cratered.  Richmond's pass rate in reading is the worst of 132 school divisions in Virginia. Honestly, Petersburg beat Richmond in Reading and Math.  

I am sure Richmond officials will have plenty of promises tomorrow about how they will do better next time.  But because I remembered the promises they made last  year about how they would do better this year, I just didn't have the stomach to listen to their lies and excuses  today -- especially after I saw that Henderson Middle School had a 7 percent pass rate for 7th grade math, the exact same score they had last year.  

To understand why I am so disgusted, read my posting from Oct. 4, 2012 titled:  The Seen, the Unseen and the Obscene, that follows the chart. And, follow this link: to read John Butcher's trenchant analysis and 

to view his excellent charts that document this educational disaster.

2013 math scores bounce back

The Seen, the Unseen and the Obscene

I don't know about you, but I have had more than enough of the spin and outrageous mendacity that spews forth from central administrators and certain members of the City of Richmond Public Schools Board ensconced on the 17th-floor of  Richmond City Hall.

Repeated  calls to Felicia Cosby, RPS publicity director, and spokesman,  to interview Victoria Oakley, the chief academic officer, concerning RPS' dismal performance on the Standards of Learning  (SOLs) assessments  have resulted thus far in no interview. 

To be fair, Oakley did deliver a power-point presentation titled "Accreditation and Accountability" at the Oct. 1, 2012 School Board meeting at Richmond City Hall.  As is the custom in Richmond Public Schools, Oakley read every word of her 24-page presentation aloud for those in attendance.  It took her nearly an hour.  Really.

To be sure, should Oakley or her boss, RPS Supt. Yvonne Brandon, decide to continue stonewalling and refuse to answer specific questions or provide some insight into how this happened, how can parents have faith in their abilities to right the course of the school system?

I want to interview Oakley because I have been told by different teachers in Richmond that they received precious little support and professional development from RPS central administration or the math instructional specialist.

I would also ask all the questions posed in the e-mails below as well as a few more about graduation rates, skyrocketing drop-out rates, plummeting SOL scores and the district's claim that they did not receive the detailed information needed to help prepare the teachers help the students until February 2012. 

I would also ask about why RPS persists in breaking state law concerning students who are truant. Failure to abide by truancy law gives rise to the question of whether this is a form of "pushing out" students whose scores would lower RPS' aggregate test results.  Do you agree or disagree?


Sent: Mon, Sep 24, 2012 3:01 pm
Subject: RPS SOL Info.

 Ms. Wolf: 

Per our earlier conversation, Richmond Public Schools is far from satisfied with its math performance on this year's SOL math test...specifically at the middle years' level. 

While we put strategies in place last year when we noted performance concerns in math (what was done to prevent single digit pass rates at MLK, Henderson and CCP?),we are now revamping our approach (what WAS your approach?)to provide more individual support to math teachers as well as placing instructional coaches in our priority schools (where do these instructional coaches come from? Who trains them? How are they paid? How much are they paid? How do we assess their effectiveness?). 

In addition, we (who is "we"?)are conducting bi-weekly assessments, strengthening our professional development tools (such as?)for math teachers for increased knowledge capacity (what do you mean by "increased knowledge capacity"?)and looking to high performance teachers and principals to share instructional best practices across the district (meaning what?).

Victoria S. Oakley
Chief Academic Officer
Richmond Public Schools
Telephone:  (804) 780-7727
Fax:  (804) 780-7115

(I sent the following e-mail response to Ms. Oakley on Sept. 25, 2012 and despite several telephone calls to Felecia Cosby (public relations) and to Ms. Oakley.  I have never heard back from either.)

Dear Ms. Oakley:

Thank you for your response.  

However, you did not speak to the question of "HOW" this disaster happened.  I have been told by different teachers in Richmond that they received precious little support and professional development from RPS central administration or the math instructional specialist. 

What support and training did they receive? When and where? Given that the more rigorous math test was announced in 2009, there is no way this test can be considered a "pop quiz."

Knowing that the new test format would require students to use computers and manipulate objects on the screen in order to determine correct answers, what did RPS do to enhance computer skills for our students?  Were those computers that sat in the warehouse supposed to be used for this?

Could RPS' heavy use of the VGLA account for the single-digit pass rates in our middle schools especially?  Is it true that RPS teachers and instructional leaders did not receive pertinent information concerning the content of the new math test until February 2012?  Really?

I checked with VDOE about this and was provided plenty of contradictory evidence. 

Moreover, I was told that RPS did not participate in the professional development workshops provided by VDOE in 2009.   VDOE officials are checking to see who participated during 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. 

Perhaps you could supply the pertinent information?

Did RPS teachers participate in any regional professional development programs to "train the trainer"?  If yes, who participated and when?  If not,  why not?

As expected, the statewide scores on the new math test dropped.  But RPS' scores cratered. 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.  The third grade math and fifth grade English scores demonstrate that Richmond's schoolchildren can perform at or very near to the state average. 

Their abject failure to do so elsewhere is not the kids' fault.  The problem is the teaching. On Sept. 12, 2012, VDOE released the School and Division pass rates.  VDOE usually  release those data as part of the "report cards" in May.

Did you consider that by delaying the release of this information, RPS students were denied the opportunity to enroll in summer school?


Carol A.O. Wolf