Where Have All the Students Gone?

By John R. Butcher
February 26, 2016 by cranky

Following up on the Binford post and the graph there showing Richmond’s enrollment pattern: Here are the raw enrollment counts for the State and Richmond for the fall of 2015.
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Both curves show the “ninth grade bump” that the federales attribute particularly to students who have underperformed in the lower grades.  ( Sadly, the feds’ prescription is to improve ninth grade instruction, after the damage has been done, rather than avoid the damage by improving instruction in the lower grades.)
In order to allow a direct comparison of the two curves, l’ve normalized the numbers to the ninth grade enrollments.
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Here we see that Richmond suffers an exaggerated ninth grade bump (i.e., failure rate in the ninth grade), almost certainly reflecting inferior preparation in our middle schools.  The falloff beginning in the tenth grade reflects Richmond’s appalling dropout rate.  
To the point here, Richmond’s enrollment drops throughout the elementary grades, and the drop continues through middle school.  We can measure the magnitudes by looking at enrollment change by grade.
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The State enrollment in the sixth grade is nearly unchanged from the first grade while Richmond is down by twenty-seven percent.  As of the eighth grade, the Statewide numbers are down by 1.2%, Richmond by 35.9%.
Perhaps some of those Richmond students dropped out; I’ll suggest that a lot more escaped to the Counties.  In either case, the decrease is an indictment of our schools, particularly the middle schools.
If you think, as I do, that these data reflect badly on the Richmond schools (or even if you don’t), please see this report of the 2014 valedictorian at John Marshall who said she was a “math genius” in high school but could earn only a B and a C in her math courses at JMU.