More Meaningless Numbers from Virginia Educrats

bogus_numbersby James A. Bacon

In a story that generated front-page headlines, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday a “significant increase” in the number of Virginia public schools earning accreditation in 2015. The number of fully accredited schools increased by 10 percentage points to 78%.

“Offering every Virginia student a world class education in a public school is at the very foundation of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy,” the governor said. “This year’s strong progress is a reflection of the dedicated work of educators, parents and communities and a clear sign that the reforms we have put into place are working.”

“Getting challenged schools the resources they need to ensure student success is one of the most important steps we can take to improve our Commonwealth’s education system,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton. “Every school that earned full accreditation this year is another school that is better preparing its students for a lifetime of success.”

O Frabjous day! Calooh! Callay! Maybe the educational establishment has finally figured out how to turn around Virginia’s ailing public schools! Maybe there is hope for the future!

Or maybe not. The press release was honest enough to acknowledge the following: “The 2014-2015 school year was the first during which students in grades 3-8 were allowed to retake SOL tests in reading, mathematics, science and history. On average, the performance of students on expedited retakes increased pass rates by about four points on each test.”

In other words, any comparison between 2015 results and 2014 results is likening apples to oranges.

What the press release does not tell us is how many schools this adjustment pushed over the minimum accreditation level. (“Students must achieve adjusted pass rates of at least 75 percent on English reading and writing SOL tests, and of at least 70 percent on assessments in mathematics, science and history.”) Four points on a 1-100 scale is not insignificant. Moreover, that four points is an average. It is possible, indeed probable, that the “expedited retakes” proved to be a bigger factor in improving test scores for poorly performing schools, where more students needed to retake the tests, than for strong performers.

Among the crucial data not included in the press release was the number of schools that would have been accredited had the old policy remained in place. The Virginia Department of Education did not provide the data for citizens to conduct their own analysis or draw their own conclusions.

John Butcher has been illuminating VDOE statistical prestidigitations far longer than I. As he has written on his blog, Cranky’s Blog:

The moving target moves; and having moved,
Moves on:  nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to give an honest answer
Nor all thy tears wash away the bureaucrats’ obfuscation.

The manipulation of data is insulting. And who suffers the most from this statistical sleight of hand? Children, disproportionately from poor, African-American households, who are consigned to schools with no effective accountability, that’s who. Just another example of how the bureaucratic, statist status quo works to oppress poor people of color in Virginia. If you think there’s such a thing as “institutional racism” in this country, this is it.

Update: Cranky calculates the impact of other “adjustments” VDOE makes to the data for students with limited English proficiency and for students who have recently transferred into a Virginia public school. On the math tests, the adjustments had the felicitous effect of increasing the number of schools achieving the 70% pass rate from 1,519 to 1,627, or six percentage points.

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14 responses to “More Meaningless Numbers from Virginia Educrats

  1. You are indeed a wise man! When the VDOE (or the Virginia Department of Data Suppression) said the scores increased by 4-5%, they never told us how many students took the re-tests. So the impact on the division’s passing rates and change from the preceding year is impossible to calculate.

  2. you won’t find me disagreeing… I guess their mission is to put as best a face they can on the results.

    we also spend more time here ourselves talking about what it takes to attract knowledge workers to the State than we do about why we’re not producing those workers ourselves with our own education system AND attracting top employers to our state because we DO HAVE a well-educated, 21st century competitive workforce.

    Instead we yammer about how Pre-K “fails” .. the school-to-prison unpleasantness and the “hook up culture” that has brought Obamas unwanted nose into our College affairs, oh and don’t forget Teresa Sullivans’ egregious behavior in screwing up UVA..

    my GAWD!

  3. It’s EASY to point out the flaws and problems.. anyone can do it.

    what are the things we should be doing – to improve?

    I personally think Virginia has the responsibility to improve education in the State – rather than blame the Feds and blame liberals…

    don’t like VDOE doing PR on accreditation? me neither.

    now , let’s get on to fixing it. If you don’t like Pre-K or whatever else, then get something else on the table.

  4. “then get something else on the table”

    I thought some of us had done that.

    Live it down, there’s a lot of us been pushed around
    Red, yellow, black, white and brown with a tear of their own
    Oh, can’t you see while you’re pickin’ on society
    That the leaves on your family tree are callin’ you to come home

    You’re the keeper of the castle, so be a father to your children
    The provider of all their daily needs
    Like a sovereign Lord protector be their destiny’s director
    And they’ll do well to follow where you lead

    Oh, in your head, you don’t believe what the good book said
    You’re gonna strike out now instead, ’cause the world’s been unkind
    Put through thick and thin whatever shape your heart is in
    You only have one next of kin better keep ’em in mind

    You’re the keeper of the castle, so be a good man to your lady
    The creator of the sunshine in her day
    Tend the garden that you seeded be a friend when a friend is needed
    An’ you won’t have to look the other way

    Live it down, there’s a lot of us been pushed around
    Red, yellow, black, white and brown with a tear of their own
    Oh, can’t you see, while you’re pickin’ on society
    That the leaves on your family tree are beggin’ you to come on home

    Live it down, there’s a lot of us been pushed around
    Red, yellow, black, white and brown with a tear of their own
    In your head, you don’t believe what the good book said

  5. What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

    Poor ranking on international test misleading about U.S. student performance, Stanford researcher finds
    A comprehensive analysis of international tests by Stanford and the Economic Policy Institute shows that U.S. schools aren’t being outpaced by international competition.

    excerpt: ” As a result of the new information, the U.S. rankings on the 2009 PISA test in reading and math would rise, respectively, to sixth from 14th and to 13th from 25th after controlling for social class differences ……..”

  6. Whenever a politician or an educational administrator says they are giving the children a “world class” education, you know the rest of their statement will be misleading and untrue.

  7. More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds

    A new report from the U.S. Department of Education documents that schools serving low-income students are being shortchanged because school districts across the country are inequitably distributing their state and local funds.

    The analysis of new data on 2008-09 school-level expenditures shows that many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding, leaving students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.

    The data reveal that more than 40 percent of schools that receive federal Title I money to serve disadvantaged students spent less state and local money on teachers and other personnel than schools that don’t receive Title I money at the same grade level in the same district.”

  8. Pingback: Lies, Damn Lies, and Accreditation “Adjustments” | CrankysBlog

  9. Wow…new data that is 6 years old. Thanks LG! Uh, how about telling us now in Virginia schools?

    • 2011 – 2o15 = 4 years old – and likely still very much true.

      you’ve got an underclass that is being kept that way .. by the way we fund education.. and we all get to pay for it downstream.. again..

      we, of course, do have a certain number of ignorati going around bleating that “you can’t educate these people”… as their “solution” but oh well.

  10. ” In 23 states, richer school districts get more local funding than poorer districts”

    Children who live in poverty come to school at a disadvantage, arriving at their classrooms with far more intensive needs than their middle-class and affluent counterparts. Poor children also lag their peers, on average, on almost every measure of academic achievement.

    But in 23 states, state and local governments are together spending less per pupil in the poorest school districts than they are in the most affluent school districts, according to federal data from fiscal year 2012, the most recent figures available.

    [See how spending differs between the nation’s poorest and most affluent school districts.]

    In some states the differences are stark. In Pennsylvania, per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts. In Vermont, the differential is 18 percent; in Missouri, 17 percent.

    Nationwide, states and localities are spending an average of 15 percent less per pupil in the poorest school districts (where average spending is $9,270 per child) than they are in the most affluent (where average spending is $10,721 per child).

    “What it says very clearly is that we have, in many places, school systems that are separate and unequal,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview. “Money by itself is never the only answer, but giving kids who start out already behind in life, giving them less resources is unconscionable, and it’s far too common.”

    of course this seems to be an inconvenient truth to the folks who prefer to believe ” you just can’t teach these kinds of people”, eh?

  11. ” Ben Carson accidentally stumbled on a great idea for improving education”

    Dr. Ben Carson:
    Public Figure · 4,473,365 Likes · October 27 at 3:47pm ·

    Education is the key to unlocking the enormous potential of our students. I support Title 1 funding to raise up poor inner-city and rural schools to a level where these children can get the education they deserve. My support has absolutely nothing to do with property tax payments used to fund our schools. I also support massive reform of our education system because funding is but one of the problems facing our underperforming schools — I do not support the national pooling of property tax receipts. That is a falsehood.”

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