Gaming the SOLs: Alexandria Edition

Brandon Davis receiving the 2016 Distinguished Principal of the Year award for the huge gains made in SOL scores at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology.

In March, Brandon Davis received the 2016 Distinguished Principal of the Year award in recognition of the huge gains made in SOL scores at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology.

by James A. Bacon

As Virginia schools were gearing up for the Standards of Learning (SOL) exams, teachers at the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, a high-poverty school in Alexandria, pored over data to determine which students probably would not do well in the high-stakes standardized test. But the effort wasn’t directed at giving those students extra help. Instead, reports the Washington Post:

Principal Brandon Davis allegedly told teachers this spring to call the parents of students who appeared on the brink of failing the exams to inform them of their right to opt out of the tests, according to the investigation. Three dozen parents decided to pull their children from the state Standards of Learning exams; no parents at the school had done so the previous year. …

Davis told teachers “to identify students who may not do well on the SOL test, and contact parents of these students regarding their right to refuse SOL testing.” The students whose parents were contacted had scored 425 or below on exams; a 400 is the passing rate.

The gaming of the system came to public light in a report by the Virginia Department of Education. The VDOE noted that there has been an increase in the number of opt-outs as a result of a new Virginia law.

Arlington County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley expressed his “regrets” for the incident and said that Davis had been disciplined. However, Davis remains principal of the school.

Davis had come under investigation just months after he was named Distinguished Principal of the Year by the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principles after overseeing massive gains in test scores at Cora Kelly, where 87% of the students qualified for free and reduced-price lunches last year. The Alexandria school system posted an article on its website describing how Alexandria principals, staff and school board members feted Davis in a surprise ceremony in March. Stated that article:

Cora Kelly made huge gains across the board in all four subjects in the 2014-15 school year in its Standards of Learning (SOL) results in August. The final accreditation results for Cora Kelly were an 85 percent pass rate in English (11 point increase), 91 percent pass rate in Math (8 point increase), 91 percent pass rate in History (12 point increase) and 73 percent pass rate in Science (9 point increase). This is an average 10 percent increase over adjusted SOL passes from 2013-14.

Bacon’s bottom line: This scandal should generate outrage across the ideological spectrum. By gaming the system, Davis earned accolades he did not deserve while the educational deficiencies of poor children were swept under the rug. Kudos to the Virginia Department of Education for pursuing the investigation.

Now the question is, was Cora Kelly an outlier, or did other Virginia educators game the system  as well? VDOE suggests that the number of opt-outs has increased. Well, what are the numbers? Has the number risen to a level where it could skew the results in individual schools, school districts or even statewide?

Let me remind readers what I wrote in reaction to the higher SOL scores reported in 2015: “Higher SOL Scores: Improved Student Achievement… Or Bureaucratic Blarney?” In that post, I highlighted the fact that 2014-2015 results might have run higher because it was the first year in which failing students were allowed to retake the test. I knew nothing about the opt-out law. Under closer scrutiny, the impressive gains in student achievement may be totally illusory.

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53 responses to “Gaming the SOLs: Alexandria Edition

  1. What was done here was absolutely legal and just as above-board as the Governor restoring felons’ voting rights or the GA manipulating voter registration rules. Sure there was an ulterior motive, but so what? Change the way the statistics are calculated next year, but don’t blame this principal for doing what he could within the rules for his school this year.

  2. Really simple solution. Virginia should give vouchers for these kids so they can attend schools that don’t have to give SOL tests.. eh?

  3. He should absolutely be “blamed”, though perhaps not legally. Acbar, I’m really surprised at your reaction, though I will reserve final judgment pending possible clarification.

    When our elementary school principal changed the kids’ answers on the Stanford tests back in Illinois to make her school look good (Parents relied on the good test scores when choosing to buy real estate in her school’s district), we fired her ass. What was even more stunning than the offense was the reaction of parents in the board meeting at which we fired her: “What’s going to happen to our real estate values?” That’s the real problem in this case, the reaction of the public to the offense: “Oh it was perfectly legal”. It was the problem with the public’s reaction to Clinton’s lying in his deposition when he was President: “Oh, it was just about sex” Keep following that approach, Acbar, and witness the eventual downfall of the society. Lying, cheating and gaming the system is not allright.

    • Well, I was trying to be provocative. But here’s the situation around here in NoVa and the DC area: we have teachers and students that have openly cheated, e.g. opened test packets to prepare their students or themselves specifically for standardized tests, both to increase their school’s performance measures and the measures of their own performance, both for reputation and personal financial gain. That’s horrible. And I see the way school statistics are used all around us to judge educational institutions, such as all those colleges ranked in the USN&WR, and how every one of those colleges uses the full weight of its admissions policies (including whom to reject) to shape the profile of its classes and its faculty and its finances and its strategic investment funds and thus shape the resulting statistics reported to USN&WR in every respect. And I see, here, the principal of a “high-poverty” magnet school in Alexandria who has achieved some very good results under trying circumstances, who simply shaped the statistics of his inputs as well as his outputs in exactly the same way — entirely legally — and we jump all over him for his “unethical” behavior.

      I think that all bears further consideration. Together.

      • Acbar, you’re sounding like quite the moral relativist today! But I’m not sure who’s guilty of double standards. Speaking for myself, I condemn gaming the SOLs. I also condemn UVa (or any other college) for gaming the US News & World-Report rankings. The main difference is that the Cora Kelly school got caught red-handed, while UVa denies gaming the US News rankings, and it’s much harder to prove that they do. That would take some extremely in-depth reporting that neither Virginia media organizations nor pauperized bloggers like myself have the time and resources to do.

        • Guilty as charged! Moral relativism is precisely the point. But I do differentiate between playing the game openly within the rules (although not as the rules were intended), and both inducing and covering up cheating. Also, I happen to have seen Cora Kelly school and I admire their spunk; like kids in a science or technology experiment, if they were overly creative here within the rules, it’s utterly consistent with who they are.

          • The road to Perdition. If you really don’t like it, then come out squarely against it instead of some mealy-mouthed excusing of it.

      • Wrong is wrong, wherever we find it. Jim is right in his response.

      • There is so much cheating, general nonsense, statistic manipulation, and general spin and BS in higher education today that it is impossible to judge most any report, which are nothing more that manipulations of other manipulations of non-sensible claims and reports and results.

        For example, UVa. recently announced that it was in the top ten rankings nationwide per a study that altered a few key statistics used in the US News and World Report Rankings – as I recall these “results of the newest report” was published a few weeks back in UVaToday.

        Who can say that this latest manipulation was any less or more accurate than US New and World Report formula?

        Somehow we need to break the grip of these ruinous ranking reports. Perhaps by flooding the market with endless varieties of logarithms and formulas breeding endless results that are all different one from the next is the way to do it, and to return the “industry” to sanity and common sense – namely, that the quality of most all teaching is still and always will depend on the quality of individual professors who, one at a time each day day after day, teach their own knowledge and wisdom of individual subjects they develop in individual classrooms. And how those great teachers mentor their students who are sitting in front of them in those classrooms.

  4. ” Newpoint High, one of Escambia County’s high-performing charter schools, has been accused of fixing grades.

    According to documents received by Inweekly, the school district was notified last May of how school administrators pressured teachers to falsify attendance records, delete overdue assignments, give answers to tests, and change grades in order to pass Newpoint seniors onto graduation.

    Superintendent Malcolm Thomas did not notify the school board of the allegations or any problems at what had been portrayed as the model charter school. On March 16, Governor Rick Scott handed Newpoint High and its middle school, Newpoint Academy, checks for $11,392 and $15,861 respectively for their high performance during the 2013-14 school year.”

    • LarryG, you make my point: what happened in Alexandria was NOT the sort of blatant pressuring and cheating that has been so widely condemned; rather, it was simply taking advantage of the facts on the ground in the best light possible. I don’t like it either; it undercuts the purpose of the SOLs to ask a select subset of students to stay away from testing. BUT that is exactly what goes on in higher education today with modern admissions criteria and such, and we can hardly fault this principal of a struggling secondary school for trying to play the same game with similar tools. What this says to me is how “game-the-system” savvy we have become; we expect it in business and in higher-ed but we hold a black low-income-school principal to a more-“ethical” standard.

      • @Acbar – oh it’s much, much badder if it is those nasty govt public schools.. doncha know?

        All would be just hunky dory if you let non-govt schools do the educating… right?

        so Bacon wants to know how many other public schools are doing this unethical gaming.. but he never mentions than it ALSO might be going on at charter schools…

        nosiree bob…. it’s a public school “problem”.. proof positive that the way the govt does education is bad, bad, bad…

        • “Bacon … never mentions than it ALSO might be going on at charter schools…”

          There are, by my count, 2,470 public schools in Virginia. Nine of them are charter schools. Charter schools are so inconsequential in this state that it did not even occur to me to mention them.

          As for the example you cited above, Newpoint High is in Florida!

          I don’t excuse gaming the system by anyone, and that includes charter schools. But I didn’t mention it because gaming the system by charter schools is not an issue in Virginia! The issue is gaming the system period.

          This is classic LarryG deflection.

      • “we can hardly fault this principal of a struggling secondary school for trying to play the same game with similar tools.”

        The essence of this argument is: “Everybody does it, so it’s ok”

        Wrong is wrong, wherever discovered. You don’t have to be a moralist to reach this conclusion.

        • oh I totally agree Crazy… 100%

          so now do you agree we should hold ALL schools – public and private to the SAME standards?

          deal?

        • Well, as CJD said, “Wrong is wrong, wherever we find it.” Even in a charter school in Florida. My question is, was it “wrong” for the principal of Cora Skelly school to do what he did, openly and within the rules, although clearly just to benefit the school’s test rankings?

          I don’t think it’s sufficient to dismiss this as another example of sloppy logic (“everybody does it so it’s OK”) — it’s rather the precise logic we expect from students and teachers in a science & technology school experiment: you are given a set of rules, physical and otherwise, and you are expected to build a device or an outcome that takes FULL advantage of those rules without cheating. This principal did just that.

  5. Acbar said, “My question is, was it “wrong” for the principal of Cora Skelly school to do what he did, openly and within the rules, although clearly to benefit the school’s rankings?”

    Ack! Surely you know the difference between illegal and unethical!

    What Bob McDonnell did taking money from Jonnie Williams was not illegal. But it was unethical and wrong. I defended him from going to jail. But I would never vote for him for public office. What Brandon Davis did was not illegal. No one says he should go to jail. But it was unethical and wrong. He accepted accolades for superior performance while sweeping the problems of poor minority kids under the rug.

    • See my answer above to CJD. And I also say, as to the “difference between illegal and unethical,” I can differentiate between illegal and unanticipated; even between illegal and undesirable. But unethical? No, lawyers do things all the time that manipulate the procedural and substantive rules for their client’s advantage. That is not unethical conduct for a lawyer. When other people do likewise, does it become unethical? Now we really are talking moral relativism.

      • You really have this remarkably wrong.

        Firstly, the use of the word “manipulate”, a loaded word that invites the conclusion of “unethical”. In any event, manipulate by itself does not mean unethical in any context. The critical issue is the intent to deceive. You say the manipulation of these rules by lawyers is not unethical. You have to add the word “necessarily” before the word “unethical before this statement is correct. If lawyers use the rules to misrepresent a situation to a court or even to other lawyers with an intent to deceive the court or the other lawyer, that would be a violation of the code of ethics. It would not matter whether they were within the rules or not. This individual in NOVA intended to deceive the public into thinking the results were better than they were. Why else would he do it? Enough said.

        • I freely acknowledge I am defending conduct that, if it were by the principal in my kids’ school, I would roundly condemn.

          But defending a lawyer’s ethical conduct, manipulative or otherwise, invokes a specialized set of ethical rules that often don’t align with normal civil conversation. In this case, I submit the intent to deceive is not the issue; it’s the FACT of deception that, in only certain limited circumstances, a lawyer is obligated to correct. E.g., here is what the ABA Code of Prof. Respy. says:. “Transactions With Persons Other Than Clients — Rule 4.1 Truthfulness In Statements To Others. — In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly:. (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6.”. Or this:. “Rule 3.3 — Candor Toward The Tribunal — (a) A lawyer shall not knowingly:. (1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer;. (2) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or (3) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. If a lawyer, the lawyer’s client, or a witness called by the lawyer, has offered material evidence and the lawyer comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A lawyer may refuse to offer evidence, other than the testimony of a defendant in a criminal matter, that the lawyer reasonably believes is false. (b) A lawyer who represents a client in an adjudicative proceeding and who knows that a person intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. (c) The duties stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) continue to the conclusion of the proceeding, and apply even if compliance requires disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6. (d) In an ex parte proceeding, a lawyer shall inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.”. I believe what the principal said and did here would meet those rules — even though he is not a lawyer, of course.

          • So I rest my case. The lawyer gets in trouble if he “knowingly” makes a false statement or representation. The principal did not know he was going to skew the results?

  6. The issue I have with the so-called SOL passing rates, which impact accreditation, is the rapid re-test which can be given as many times as the school division has time to administer. Here, our Black students last year had the 2nd worst 5 subject average passing rates in the state but have improved (Superintendent’s words – not mine) to the 6th worst.
    But when I ask how many students were given re-takes and how many students moved to the passing side of the scoreboard, they say that don’t have that info. I did get an admission that the poorer performing divisions “probably” had a higher percentage of students eligible to re-test than the better performing divisions and that to say that the LCS increase against the state average was not a true apples to apples comparison.
    Talk about gaming the system, it is in the re-test data that nobody will show you.

    • Maybe cheating, chizzling, and gaming the system are so prevalent now and we’re so mired in moral relativism that we can no longer bestir ourselves to get exercised about it. What the hell. Everybody does it.

      What a sad, sad state we have come to.

      • I fully agree. This is truly sad.

      • Jim says: “Maybe cheating, chizzling, and gaming the system are so prevalent now and we’re so mired in moral relativism that we can no longer bestir ourselves to get exercised about it. What the hell. Everybody does it.

        What a sad, sad state we have come to.”

        This is an extremely important observation. Its key to any solution.

        For unless we “fully understand and deeply appreciate and emotionally feel” the reality and consequences of this deep corruption of ethics and lifestyles within our entire educational system, how it is now playing out, spreading through much of our society (and yes ourselves personally), including this horrible failure of ours “to bestir ourselves to get exercised about it,” we will fail to have any chance to reverse the horrible consequence that surely must befall our children and their children, before they are forced to wake up and do something if only to somehow save what little they have left for themselves.

        For an example of how deep and pervasive this rot is, a recent Heritage Foundation study found that “…the average full-time college student spends only 2.76 hours a day on education-related activities. This includes both class time and studying, for an average of 19.3 hours every week …” See: http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/11/study-college-students-spend-far-time-playing-studying

        STOP RIGHT NOW, and consider this incredible statistic.

        Ask yourself, given this finding, how much college now costs the student, parents and society, versus the benefit gained by the student and society? Consider that the average college student today get all “A”s or “B”s, but most take 6 years to graduate, if they graduate at all, and most no one today fails in college today by reason of bad grades. They just drop out, hopelessly lost, hopelessly discouraged, often hopelessly in debt, while the colleges get paid in full without consequence.

        As mentioned in a earlier article here, many of our kids today sit through their last six years of secondary school (grades 6-12) learning nothing at all for lack of the requisite ability of read, write, and speak good English, but are forced to endure this daily humiliation by the horrible system that forces itself on them, that makes those kids captive to those daily humiliations. And we the “adults” can’t muster now the ethics to even bestir ourselves.

        Consider too that the average tenure professor teaches only a fraction of the classes and time that that professor taught only a few decades ago, that his workload is increasingly being taken over by low paid adjunct professors, graduate students, and junior professors with little hope of getting tenure, and the tenured professor pay is now sky rocketing.

        • “Maybe cheating, chizzling, and gaming the system are so prevalent now and we’re so mired in moral relativism that we can no longer bestir ourselves to get exercised about it … What a sad, sad state we have come to.”

          Why are these problems so rampant today?

          One of the better short explanations of why is found in today’s lead Sept. 16th Wall Street Journal article found at:

          wsj.com/articles/in-places-with-fraying-social-fabric-a-political-backlash-rises-1473952729

  7. I totally agree with HCJ also but I don’t think we fix it if we allow non-public schools to not be held to the same standards .

    we need some honest competition – apples to apples – all competitors held to the same rules – and let the best ones win.

    and I have to tell you – I do NOT think charter/choice schools are going to do any better if they have to accept the same demographics that public schools have to – instead of cherry picking.

    and I think one more thing – the charter/choice schools are not going to be offering the width and breadth of courses that public schools offer in high school – which is paid for – not with SOL money but with local discretionary money.

  8. OK, I tried. If you don’t see why it’s wrong, I’m not going to be able to explain it.

  9. what’s unethical is holding the govt to one standard and charter/choice to a different standard.. that’s the same as cheating.

    • Larry, no one is making that argument. You’re creating a straw man.

      • no stawman – both public and private schools have been found guilty of cheating.. the question is are both of them held to the same standards …

        if charter/choice schools were held to the same standards as public schools would you see more cheating with them?

        what you’re doing Jim – is impugning the public schools without admitting that the problem also occurs in charter schools and your “solution” only seems to apply to public schools with SOLs.

        what’s your solution for standardized testing for all schools and all schools held to the same standards?

        it’s not a “strawman” to , once again, point out the double standard that is used for public schools – as an argument that public schools are bad and could be rectified if we turned it over to the private sector.

        the private sector is no better – actually worse – witness the problems with higher ed for-profit schools -as well as the evolving story about the failures of charter schools also.

        not one post here in BR – but a continuing series of them focused on the problems with SOLs and public schools while suggesting that it’s a problem inherent with public schools, “bad” teachers, etc.

        where are your reports on Charter School cheating if cheating is what you are truly interested in?

  10. It’s amusing that so many people still pay attention to the SOLs. The schools and parents around here view them as a joke. Why? Precisely because of things like this story which have been going on for years. This is nothing new.

    I think people who look at SOL scores for a district or school’s performance are wasting their time. The SOLs have become nothing more than a public relations stunt for greater sup’t pay. There are so many ways to game the SOL system, it’s a worthless metric.

    • @CR – how about the PISA and how our schools compare to other schools in the world – and our continuing problems with people who graduate high school but are unqualified for the jobs that are available in the economy?

      we are losing jobs in the global economy – perhaps SOLS are the wrong metric but people also seem opposed to Common Core.

      so what is the solution? to not have standardized tests at all?

      I’m quite sure the charter/choice schools and their supporters would love that – get rid of the public schools except as schools of last resort for the kids that would not be accepted at charter/choice, right?

      then – we’d have an even bigger unemployment problem…with eve more folks that don’t have even minimal educations and the rest will have to pony up the taxes for their entitlements.

      so what’s a better way?

      Bacon and company say that public schools need to give way to charter/choice.. is that the right answer?

  11. LarrytheG,

    Here’s an interesting article for you:

    http://cvilletomorrow.org/news/article/24847-al-school-board-brainstorms-high-school-of/

    A better way is to abolish the SOLs and focus on competencies rather than subject matter/classes.

  12. CR – competencies come AFTER core subjects. That’s why all other OCED measure BOTH – to include critical thinking…

    I’m not opposed to other ways – they just have to “work” and I’d like to see something that is at least somewhat similar to at least some of the other 35 countries that we are competing against.

    we should make no mistake here – this is not about kids getting self-actuated.. this is about our workforce getting it’s share of 21st century jobs so that we can pay our bills.

    those who want to follow their own dream – fine – but not at taxpayer expense. the only justification for tax dollars is to keep us competitive for global jobs.. other things are on your dime.

  13. here’s what I see going on with Jim B and his fellow believers and his posts on public schools and the SOLs

    he’s USING the government’s own accountability that it imposed on schools to impugn the performance of public schools – to “prove” that some kids don’t learn – as verified by the govt’s own measuring… and that the reasons why are related to the fact that the govt does not do a good job of “education” … because of incompetence, regulations.. unions, refusal to get rid of bad teachers.. etc…

    Go back over the last 20 or so posts in BR that related to k-12 education and see that theme.

    a corollary to that theme is that non-govt schools will do a better job “because” they have less dumb rules, are willing to get rid of bad teachers, etc… but … there is no standard system of accountability just what each school would supply as it’s “proof” and would not – for some reason – be susceptible to the same types of gaming and cheating that we see with public schools.

    then we have others who weigh in and claim that the whole idea of measuring and accountability is wrong and that kids should proceed at their own pace with their own standards… just have an environment where they “can learn” but don’t use standardized measurement of what they know or don”t know.. because that’s an impediment to them being “free” to learn – and they become forced to learn what others have decided they should know.

    Now the interesting thing here is that both the anti-public school folks and the “let the learn without pressure” folks STILL WANT people to be forced to pay taxes to fund these alternative models of education!!!!!

    as if the people who pay – should have no say in how that money is actually spent – that’s decided by the folks who spend it!!!!

    so.. public education is “bad”… sols and standardized testing is “bad” and accountability to those who pay is “bad”.

    lord. lord.

    • Larry, your interpretation of my posts about public schools is totally misguided, distorted by your own ideological prism, which makes you a knee-jerk defender of public education and liberal dogma. I don’t have to time set you straight again… and again… and again…. So, I simply encourage readers, as you do, to go back and see what I have written.

      For those so inclined, click here and start perusing.

      • I’m no defender of public education – I fully recognize and acknowledge the issues – and have so for as long as you have been posting your slanted ideological views.

        I have advocated that there be non-public schools, in fact, but unlike you I have advocated that they be held to the same standards for admitting students and the same standards for accountability.

        You NEVER seem to have time to set things straight -but you do seem to have more than enough time to continue to post slanted and biased posts – ongoing… and so I will – continue to hold you accountable in my comments.

        when I see you start to examine non-public schools the same way you do public schools and admit that they have similar issues and problems – and for YOU to advocate comparable accountability – I will SO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE DONE SO.

        In the interim – every time you do publish slanted and biased viewpoints – I will offer the other side of the issue…

        and I love the way you yourself resort to ad hominems…when challenged… “.. ideological prism, which makes you a knee-jerk defender of public education and liberal dogma. “..

        should I return the favor from now on?

  14. Jim:

    You have a typo. Either you meant to write “a low poverty school” or you meant Abingdon instead of Alexandria. Everybody on this blog knows that everyone in NoVa is upper middle class or wealthier. That’s why it’s OK for the General Assembly to suck oceans of money out of Northern Virginia for re-distribution elsewhere in the state. In fact, your pals in the RPV are the leading proponents of that re-distribution.

    • But in northern Virginia, everyone also knows, all the children are above average (when tested, that is).

      • Don R,

        Imagine if we abolished the state Department of Education. No more send your money to Richmond and let them redistribute it. Places like Fairfax and Albemarle and Henrico would be platinum school districts. Places like Wise and Russell wouldn’t even be able to afford public education without that state contribution. If Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians actually enacted their principles, it would be “liberal” areas that would benefit and the ignoramuses that vote Republican in rural America would see their areas collapse without federal and state transfer payments. But Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians simply mouth their garbage with no intention of ever enacting it. Because they know the truth that LarrytheG posts on here. Southwest and Southside (their treasure trove of votes) would collapse within days without federal and state transfer payments and would turn left quicker than you can blink. Take away Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability, and state education transfers……LarrytheG is correct, rural Virginia wouldn’t have anything left. Ugly doesn’t begin to describe it.

        RPV will always mouth garbage and turn around and gut prosperous areas to give to rural areas that give them votes. The hypocrisy is sickening. That’s why there’s so much hatred on the left for Republicans in this day and age. They understand it’s all a lie. In Virginia, the Urban Corridor is doing nothing but subsidizing rural Republicans with their state taxes.

  15. “Your pals in the RPV are the leading proponents of that re-distribution.”

    Please document. What legislation are you referring to, who sponsored it, and who voted for it?

    • here’s some “education” for all us who think we know how the current system operates and how it got that way – it’s a quick and informative “read”… I highly recommend it – it may change your views.

      The Evolution of Virginia Public School Finance: From the Beginnings to Today’s Difficulties

      http://www.coopercenter.org/publications/VaNsltr0610

    • Republicans control both houses of the omnipotent General Assembly. It is the lack of legislation that is the tell tale.

      By subsidizing coal companies (without any requirement for added employment) the Republicans have taken $500M out of Virginia’s coffers over the past 20 years. Over that same 20 years, coal employment has done nothing but drop in Virginia.

      Given that Southwest Virginia cannot (or will not?) generate the taxes required to run their schools any decrease in tax collections only makes everything worse.

      Given that the coal company subsidies only help coal companies and do not enhance coal mining employment, what did your pals in the RPV do? Voted to extend the subsidies.

      Fortunately, a Northern Virginia Democrat had the gumption to veto the ill considered extension.

      It never ends, Jim. Republican corporate welfare in rural Virginia paid for by the taxpayers elsewhere in the state.

      https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2015/05/04/mcauliffe-vetoes-coal-subsidy-bills-but-republicans-vow-to-keep-the-corporate-welfare-flowing/

      • >>By subsidizing coal companies (without any requirement for added employment) the Republicans have taken $500M out of Virginia’s coffers over the past 20 years. Over that same 20 years, coal employment has done nothing but drop in Virginia.>>

        Don,
        This is one of the most blatant examples of the fallacy of neglected aspect that I’ve seen on this blog. First, You assume that there is a negative relationship between the “subsidy” (I’ll take your word that there was such a subsidy and to the tune of $500mil) and the failure of coal employment. By itself, this may be a variant of what’s sometimes called post hoc reasoning, which itself is one of a broad family of irrelevancies. Were the subsidies intended to support coal employment? If not, the result of the $500 mil subsidy is irrelevant. More importantly, you ignore the impact of the current administration’s effort to trash the coal industry – fallacy of neglected aspect – as if it didn’t exist.

  16. While the City of Alexandria is an upper-end small city, it school population is more representative of a lower socio-economic community. Over half of its students qualify for the free/reduced price meals program.

    This does not justify gaming the system, however. And this is just one example of the ruses used by the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) to claim success. They have a similar scheme to obtain accreditation for the Jefferson-Houston elementary school – a school that regularly fails to be accredited: add an International Baccalaureate program to the school. The goal is to attract enough passing students for the school to pass, without actually improving the outcomes for the current student body.

    What is truly shocking is that the ACPS continually claims success, justifying its premium cost structure, while delivering mediocre results.

    Alexandria is regularly among the top districts in the state in expenditures per student, about $17,000 compared to the statewide average of about $10,000. But it’s black students only do as well as the state average for black students, and it’s Hispanic students do worse than the state average.

    A question never asked in Alexandria is what would happen to results if the ACPS budget were reduced by 10% or 20%. ACPS seems to provide a case study for JB’s comments regarding the lack of correlation between education spending and results. (Unfortunate because many of us, including me, wish the additional funds could solve the problem.)

  17. Here’s what we don’t know about school districts where the total amount of spending for the whole district is divided by the the number of students.

    are the schools in the district equitably staffed and funded?

    Cora Kelly is a Title 1 school that gets additional Federal Funding.

    The INTENT of the Federal Funding is to SUPPLEMENT – to ADD TO the funding that school would normally get – as it’s equitable share of the district funding.

    Recent studies have found out that many school districts use the Title 1 funding to SUPPLANT that school funding such that it actually receives no more than it it were not a Title 1 school.

    Here’s what else you don’t know – do the high schools get more funding than the elementary schools?

    do the schools in the lower income areas get their share of veteran teachers or do they get staffed primarily with entry level teachers because the veteran teachers refuse to be assigned to those schools because the work is harder and they will be professionally harmed for the lower performance of the students?

    these are questions that we don’t know answers to but we have some studies:
    More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds

    http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/more-40-low-income-schools-dont-get-fair-share-state-and-local-funds-department-

    so – if this is true -how would charter/choice schools do any better if they also won’t get enough funding to actually deal with the at-risk kids?

    so charter/choice schools will seek to not have to take those kids that are “problems”… and they will oppose being required to meet the same standardized test requirements that public schools are subject to.

    so – how much do folks REALLY want to KNOW about these issues?

    and.. how much do they REALLY want charter/choice schools to have to accept the same demographics of the low income schools AND to be held accountable the same as the low-income schools are held accountable?

    I have asked these questions over and over in BR – every time Jim posts another one of these stories that relate to failures of the publc school system to successfully deal with at-risk kids.

    You can look at MANY school districts in Va – including the schools in Henrico where Jim lives – and see huge disparities in the SOL performance in the schools in the SAME school district.

    there is a VDOE data tool called Build-a-Table where you can extract the SOL test results for all schools in the same district – where you can verify that even in places like Fairfax -there are disparities in the SOL test results between schools in the same school district.

    Now – how would you explain that? seriously?

    HCJ down Lynchburg way says it’s “genes”….

    I’m thinking that when you have low-income kids – that have significant learning issues and you staff their schools with entry level teachers because veteran teachers don’t want to be there – it’s a recipe for disaster… and … I don’t think charter/choice schools – given the same situation – will do any better… but I’m willing to let them try – as long as we do get the results so we can judge whether or not they are better..

    I’m all for that… 100% but I also ask – if they donj’t do any better, what do we do next …just blame genes?

  18. Here’s the SOL reading results for the elementary schools in Alexandria:

    Charles Barrett Elementary 88.78%
    Cora Kelly Magnet Elementary 76.10%
    Douglas Macarthur Elementary 76.15%
    George Mason Elementary 80.69%
    James K. Polk Elementary 70.69%
    Jefferson-Houston Elementary 59.93%
    John Adams Elementary 74.31%
    Mount Vernon Elementary 64.99%
    Patrick Henry Elementary 78.87%
    Samuel W. Tucker Elementary 80.00%

    the highest pass rate is 89%, the lowest 60%

    that’s a 30 point difference in the SAME school system..

    what explains that?

  19. “Recent studies have found out that many school districts use the Title 1 funding to SUPPLANT that school funding such that it actually receives no more than it it were not a Title 1 school”

    Really? Many? In Virginia? Please show us the data.

    • We don’t know for each school the per school funding and staffing. That’s not required to be disclosed – and it’s uniformly not.

      but we know this from a significant study of schools:

      “State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act:

      Volume VI—Targeting and Uses of Federal Education Funds

      Federal education funds were more targeted to high-poverty districts than were state or local funds.

      In 2004–05, districts in the highest poverty quartile, which served 25 percent of all school-age children and 49 percent of the nation’s poor school-age children, received 38 percent of all federal funds,
      26 percent of state revenues, and 15 percent of local revenues.

      In contrast, districts in the lowest poverty quartile, which served 7 percent of the nation’s poor school-age children and 25 percent of all school-age children, received 12 percent of all federal funds, 22 percent of state funds, and 37 percent of local funds.

      Although federal programs, and to a lesser degree state school funding programs, provided more funds to the highest-poverty districts, these districts still had less overall funding per child than the lowest-poverty districts.

      While the highest-poverty districts received higher federal and state revenues per student, they received substantially lower revenues per student from local sources ”

      https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/nclb-targeting/nclb-targeting.pdf page 22

      My understanding is that new rules from the updated NCLB program will require disclosure of funding on a per school basis.

    • These are select studies so we don’t know for each school the per school funding and staffing. That’s not required to be disclosed – and it’s uniformly not.

      but we know this from a significant study of schools:

      State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act:

      Volume VI—Targeting and Uses of Federal Education Funds

      Federal education funds were more targeted to high-poverty districts than were state or local funds.

      In 2004–05, districts in the highest poverty quartile, which served 25 percent of all school-age children and 49 percent of the nation’s poor school-age children, received 38 percent of all federal funds,
      26 percent of state revenues, and 15 percent of local revenues.

      In contrast, districts in the lowest poverty quartile, which served 7 percent of the nation’s poor school-age children and 25 percent of all school-age children, received 12 percent of all federal funds, 22 percent of state funds, and 37 percent of local funds.

      Although federal programs, and to a lesser degree state school funding programs, provided more funds to the highest-poverty districts, these districts still had less overall funding per child than the lowest-poverty districts.

      While the highest-poverty districts received higher federal and state revenues per student, they received substantially lower revenues per student from local sources ”

      https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/nclb-targeting/nclb-targeting.pdf page 22

      My understanding is that new rules from the updated NCLB program will require disclosure of funding on a per school basis.

  20. ” The bill also includes provisions that require reporting on actual school-level expenditures, allowing the public for the first time to see the amount of federal, state, and local funding distributed to each and every school. ”

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/03/fact-sheet-congress-acts-fix-no-child-left-behind

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