An Expanded View of the Extraordinary Chesapeake Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Yesterday I wrote about the six school districts in South Hampton Roads. At the request of a reader, I expanded the data for Chesapeake.

The data show a white minority (43%), multiracial school system that in 2018-19  (last year before COVID disruptions) exceed state SOL passing averages for every major racial grouping in both math and reading.

The racial groups for which I examined SOL results were white (43.1% of students), Black (32.4%), Hispanic (10.9%), multi-racial (8.2%) and Asian-American (2.8%). That comes very close to matching the statewide school demographics.

The results are amazing.

Chesapeake is ranked 36 out of 133 by Robert Wood Johnson ranking of Virginia jurisdiction health outcomes. Twenty-five percent of Black children live in poverty; 9% of white children live in poverty; 29% of all children live in single- parent households (not broken out by race). It has an above-average number of primary care physicians and an above average number of dentists.

It has at least its share of Title 1 schools that underperform the other schools, so economic status is an issue for all races.

But nothing in the data will show race as an issue. Indeed the non-Title 1 schools absolutely blow away the state average pass rates for all of those racial groups in both math and reading.

Take a look especially at the performance of the Hispanic and mixed race kids. In many cases they outperformed the white kids in their same schools.

One thing we know is that chronic absenteeism in their schools is way below state averages because of their aggressive use of referrals to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts they way state law allows. That policy prevents a great deal of truancy.

But anyway, download and take a look at this expanded Chesapeake schools spreadsheet. I annotated and color-coded it for ease of assessment. You can come to your own conclusions.

I find the results to be a lesson for those who presume to prescribe policy based on race. I hope they will do what I did here and expand it. This spreadsheet alone can be the basis for a PhD thesis on the roots of the exceptional performance.

These same data are available not only for every race and every school, but also for every grade in every school. And for economically disadvantaged students and children with disabilities.

Virginia school kids have absenteeism problems and poverty problems that affect their learning, but it is hard to solve those with race-based theories, curricula and policies.

Indeed it is counterproductive.