More Data on SW VA’s Breakout School Performance

by John Butcher

We have seen that the divisions in SW Virginia (“Region 7” in the VDOE system) formed their own organization, the Comprehensive Instructional Program (“CIP”), that brought nice improvements in student performance.

While we wait to see whether the Board of “Education” will punt on the 2021 SOL testing, I’ve been looking over the 2019 data (there being no tests in 2020). The data for Region 7 paint a lovely picture.

You may recall that, since undertaking the CIP, Region 7 has seen major improvements in the pass rates of its economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students.

They accomplished this with a large and increasing ED population.

To put the 2019 results in a more nuanced context, let’s start with the school average reading pass rates for the Not ED students.

The blue bars are the counts of Virginia schools with the indicated 2019 pass rates of Not ED students (rounded to the nearest whole numbers). Thus, one school (Fairfax County Adult High) turned in a 13% pass rate(!) and 102 schools had 88% rates. The red-bounded bars are Region 7, left open to allow the state numbers to show through. The Region 7 scale is on the right vertical axis. The lowest school there turned in a 69 while 11 schools had 91% rates. (Excel reports for “multiple items” when you tell it to report data for more than one division; please read that term as “Region 7.”)

The usual statistical measures, mean and standard deviation, are of limited use with skewed distributions so I show the medians here. Of course, as a distribution approaches “normal,” the median approach the mean. In any case, these are medians of the school averages, not division medians.

If you think the Not ED pass rates for Region 7 schools are a pleasant bit of news, take a look at the ED numbers:

Here, the Region 7 median is ten points higher than the state. Or you might prefer to ignore those stats and just look at the lovely picture.

The math data similarly testify to the success of the CIP.

It is instructive to compare the (manifestly sensible) techniques used by the CIP with the resolutely ineffective bureaucratic nonsense imposed by the “education” establishment.

The CIP:

  • Identify the good teachers
  • Share their materials and techniques
  • Measure what works
  • Focus on core skills
  • Set high expectations
  • Bond with the students, and
  • Use the feckless VDOE only for what
    it actually can do well: crunch numbers.

The state, here the Petersburg Corrective Action Plan (for a division that the state has been attempting to repair, without success, since 2004):

I think it is past time to redirect the education bureaucracy to what it can do well, crunch numbers, and give the rest of its budget to the CIP.

John Butcher is a retired lawyer living in Richmond. This column is republished with permission from Cranky’s Blog.

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47 responses to “More Data on SW VA’s Breakout School Performance

  1. Cranky! Happy New Year. So, save me the math: What does the rest of the state look like when you pull out those Western VA results from the totals? Looks like that region is masking some real problems elsewhere (says this graduate of the Roanoke City Schools….)

  2. Teacher pay up-taxes up
    test scores down
    all pre covid
    The pols and school blob will be suing covid as an excuse for everything

    • Most assuredly. Can milk that for three-four years easy. And it will be true, given the damage done by what will be more than a year outside the classroom for so many.

      • In addition, lets count up all the damage done for decades by these grossly incompetent Virginia public school administrators, and most particularly the damage they’ve done to Disadvantaged Children.

        Plus, we must understand that Virginia’s SOL test results are grossly inflated as to achievement when those results are measured against Federal achievement tests. So the damage done to students in Virginia by Virginia administrators is far greater than the Virginia SOL tests reveal.

        How can we expect progress elsewhere without accountability? We cannot.

  3. Good post. By serendipity, before I saw it this morning , I clicked on a link I’d saved to James Sherlock’s “Virginia Educational Reform – Place, Class, Race — Or All Three?” and looked up the CIP to see which school districts were using it and saw a link to a 2019 doctoral dissertation, “The Effect of the Comprehensive Instructional Program on Grades 3-8 Student Achievement” that studied the CIP in District 7 (Southwest Virginia). Worth reading by anyone interested in this topic.

    • Per Carol’s suggestion, an extract from dissertation:

      “… One school district in southwestern Virginia, in Region 7,referred to as District A, an economically disadvantaged county in that state, created a program that demonstrated student achievement gains (Hurt, 2015). After that school
      2 district experienced success using that locally developed instructional program, a consortium of educators from across Virginia modified the program, called the Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP), and made it available to all districts in the state. Five principles formed the basis of the CIP, including expectations and standards for academic excellence with no excuses; communications of those expectations and standards to all stakeholders and ensure buy-in by all stakeholders; creation of a practical course of action designed specifically to achieve the academic goals; constant measurements and review of data to ensure ongoing progress and course adjustments defined where needed; and a focus on improving the people involved, especially the teachers, so they could provide the best instruction possible (Hurt, 2015). The program development group provided the resources, lesson plans, and assessments needed to implement the CIP (CIP, 2016). The CIP included such materials for grades 3-8and for reading, math, science, and history, though schools had the option of not implementing completely the all-inclusive CIP in all subjects and all grades.”

      Why cannot rest all of Virginia gain these results?

      • Other districts have joined the program besides these in the SW Region 7: Bland, Carroll, Dickensen, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Patrick, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, Wythe

        I suggested it to Mathews. They said thank you, but they’re not on the map.

        If I read them right, these are on the CIP map:
        Region 8 – Southside: Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte County, Cumberland County, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward
        Region 6 – Western: Alleghany, Botetourt, Danville, Floyd, Patrick  
        Region 5 – Valley: Nelson, Waynesboro
        Region 4 – Northern: Page , Shenandoah, Warren
        Region 3 – Northern Neck: Colonial Beach, Essex, King and Queen
        Region 2 – Tidewater: NONE
        Region 1 – Central: Colonial Heights

    • It is too bad that doctoral dissertation was done for a school of education in Tennessee, rather than one in Virginia.

  4. Something good is probably going on in SW Va but it still bothers me that the School Systems themselves do not say much about their involvement with CIP and if you look at the CIP:

    Identify the good teachers
    Share their materials and techniques
    Measure what works
    Focus on core skills
    Set high expectations
    Bond with the students, and
    Use the feckless VDOE only for what
    it actually can do well: crunch numbers.

    This takes an institutional approach. This is what you would tell your teachers and especially new ones – i.e. ” This is how we teach at this school district”.

    In fact, if one believes CIP “works” and much of the rest of Virginia does less well that SW CIP, the premise seems to be for those schools to also adopt CIP.

    The CIP “principles” are concepts – how they are actually implemented is key to it working successfully.

    In other words, you don’t tell a new teacher to “consider” the CIP concepts, it must translated into – really a top-down directive for all teachers. “Do these things if you want to stay employed at our school”.

    This is what you’d have to do, for instance, at Richmond Schools or for that matter, a good number of Henrico schools that perform no better than the Richmond schools.

    Henrico has 72 elementary schools that vary by 20 points or more in reading and math SOLs – if we looked at ED only for all 72 schools, would we see something consistent with Cranky’s “All state schools” or would some score high on ED and others score low? To the point, does Henrico know how to teach ED kids at SOME of it’s schools but not all of them? Why?

    Beyond that – I’d ask , point out, that SOME schools apparently do better with ED than others NOT using the CIP approach and/or using something different.

  5. Matt Hurtt provided some interestesting scatter charts the other day comparing Richmond, Henrico and the CIP schools.

    I believe it was individual school SOL scores verses percentage of ED and the higher percentage of ED – the lower the scores for Richmond and Henrico.

    If we compared ED scores only on a per school basis regardless of how many ED were enrolled at a given school?

    Would the better SOL schools show higher scores for their ED kids than the low rated SOL school for their?

    In other words – do SOL scores for ED vary by school or are they the same across all schools – in a division – like Henrico?

    If they teach the same way at all schools (like CIP)? Does Henrico do that right now – same at all schools – standard but different by CIP but the SOL scores still vary by school (for ED only?)?

  6. SW VA school divisions are successful despite the lack of fancy new school buildings, the latest greatest in technology and astronomically high teacher salaries. It would seem these divisions are full of hard working students and educators who when partnered with parents have found success. Many of the divisions are providing in person learning during the pandemic. Once again – VA doesn’t stop at Blacksburg.

  7. Are teachers limited to using only CIP? Do they need lesson plans or just use CIP? Do they have any ability to make creative decisions?

  8. It varies by division and school, but by and large, most teachers are given a lot of latitude. The general framework is to make sure to teach specific standards (concepts) during specific 45 day quarters and to administer common assessments. There are a plethora of instructional materials teachers may use, and some use them every day, others not at all, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

    • One wonders how a division like Henrico or Richmond might vary from CIP schools in terms of how teachers teach and whether or not those divisions have a must-do protocol or each teacher has “latitude”.

      One presumes Henrico has something besides just turning individual teachers loose to do as each thinks is the right approach.

      And to that point – it still leaves me wondering if schools like Henrico could say:

      “Oh yes, we do all those things in Henrico also”:

      Identify the good teachers
      Share their materials and techniques
      Measure what works
      Focus on core skills
      Set high expectations
      Bond with the students, and
      Use the feckless VDOE only for what
      it actually can do well: crunch numbers.

      these things are pretty conceptual.

      And it leads back to what is really different between CIP schools and Richmond – AND Henrico’s badly performing schools….

      If we are going to advocate that Henrico/Richmond CHANGE the way they teach – what exactly should we be advocating FOR – besides these generalized concepts?

      And to point out once more – the BEST schools in Henrico do BETTER than CIP schools – at least overall .

      • If you give me affluent enough kids, even I can make sure they meet basic state requirements. Please keep in mind that I wasn’t a good teacher, because they made me an administrator.

        This isn’t about how to teach. Here’s how you teach- determine what the kids need to know (included in state standards), determine what they already know, then help each to get from where they are to where they need to be. This involves a lot of problem solving at the student level that can’t be accomplished by applying some sort of instructional algorithm. You have to rely on the individual teacher to do that. The more you tie a teacher’s hands with specific mandates, the less successful they can be. A big part of the magic is tied up in the expectations- those of the teachers relative to the kids, and the administrators relative to the teachers. And yes, you are correct, if you ask who has high expectations, everyone unanimously says “I do”. When you ask how they know, then they hem and haw around, or talk about specific programs implemented, but they never do display the data that informs that opinion.

        • If you let each teacher decide and there is no institutional approach/directive , then how can we say that the CIP schools have a method that “works” compared to non-CIP schools?

          A “method” implies that there is a top-down approach to me.

          ” The more you tie a teacher’s hands with specific mandates, the less successful they can be.”

          Okay. So what should Henrico do different than now?
          what exactly is the secret sauce that differentiates AND that we should advocate other non-CIP school adopt?

          To this point – what we have is ” CIP schools do it better – by not tying teachers hands”.

          I’ve seen the “pacing guides” and other materials but unless they are mandated and teachers are free to ignore and do something different – then how can we say CIP schools do it different than Henrico?

          • Larry, I have spent the better part of a year trying to explain this to you via this blog. You have my direct contact information, so please call at your convenience and I’ll try to better explain via a conversation.

            As far as improving outcomes for students, there is certainly more than one way to skin the cat. I wouldn’t ask anyone to advocate for school divisions to join the CIP. All are welcome that wish to do so, and division folks have to do what they think is in the best interest of their division. My objective is not to grow the consortium. I am on the salary scale of the division who serves as the fiscal agent, and my salary does not grow in kind with the consortium, but my workload does.

            As far as Henrico is concerned, I don’t know anything about their specific situations. As far as I know, I have never even spoken to anyone who works there.

          • Sorry Matt… If I suggest to Spotsylvania (like Carol did to Mathews) – ” Why don’t you adopt the CIP approach ?

            What do we reference that explains it so they can decide to follow up and get in touch to see how to proceed?

            Also, those of us who ARE interested in finding better approaches to teaching EDs would ALSO like to better understand what the difference is and how that differs from the methods currently being used – say in Spotsylvania.

            I have not checked all the schools that are in CIP – but I have checked a number of them and no where that I can see do they claim to be CIP schools nor do they mention how they differ from other districts in how they teach ED kids.

            I LIKE CIP, I want to know more about it to really understand but to this point – it’s like some sort of secret… that can only be found out by personally discussing it with you!


    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Good teachers given latitude. What a dream come true! I can remember when Loudoun used to operate like this. But that was a long long time ago when Ashburn was still corn, hay, and cows.

  9. Baconator with extra cheese

    The excuses already started when Kamras responded to RVA not returning to in-person instruction when Chesterfield and Henrico annouced partial returns. He said those kids aren’t the same as RVA kids… who have suffered greater trauma.
    So we’ll hear it forever that those RVA kids are “different” than SW kids so that model won’t work. They are traumatized by their community and as I see it implied – white supremacy.
    His kids “need” different magical teaching you can only obtain by worshipping and paying tributes to the mighty Woke God. Although the paid tributes are $1000s more per pupil than almost any other school district.

  10. In response to Steve Haner’s question of what the graphs would look like if we compared SW Virginia to the rest of the state as opposed to the state as a whole (which includes SW Virginia), Cranky supplies the following:

    • The data is pretty clear – success. Other school districts with SOL gaps between regular and economically disadvantaged should look into what the CIP schools are doing different.

      I still wonder how districts like Henrico with one set of administrators and presumably uninform standards ends up with some of the best elementary schools in Virginia and some that are as bad as Richmond schools.

      How is there such wide disparity in SOL scores within one school district?

      Are they teaching differently in different schools?

      Are CIP schools all reach according to some standard protocol?

      • Again, I don’t know about their specifics, but in my experience, there is ingrained in school culture the expectations. The culture can vary significantly from one school to another within the same division. If school A is on the right side of the tracks, and school B is on the other side, folks typically have lower expectations of school B. If school B has lower pass rates, well, that’s to be expected, right? This is just an example of how expectations can excuse lower performance.

        • The thing is – if a School District points out that it has better performance on educating economically disadvantaged – in an era where there is a persistant gap among most of school districts – then one wonders why they claim to be better but won’t also clearly differentiate HOW they did better.

          We can’t fix schools that haver persist economicall disadvantaged performance gaps by telling them to teach “harder” and “better”.

          I have discussed with with teaching friends and they confirm that teachers like flexibility and the ability to teach “their” way but the problem is and remains that not all teachers teach well without some guidance and especially so new teachers.

          A responsible system does touch hire new teachers and assign them to school and classes with high numbers of ED and say “do your best and we’ll understand if you kids fail the SOLs”.

          There has to be more than that.

          Some teacher friends tell me that they handle that by assigning the new teacher to a mentor teacher who, has produced good results.

          That sounds a little like the CIP approach.

          I keep going back to Henrico and Richmond because Richmond is a favorite target of Cranky and Jim and Henrico is the system where Jim lives (I think).

          And I ask – what should Henrico do different or should they try to joint the CIP consortium when they have significant difference in their elementary schools performance with some of the among the best in the state and some, more than a few, as bad as Richmond.

          Are we to believe that a system like Henrico with 70-some elementary schools, that their leadership is deficient and inferior
          to the CIP schools? Is the answer for Henrico to simply join the CIP consortium and adopt their practices more or less blindly without really knowing the differences between how the CIP school teach ED and how Henrico teaches them?

          Is the answer truly as simple as having better teachers mentor others and new ones with their own individual techniques – as opposed to some top-down school district teaching model?

          I don’t know but I don’t accept the idea that CIP just teaches “better” and Henrico teaches “worse” and Henrico should just drop their current approach and adopt the CIP approach blindly without any real understanding of specifics.

      • Unless someone is cheating. Hey, been done before.

        • I don’t think the CIP schools are “cheating” although looking at the charts – the scatter charts – they certaintly do look a bit odd compared to the trend lines of other school districts.

          • “If it looks too good to be true…”

            Hey, there’s a reason why such warnings exist.

  11. Probably beating a dead horse – but take a look at Henrico elementary schools of which there are 45 not 72 as I had said earlier.

    The list below shows the 3rd Grade reading scores for economically disadvantaged ONLY at each Henrico Elementary School.

    One has to ask oneself how – in the same school district – there is such huge difference in outcomes :

    School Name Pass Rate
    Echo Lake Elementary >50 (means there are less than 50 ED kids)
    Nuckols Farm Elementary >50
    Pemberton Elementary >50
    Tuckahoe Elementary >50
    David A. Kaechele Elementary <50
    Shady Grove Elementary <50
    Gayton Elementary 92.86
    Sandston Elementary 83.33
    Twin Hickory Elementary 83.33
    Jackson Davis Elementary 81.25
    R.C. Longan Elementary 78.57
    Colonial Trail Elementary 76.92
    Rivers Edge Elementary 75
    Short Pump Elementary 75
    Greenwood Elementary 72.97
    Maybeury Elementary 69.77
    Springfield Park Elementary 67.57
    Maude Trevvett Elementary 67.39
    Harvie Elementary 64.29
    Three Chopt Elementary 64.29
    Glen Allen Elementary 64
    Seven Pines Elementary 63.41
    George F. Baker Elementary 61.9
    Montrose Elementary 59.09
    Skipwith Elementary 58.73
    Jacob L. Adams Elementary 58.33
    Arthur Ashe Jr. Elementary 57.14
    Ruby F. Carver Elementary 56.76
    Pinchbeck Elementary 55.81
    Chamberlayne Elementary 53.49
    Varina Elementary 52.24
    Crestview Elementary 50
    Ridge Elementary 49.09
    Harold Macon Ratcliffe Elementary 48
    Highland Springs Elementary 47.37
    Lakeside Elementary 47.3
    Cashell Donahoe Elementary 46.51
    Elizabeth Holladay Elementary 46.43
    Longdale Elementary 45.83
    Henry D. Ward Elementary 45.16
    Laburnum Elementary 45
    Fair Oaks Elementary 44
    Charles M. Johnson Elementary 43.86
    Dumbarton Elementary 41.27
    Glen Lea Elementary 27.27

    Are they teaching reading differently at different schools?

    Should Henrico take a look at the CIP schools to see if there is something they can adopt – at least for their lower rated schools?

  12. Carol – I took that invitation – and did discuss – did you know before you made your inane and ignorant comment?

  13. Sorry Larry, you must have spoken to a different Matt Hurt. I have not had the pleasure of speaking with you.

  14. Matt and I DID “speak” via email – several, in fact, but he says he prefers in person and broke off the email discussion. Below is a short snip and I removed personal contact info so that if folks want to contact Matt – go through BR for his contact info.

    Matt Hurt
    Sun, Dec 6, 8:09 AM
    to Larry

    Sure. We secure all of the teacher pages because all of our resources are linked on there, including tests and answer keys. Teachers frown on us providing that information publicly where their students can access. We share them with divisions’ Google Groups for teachers, so that as long as a teacher is logged into their browser with their division provided Google account, they go in as slick as a ribbon- no passwords to keep up with.

    Below is a link to our pacing guides. These lay out the timeframe in which teachers are to teach the content and administer the common benchmark assessments. Also linked to the pacing guides are all of the instructional materials that our curriculum teams have provided for us. It is not expected that all teachers use these materials, but they are provided to them as resources to use as they see fit.
    Pacing Guides

    There’s few other resources than these on our website other than our Online PD site and Benchmark/SOL distributions, which are linked below. We feel that the pacing guides, the data (including benchmark data), and the fact that all of this is driven by our teachers are the big secrets to our success.
    CIP Online Professional Development
    Benchmark-SOL Distributions

    Please let me know if you’d like me to follow up with you on this. I really think that a discussion is a better way to communicate from this point on rather than emails. So many folks have differing paradigms about education, that a lot can get lost in the translation otherwise.

    Have a great day,


    Matt Hurt, Ed.D.

    Director, Comprehensive Instructional Program


    • Larry, given the fact that since then you have stated multiple times how it is not apparent how the CIP has experienced success leads me to believe that the correspondence conducted between us was not fruitful. I blame that on my lack of command of the written word. Given that no real communication was effected, I suggested a real time telephone conversation so that through a verbal interaction we could come to a better understanding of each other’s point of view and paradigm regarding education. You have my personal number and are more than welcome to call me at any time, and I’ll happily work to better communicate what we have done. Until you more fully understand what the CIP is and how it works, I would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from comment on our consortium. While you’re more than welcome to express your opinions about the CIP in any way that you see fit, I would consider it a act of good faith to only do so if you are fully informed.

      • Matt – our correspondence was making progress but then you didn’t want to continue.

        I much appreciated you sharing the things like pacing guides and curriculum maps – which my teacher friends tell me is GOOD but since the CIP claim is that multiple entire school districts in SW Va had adopted an approach that seemed institutional. After all, it was claiming success across a wide region of schools and comparisons were and are being made between that regions performance and other regions and schools – like Richmond but also, as pointed out , more than a few schools in Henrico and undoubtedly many other schools in Virginia.

        The obvious question was what was/is the unique institutional things that CIP is doing that others are not.

        That’s what I was looking for and trying to understand.

        If someone was going to actuall tell Richmond how to achieve success like CIP schools, then obviously – what are those things – institutional?

        You have stated that the pacing guides and such are “recommended” , not mandated, i.e. not institutional.

        So that left me not understanding.

        I much appreciate your willingness to further discuss but you prefer ad-hoc in-person and I’m more comfortable with written words that I can go back and review, then ask more questions.

        Give me credit, I DID contact you and DID try to engage you in the issue and I did so in a polite way without any of the ad hominem behaviors we see in this blog.

        I still have my qestions, still trying to understand and more than willing to listen and if CIP is further promoted here in BR as a “solution” to teaching economically disadvantaged kids, I’m still all ears because I hold dear how to get ED kids to a better outcome in life. In that regard, I suspect we are both on the same wavelength..

        It IS a travesty what is going on in Richmond (and others) and if they can do better by adopting CIP principles, I’m all in favor of it.

        • The questions I continued to receive from you in the correspondence led me to believe that I was incapable of explaining the CIP in writing. Therefore, I suggested a verbal conversation. With work and family obligations, I did not have time to continue a correspondence that appeared to be unfruitful. Over the holidays, I have had a little time, and that’s what lead us down this never-ending rabbit hole on this blog post. And that’s all I have the time to write about all that. If you have a burning desire to know more, I’m just a phone call away.

          • Matt. Thank You! I still have questions and I will still work to try to understand. Perhaps I’m stuck on one thing but if someone or something is claiming a better outcome on an institutional basis – like a consortium – I’m looking for written stuff that documents the how and why and especially so if I’m going to advocate for it as a better way to get economically disadvantaged to a better outcome.

            It’s a vitally important issue. Much of the problems we have in adult society, criminal justice, entitlements and educating the children of those who grew up economically disadvantaged is at issue.

            Everytime I see Richmond brough up as a failure and CIP brought up as a success – I would like to see CIP grow if it is really the real thing!

        • Matt, I was also curious about the Reading and Math SOLs – was that for a particular grade or all grades or end of course or what?

  15. EOC in Reading is the 11th grade test. The other grade levels are specified by the grade level in question. EOC stands for End Of Course and is applicable to all SOL tests in grades 9-12, but not 3-8.

    One other comment about the 11th grade reading test. You’ll notice a significant downward trend in the last few years, and that is due primarily to the fact that more schools are administering substitute tests (Work Keys Reading) as a retest when struggling students fail their initial attempt. When students pass that substitute test, the data is not included in this database. It counts towards their verified credit counts for graduation, but they show up as a fail (the initial SOL attempt) in the database.

    • off to morning walk… will need to spend a few minutes later to go over what you say here…

      the big jags in the graphs for all regions – changes in SOL testing ?

      • Yes sir. In 2012, the state implemented more rigorous math standards, and much more rigorous SOL tests to go along with them. Prior to that year, the tests were straight multiple choice. In 2012, “technology enhanced items” were implemented, in which students were required to fill in the blank, drag and drop, select all correct answers, and other item types that had never been used on the SOL test. Those two things in tandem caused the scores to plummet across the Commonwealth. The following year, the same thing happened with reading. Then, in 2019, we implemented new math SOL tests, and that year, the state board lowered the cut score for pass proficient, which caused the pass rates to increase.

  16. Thanks!

    Happy New Year to you Matt!

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