by James C. Sherlock
In order to better understand the contributions of place, class and race on K-12 academic achievement in Virginia, I did a great deal of research over a period of several days and from it constructed a spreadsheet, Reading and Math Virginia 2018-2019 SOL results by State and Division by Subject by Subgroup.
I have found the results very informative, even stunning. If you think you understand Virginia at this level of granularity, you may be surprised.
My experiment (and the spreadsheet) is anchored by the bottom quartile of 133 Virginia counties and cities as ranked by health outcomes by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for 2020. Poor health outcomes not only represent a major obstacle for academic achievement, but are an excellent proxy for the relative poverty of that bottom quartile.
I recorded English Reading and Mathematics 2018-2019 SOL results (Virginia Department of Education) among the public school students in each locality. Results are broken out by race, economic disadvantage, English Learners, gender and students with disabilities.
I then listed for comparison the identical SOL results for Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudon County and Falls Church City, unsurprisingly the top four Virginia localities in health outcomes.
Finally, I compiled 2017 demographic information (U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce) for three of these disadvantaged counties that had outstanding SOL scores. You will I think be astonished at some of those data standing alone, much less when put in context of the results in their public schools.
I will leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions about the affects of place, class and race on academic achievement. I could draw no conclusion that survived the examination of the demographics and academic results in those three locales.
That is my overarching point. Kids grow up in real places. Stereotyping entire populations by race without considering place and class is a fools errand.
This spreadsheet alone could and should launch a dozen doctoral theses.
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