Some Northern Virginia Schools Get Failing Grades on Black Student Literacy and Numeracy

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

We spend a lot of time here documenting the raging debates at Northern Virginia school board meetings over Critical Race Theory in schools. Raging is the right word.  

Yet those same school systems fail to educate the kids they claim to care about most.

Consider what we see from VDOE and them instead:

  • the teacher strike threats;
  • the elimination of competitive tests for magnet schools and AP courses;
  • the ongoing attempt to recall Loudoun school board members;
  • the lawsuits;
  • the “too many Asians” idiocy of the Secretary of Education and the new rules that will push most high achieving Asian American students out of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the name of “equity”;
  • the Virginia Board of Education taking over as the regulator for child care, writing a 24-page draft regulation on transgender students and working every day to write regulations to create little social activists starting at birth.

It is past time for Northern Virginia school systems and VDOE to get to work doing something a little more basic.  

I have a thought. Start by teaching the far too many Black students who, pre-COVID, had failed to achieve literacy and numeracy at or even near grade level.  

Hope I’m not out of line.

I wrote a three-part series here documenting the abject failure of Richmond Public Schools to educate its Black children. That school system is in a state of collapse all its own.  

But Northern Virginia school boards need to take a break from competitive wokeness and spend some time and resources doing their actual jobs to educate children, in this case Black children. You know, those kids in whose names the rest of the nonsense is being done by adults whether it will help them or not.

To assist the adults with that process, I have compiled: 

  • statewide math and reading passing rates for Black, non-Hispanic children on the last SOL’s (2018-2019) prior to COVID; and 
  • the passing rates for Black, non-Hispanic children in individual schools in selected Northern Virginia districts on those same tests.

I will list below the number of schools in each district whose Black students fell below statewide averages for Black student reading and math pass rates. I will name the worst of those in Loudoun County only to give them something new to discuss at those world-famous school board meetings.

For each school system reviewed, I will link to a tailored spread sheet showing the schools in each district that had Black student pass rates below statewide Black student pass rates. In each I have hidden the rows with above average pass rates. Readers can unhide the rows to see all schools if they wish.

Remember, these average pass rates show the Black student rates of literacy and numeracy before COVID, and do not factor in two years of subsequent learning losses.

Statewide Averages for Black (non-Hispanic) SOL pass rates 2018-19

Reading — 64.97

Math — 70.15

Northern Virginia School District results

I list the number of schools in each district with Black student SOL pass rates in math or reading or both below statewide Black student averages.

Loudoun County 

Twenty eight schools. The worst of those were:

  • Dominion Trail Elementary — 49% pass rate in reading; 61.54 in math
  • Loudoun Valley High — 50% pass rate in reading; 57.14% in math
  • Meadowland Elementary — 50% pass rate in math
  • Rolling Ridge elementary — 50% pass rate in reading
  • Sycolin Creek Elementary — 50% pass rate in reading; 66.67% in math
  • Leesburg Elementary- – 52.38% pass rate in reading; 57.14% in math
  • Dominion High — 53.33% pass rate in math
  • Sterling Middle — 53.7% pass rate in both reading and math
  • Creighton’s Corner Elementary — 53.85% pass rate in math; 61.54% in reading
  • Belmont Station Elementary — 57.14 pass rate in math
  • Smart’s Mill Middle — 57.65 pass rate in math
  • Potomac Falls High- – 59.15% pass rate in math
  • Blue Ridge Middle- – 60% pass rate in reading; 63.33% in math
  • Park View High — 60% pass rate in math
  • Potowmack Elementary – -60% pass rate in reading; 60% in math

Fairfax County – the home of the teacher strike threat

Fifty six schools. 56! A little work to do there before the strike.

Arlington County

Five schools


Ten schools

Falls Church

One school

My intention here is to embarrass self-congratulatory, self-indulgent school boards and teachers unions into doing the work they are elected and paid to do. They must teach the Black children in their care how to read and the art of mathematics.  

The schools must fulfill the existing social contract with parents and the rest of society to teach the basic skills of traditional education.

Then they can ask our permission to expand or change that contract.

Right now they are doing neither.

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12 responses to “Some Northern Virginia Schools Get Failing Grades on Black Student Literacy and Numeracy”

  1. Steve Gillispie Avatar
    Steve Gillispie

    This is journalism at its best.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Good luck fixing those scores Loudoun County. There are currently 607 open teaching positions for next year in LCPS. Who in their right mind would sign up for this given the current state of affairs in public education?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      It will match their shortage of bus drivers. Kids won’t be able to get to school, so they won’t notice that there are no teachers.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This is good work. Perhaps you should have set the standard a little higher: instead of the statewide average of black students passing the test, use the overall statewide average.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Thanks. Thought about it. This is apples-to-apples so no excuses.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    There are some issues with the data. Take Colvin Run Elementary School. The number of Black students is so low that a single child could push the score below average.

    However, my alma mater – West Potomac High School – manages a disgraceful 63% pass rate for mathematics. That school is “majority-minority” with just over 16% Black students and over 34% Hispanic students. It would be useful to ask West Potomac’s principal, Tanganyika Millard, why the school sucks so badly at teaching math to Black kids. It might be equally useful to ask Scott Surrovell, who represents the area and also graduated from West Potomac, whether CRT will improve the pass rate for Black students. Or, is that not really a goal of CRT in public schools?

    The truth is that BigEd’s liberal ideas have failed to improve the lot of Black students in America. Rather than go back and try again, CRT is wheeled out as an excuse.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      DJ, small numbers do indeed make for statistical volatility, but the data did not include any schools with fewer than ten Black students.

      In your example, Colvin Run had 14 Black kids in 2018-19. A single score could also push the average higher. But point made.

      West Potomac on the other hand had 462. That was the fourth highest population of Black kids in the county (of 199 schools) after Hayfield Secondary (804), South County High (532) and Mt. Vernon High (494).

      To make readers comfortable with the data, the average school among the 56 sub-par performing schools in Fairfax County had 135 Black kids, and only two had fewer than 20, so the numbers are good overall.

      The rest of your comment is also spot on. It is time to put the “who” into accountability. Start with the principals. Give them a fixed time frame to improve performance a specified amount and the assets to do so. Then find someone else if the improvement is not seen.

      High school principals likely will have a harder time than elementary principals. Improved outcomes are particularly crucial in K-3 to set kids up to succeed in their school lives and later.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        K-3 is the whole ball game, really. As always with these things, too little emphasis on the role of parents and the key role played by high expectations (rather than the expectation of failure and the search for excuses.) “Who” is first the parents. I don’t know whether a focus on this issue could cause a change in Richmond, but shame on Republicans if they fail to confront Democrats on this. If nothing else it needs to be way easier for parents who do seek success to get their kids out of these failure factories.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          Of all the issues facing Virginia today, school choice is perhaps the biggest. Of course, the lack of school choice is fueled by unlimited campaign donations to Virginia state politicians so perhaps campaign finance reform is actually the #1 issue.

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        The numbers are good overall. I just happen to have lived in NoVa for decades and could have predicted which schools would appear on your list of infamy with perhaps a 90% accuracy. Colvin Run Elementary wouldn’t have been on my list.

        West Potomac, sadly, is no surprise. What most don’t realize is that West Potomac High School is the beneficiary of a high school merger in 1985. Prior to 1985 the students who now attend West Potomac would have been split between two high schools – Groveton and Fort Hunt. Fort Hunt was widely seen as a better school academically. All this means that West Potomac is still failing an important part of its educational agenda despite a merger that should have helped. Lord only knows what dear old Groveton’s academic situation would be today if it were still a standalone high school.

  5. vicnicholls Avatar

    Capt. is there any way to find out what Hampton Roads has? I would love to have those stats.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Sure. I’ll send you the link tomorrow. Contact me tomorrow afternoon by email so I don’t forget.

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