Yesterday, the Virginia Department of Education released the State Standards of Learning Scores. Now I’m not a huge fans of standardized test but this is the measure we’re using. Overall the region remained fairly consistent, there were small increases on some subjects regionally and slight declines in four core areas for Richmond Public Schools.  What do you think family?

Share your comments on this open thread.



  • iheartzelda says:

    I think we’ve got a long, but not impossible, road ahead of us. I look forward to some of our region’s education advocates parsing through these results and telling us what our next steps should be. We lack a lot of thoughtful and constructive education reporting in this town.

  • Eva Colen says:

    We have a lot to chew on. Our slight declines are made more concerning because we’re not starting from a strong position. In 2013, Richmond scores plummeted after the VDOE implemented new standards — scores fell across the state, but RPS’s decline was comparatively significant. We’ve seen some improvement over time, but we’re not pacing with school divisions that have similar demographics and challenges, like Norfolk. Disproportionate numbers of RPS students face the immense challenges of poverty — but, personally, I don’t think it’s fair to our kids for us to throw up our hands and say that we can’t help them until we solve poverty and/or segregation. I believe we have a moral imperative to figure out how to improve educational opportunity in the face of poverty. Other cities have tackled this challenge head-on; as a result, the gap between kids in poverty and their more affluent peers narrows. The Education Equality Index ( does a good job of highlighting where that’s happening across the US. (On the whole, Virginia isn’t doing great, but Norfolk is 10 points ahead of Richmond on the overall rankings of cities included in their dataset.)

    To @IHEARTZELDA’s point, we lack adequate reporting in our region. It’s hard to make sense of SOL results in a vacuum. The assessments aren’t the greatest; we don’t support our teachers with adequate coaching/resources to develop standards-aligned curricula OR to use formative assessments or interim data to adjust their instruction; and we only measure overall performance, rather than growth. Even so, SOL results matter, but it’s hard to understand why — and easy to discount them — when we aren’t considering the full picture of public school quality, whether measured qualitatively or quantitatively.

    • Eva Colen says:

      (Also, just realized that I accidentally deleted a pretty important phrase… “I believe we have a moral imperative to figure out how to improve educational opportunity in the face of poverty” should be “I believe we have a moral imperative to figure out how to improve educational opportunity in the face of poverty while we are working to reduce poverty” — it’s definitely not either/or, improve education/reduce poverty: we must, and can, pursue both goals at the same time.)

  • Donald Moss says:

    This article reinforces for me the need to go all in on our education system. Not just an attitude adjustment towards education in Richmond, but a complete about-face on how we help our kids excel. I’m advocating for a conception-to-college program to ensure prenatal health, access to early childhood education, rezoning to “right-size” our schools, increased teacher pay, increased mentoring opportunities, and a summer youth jobs program similar to what NYC and Chicago have. Expensive and difficult, sure. Doable? Yes.

  • I first want to remind everyone that SOL scores in NO WAY represent student growth, student achievement, critical thinking skills, the whole child or even knowledge in the subject area tested. There are so many issues with standardized testing, especially the pressure it puts on children to perform well in what are usually not developmentally appropriate, high stakes tests. But what is also incredibly dangerous is that when SOL scores come out, we are apt to use them as a measure of school success or failure. They are just numbers. They are not children. The numbers do not correlate to student performance in any way that is beneficial to students becoming intelligent, caring, successful human beings. It is so easy to justify our perceptions of schools based on these numbers. We need to remember that education is an incredibly complex matter that can not be summed up in a score. Give the teachers and students respect by understanding that progress in achievement is measured in many moments, in many ways, in many assessments. Don’t let the numbers trick you.

  • Everybody isn’t equipped to do well at Standardized testing. There should be other ways for people to test. There are different types of ways for people to learn. Some kids struggle at tests but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not smart. It just means they may not have great test taking skills. More research needs to be put into schools to make a way where all students can be engaged and included.

  • john m says:

    The one thing that really jumps out to me is that schools with good, stable leadership have better scores compared to school that have had years of principal turnover.

    While I was teaching at MLK Middle School, we lost a strong principal and the school fell apart, and has not yet recovered 5 years later.

    SOL date from the East End of Richmond:

  • There’s no such thing as a standardized child. We have a non-standard issue one ourselves. She is unique and lively and surprises us at least once each day. Any time we think we’ve cracked her code she throws another curveball at us. It’s both infuriating and inspiring all at once. She’s energetic, loves to dance, is wiggly and brilliant, and I love it. Between having an attorney mom and lobbyist dad, she is the best negotiator in the house. She knows the words to every song she’s ever heard, but misses 13 every time she counts to 20. When she writes, her A’s are perfect – R’s she still needs help with. There’s nothing standard about her, and if we to tried to measure her learning and development in a standardized way, I have no idea how she would fare.

    All of this is why I am suspicious, and not a big fan, of SOLs. SOLs were created to ensure that our kids get at least a minimum education. But how can we want just a minimum education for our kids? Don’t we want the best education for our kids? Why have we set the bar at the minimum? We wouldn’t have to worry about achieving the minimum standards if our kids were inspired by their education and believed their education was going to be useful to them. In order for that to happen, the kids in RPS need us! They need us to stop characterizing them by their problems and start focusing on their success. They need us to be positive influences and to support them in every way that we can to maximize their unique potential.

    It’s easy to compare test scores of RPS students with Henrico or Chesterfield students and draw conclusions about the problems plaguing the city school system. It’s harder to actually address the systemic barriers to learning for RPS students. A glaring issue is that 75% of RPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. I don’t even know how to put that in perspective because I have never been in a situation where three quarters of the people around me are struggling to get by! How do you inspire a kid to learn if he or she is hungry, or has been abused, or hasn’t seen their parents in weeks because they’re working three jobs? You don’t. You simply cannot inspire a child to engage in their education without addressing the challenges that prevent their learning.

    A quick review of the recent SOL numbers gives us another excuse to look down our noses at RPS and write it off, and maybe move to a county or invest in private school to benefit our own kids. But I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate the 70% of RPS elementary students who passed their SOLs. I want to celebrate the 55% of RPS middle school students who passed their SOLs. I want to celebrate the children who just got out of bed and showed up – the kids who overcame everything else to make the effort even if they ultimately failed the test. And then, most importantly, I want to ask students what they need to be their best. I want to help them find what makes them happy and successful and give them the resources they need to cope with and overcome their challenges. I think we should make all kids feel good about themselves for clearing even one major hurdle, and then we should instill in them the confidence they need to clear the next big hurdle too.

    Ultimately, I want to promise the children of RPS that I won’t discount or abandon them because they’re not standard. They are not the minimum. They are exceptional! We, the community, should judge ourselves by the time we give and the commitment we make to guarantee every child in Richmond gets the education that they deserve.

  • Kenya Gibson says:

    I was incredibly disappointed with WRIC. They created a sensationalist headline touting a “significant drop” in RPS SOL scores based on an inaccurate interpretation the numbers. They later corrected the headline, but why are our news outlets so eager to point to RPS failures? Do we realize the impact that these blanket judgments do to our city and kids?

    The truth is that changes to the scores were not significant. RPS scores went down by an average of 2.6%. Chesterfield County’s pass rate went down 2%. Is the .6% difference really newsworthy? I don’t think so.

    What is newsworthy are the demographics and stories behind that change. Richmond Public Schools had 150 more homeless kids last year. That’s a percentage increase of .6%, which I think matters. There are also over 1600 more kids that are come from economically disadvantaged homes than there were the year prior. That’s a percentage increase of 6%. That matters too. The school system struggles with funding, teacher retainment and managing a community that is desperate to point fingers.

    SOL scores have their place. They are like the last chapter of a really thick book – you can’t appreciate it unless you read the whole thing.

  • Mike Kemetic says:

    Cheats! Just wanted to chime in bc so many people have asked me what happened with Patrick Henry’s history scores this year. They took a dive like Greg Louganis. The main reason for that is bc our history teacher was in a car accident and was out the last two months of school. Unfortunately RPS has had a known issue with having a quality sub pool and not having good, subject specific subs can leave a few deficits at that time of year. Extraneous circumstances like that demonstrate exactly why the VDOE lets schools either use their current year score, or a three year average. With the three year average in history and a passing score in math this year, Patrick Henry should come out as Fully Accredited for the first time in six years. A lot of people have put in time and effort to make sure that we reach that mark that many said that we never could achieve while still maintaining an integrated arts and science curriculum. It is a very positive time for the school but that history number is ugly though and should be substantially better next year.

    The main thing that I take away from these scores is that RPS needs more resources and help from the community if the mayor and city council aren’t going to give up the funds for the proper resources. The shining example of that is Carver Elementary that continues to register at the top while dealing with one of the most challenged student populations in the city. The reason for that is The Carver Promise (and a strong Principal). The Carver Promise brings dozens of tutors from VCU and VUU to the school every year to work with students and help them reach their benchmarks. A person on another site implied a cooking of the books by Carver bc, as he said, there is “no way” Carver scored higher than Mumford legitimately. I explained to him that when students have the resources they need (Mumford parents can pay for private tutors and many of them do), then great things can happen, even with challenging populations. Carver should stand as a symbol of what can be done if schools have adequate support from the local community when the ruling bodies will not fund them properly.

    It’s also worth noting that I think Carver’s whole year focuses on passing the SOLs which is a terrible way to operate. Many other schools follow a similar model and it is just as sad that those kids are being railroaded down that path year after year with little regard for much else. It creates unhealthy environments for real learning and that is unfortunate. I think PHSSA is on the right path and this coming year the scores should be not just adequate, but stellar.

    Thanks for the forum homie!

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