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‘Deeply disappointing’

RPS superintendent reacts to city SOL scores showing 2 of every 5 students unable to pass one or more tests

Jeremy Lazarus | 8/23/2018, 6 a.m.
The good news: More than half of Richmond’s public school students passed one or more state Standards of Learning tests ...

East End elementary schools exemplify the seriousness of the problem.

According to the data for Bellevue Elementary, which had the best showing among East End schools on reading, only 50 percent of students passed the reading test in the third, fourth or fifth grades. That means one in two students did not.

At Chimborazo Elementary, 45 percent of students passed the reading test, meaning 55 percent of students there are not reading on grade level.

The results were worse at Fairfield Court Elementary, where only 38 percent of students passed the reading test. That’s far below the glowing 80 percent pass rate the school reported two years ago.

Woodville Elementary was at the bottom, with only 36 percent of students passing the reading test.

The inability of East End students to read at grade level shows up at the nearly brand new Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where 32 percent of students passed the SOL reading test in the spring, and only 17 percent passed the SOL writing test.

The lack of academic success at the lower levels is reflected also at Armstrong High School, which can trace its founding to post Civil War Richmond in the 1860s and once ranked as a proud beacon of education for African-American students. Its list of graduates includes former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the nation’s first African-American elected governor.

Just 54 percent of Armstrong High students passed the state SOL test in reading, while 35 percent passed the writing test. Three of every five Armstrong students did not pass SOL tests in math, science and history/social studies.

While the data can identify such problems, it cannot explain why more students succeed at one school and fewer at another.

For example, at Barack Obama Elementary in North Side, 75 percent of students passed the SOL reading test, while just 57 percent of students from almost identical backgrounds passed the reading test at Overby-Sheppard Elementary, about a mile further east.

That same disparity shows up at two of the newest elementary schools in South Side.

At Oak Grove/Bellmeade Elementary, 41 percent of the students passed the reading test, while at overcrowded Broad Rock Elementary, 78 percent of students passed.

It is unclear why only 39 percent of students at Greene Elementary passed the reading test, while 68 percent passed at Redd Elementary.

The data also shows that the city’s middle schools are not educational success stories.

Citywide, data shows that among all eighth-graders, 48 percent did not pass the SOL reading test; 56 percent did not pass the writing test; and 58 percent did not pass the math test.