At Richmond’s George W. Carver Elementary School this year, just 1 in 5 students passed the state’s science tests, and 1 in 3 passed in reading. Fewer than 1 in 4 passed in history, and about 1 in 3 passed in math.
After a cheating scandal rendered the school’s Standards of Learning test results useless last year, students performed far below the state average in each of the four testing areas this year.
The school has plummeted from the third-highest-achieving elementary school in the city in 2016-17 — the last time there are official test scores for the school — to second-worst, according to data released Tuesday by the Virginia Department of Education.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Mariah White, who was head of the school’s Parent Teacher Association last year when Carver was embroiled in the cheating scandal.
In the third-grade reading test, a key barometer of a student’s future academic success, only 27% of Carver students passed this year.
The average pass rate at the school — reflecting the results of the four test subjects combined — was 28%, according to the state data. Only Fairfield Court Elementary School (21%) had a lower rate among city elementary schools.
The data comes a year after state investigators uncovered a cheating ring inside the school in which teachers and administrators inappropriately helped students on the tests.
Some teachers would help students if they raised their hand or would indicate to students whether answers were right or wrong, according to the state report.
Last year, fewer than 150 valid tests were administered at Carver — far below the expectation of 570 tests — as 7 in 10 Carver parents used a state provision that allowed them to opt their children out of the state tests. The state did not make the results of the valid tests available to the public.
This year’s results are a far cry from Carver’s performance in years before the cheating was uncovered.
In 2016-17, for example, 9 in 10 students passed in science; about 4 in 5 passed in math and reading; and 88% passed the state’s history test.
“Carver was overlooked for too long, and it’s past time to set things right,” said Scott Barlow, who represents the school on the Richmond School Board.
In the wake of the report, Richmond Public Schools added a full-time math resource teacher at the school and had central office staff members meet weekly with then-interim Principal Tiawana Giles to figure out what the school needed. Giles has since been hired as the permanent principal.
The school system said it also hired tutors for Carver and had learning specialists at the school, among other measures.
“A lot of effort has gone into providing extra support for Carver in the wake of last year’s events, much of which has been provided by the RPS central office,” Barlow said. “Furthermore, in addition to the new school leadership and our teachers, who I believe are poised to drive significant change at the school, we’ve received increased community support, including establishment of a new foundation, Embrace Carver.”
He added that the school “undoubtedly needs additional resources to provide our children at Carver with the support they deserve.”
Carver had risen to national acclaim for its performance on the state tests.
The school had historically underperformed on Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests, but its scores began to skyrocket after Kiwana Yates took over as principal in 2012. Based on the school’s results in 2014-15, Yates nominated her school to the U.S. Department of Education for the distinction of being a Blue Ribbon school, calling Carver an “educational mecca.”
In 2014-15, the school had a 97% pass rate on state tests, including every student passing the history exam.
The following year, Carver was named one of seven Blue Ribbon schools in Virginia for the year and the lone one in the Richmond region.
The federal Education Department rescinded Carver’s Blue Ribbon status last November “after careful consideration of the situation.” The school system supported the decision.
Yates, whose superintendent license and administrator endorsement were revoked by the state, did not return an email Tuesday requesting comment.
She was one of 11 Carver educators named in the state report. Most of them resigned in the immediate aftermath, and Yates was removed.
Three of the teachers are suing Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras and the School Board, accusing them of defamation and violating their due process rights.
While the pass rates on state exams play a large role in how a school is accredited, it’s not the only factor.
Starting last year, the state uses student growth as a factor in its accreditation ratings. Carver didn’t receive a rating after the Virginia Department of Education voted unanimously in September 2018 to withhold Carver’s accreditation — something that has been done just four times, all since 2005.
For this year’s rating, the growth measures that now are a critical part of a school’s accreditation calculation will be tallied for students who did retake the tests and have valid results, VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle said last year.
The results released Tuesday and the limited scores from last year will determine the school’s new rating, which is expected to be released next month.