Dear RPS Family,
I’m writing today to proactively share the Virginia Department of Education’s final report (below) regarding SOL testing at Carver Elementary School. I was briefed on the report this morning and received it this afternoon.
The report is deeply troubling. It presents abundant evidence of what amounts to cheating by a small group of adults on the SOL examinations for the past several years at Carver. To be clear: our students did nothing wrong; they merely followed the instructions of the adults responsible for them.
Cheating is unacceptable. Full stop. Above all else, my administration will be one of integrity – which, as one of my favorite elementary teachers so aptly put it, means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. We ask this of our students; the least we can do is model it ourselves.
To safeguard the integrity of our testing processes across the division, I have asked Dr. Tracy Epp, our Chief Academic Officer, to convene a working group of teachers and principals to provide recommendations about both policy and practice in time for the Spring 2019 SOL testing.
What most disturbs me about what occurred at Carver is that it effectively robbed our young people of the opportunity to demonstrate their learning free from suspicion. In doing so, it helped perpetuate pernicious stereotypes about what children from low-income families and children of color can achieve.
To be blunt: too many people thought, “How could Carver, which serves nearly 100% low-income students and students of color, have such high scores? There must be something going on.” With those suspicions now confirmed, corrosive biases about our students, as well as the inequities that flow from them, have the potential to become even more ingrained in our city.
We can’t let that happen.
To the entire City of Richmond, I want to say this as clearly as I possibly can: High achievement at every one of our high-poverty schools is unequivocally possible. I’ve seen it with my own students when I taught in a high-poverty neighborhood in Washington DC, and I’ve seen it in countless classrooms across the country – including Richmond.
At the same time, I am the first to admit that high-performing, high-poverty classrooms are the exception, not the rule, in RPS. We have a moral obligation to change that – and we will.
I’m under no illusion that doing so will be easy. It’s going to require us to confront biases and stereotypes head-on; to provide more and better support to our students and teachers alike; to be bold and innovative; to fiercely advocate for more resources; and to be unrelenting in the face of challenges ahead.
Every one of our students, from every single neighborhood and every single family, has the capacity for greatness. It is our collective responsibility to create the conditions that will allow that greatness to shine. And that is exactly what we will do.