Thursday, July 21, 2011

How High Stakes Testing Led to Cheating Scandals in Atlanta and Washington DC

Dana Goldstein has penned another insightful column on the origin of the testing scandals and hits the nail right on the head. This time the piece appeared today in Slate Magazine.  The only problem is that although what she says must be occuring in DCPS, as of now, there has been no real investigation of cheating in DC, so the article is based on conjecture. Why has there been no real investigation? Where are the grown-ups?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wishing Erasuregate Away DCPS Learns Nothing from Atlanta

In an article in the Post this morning, Bill Turque paints a picture of a stark contrast between the approach taken in Atlanta and DCPS with very similar testing scandals. In Atlanta employees lied initially and it was only when questioned under oath that they told the truth. It took 60 full time investigators with subpoena powers, to uncover the truth. At first the improprieties seemed isolated and small, but further investigation led to 178 participants in 44 schools with a massive coverup by the central administration.

If anything, the culture and conditions in DCPS seem more ripe than Atlanta for cheating. There has been too much emphasis on testing and test-prep over four years. There is a culture of fear in schools. The stakes --huge bonuses and unceremonious firing, the rewards and sanctions for test scores on a single test, are way too high. The level of cynicism from years of constant conflict is also high. Nevertheless, it turns out as revealed in Turque's piece today, DCPS is doing as little as possible to investigate what USA Today revealed are an abnormally high number of erasures in 103 schools.

Kaya Henderson asked the DC Inspector General to do the investigation. One investigator was assigned and a grand total of 10 people have been interviewed. According to the Post article today, no subpoena powers have been used by the DC IG. The US Department of Education has also asked to get involved, but it is unclear whether they will be doing a forensic analysis of test results or using subpoena powers to question people under oath or using a sufficient number of investigators. Do they too have a stake in a cover-up? Will the public stand for continued mystery about whether test scores have been fixed for the past three years? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Washington Examiner newspaper local opinion editor Barbara Hollingsworth sums it up this way.