Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Kaya Henderson: National standards needed to guide educators in detection, investigation of cheating

Ohanian comment: I want to know how many lawyers it took to come up with this plan. It certainly puts a new spin on "standards." This is a pitiful response to the ethical questions raised by Michael Winerip.

By Bill Turque

Chancellor Kaya Henderson has made a practice of avoiding the national spotlight, but Tuesday morning, at an U.S. Education Department symposium on cheating, she stepped up.

Henderson called for a set of national standards to guide educators in the detection and investigation of cheating on standardized tests,contending that without them school districts will be subject to second-guessing of their efforts to probe and punish such misconduct.

âBecause there is no standard either for identifying potential wrongdoing or for investigating once cheating is alleged, we are left with a fuzzy picture of what reliable outcomes are,â Henderson said.

DCPS is under investigation by District and federal authorities for alleged cheating by staff on the DC CAS between 2008 and 2010. Henderson asked the D.C. Inspector General to investigate after USA Today published a lengthy investigation last March that showed elevated levels of wrong-to-right answer sheet erasures in classrooms at more than 100 D.C. schools since 2008. The Education Department Inspector General later joined the inquiry.

But Henderson seemed to be saying that without clearer standards, even these probes will not resolve questions from the public or media about the sharp growth in D.C. test scores under former chancellor Michelle Rhee. It will also continue to render DCPS and other school systems vulnerable to what she described âthose who would like to tear down outcome-based education reform.â

Henderson said DCPS took every conceivable step in response to questions about test security, including hiring a private firm, Caveon, to investigate high-erasure classrooms flagged by state authorities in 2009 and 2010. But Caveon founder John Fremer said last year that DCPS asked for a limited inquiry that didnât involve all the forensic tools at its disposal.

âIt was easy sport for the press to play the what-more-could-be-done game,â she said. âCouldnât we have looked at right-to-wrong erasures in more schools? Wasnât there more that our vendor could have done to identify inconsistencies? Couldnât investigations have been more thorough? Can we release the information to the press so that press and the public could decide for themselves?â

Henderson said the answer to all the questions was âyes.â Caveon could have looked at patterns of answers within classrooms, annual score growth of students, or how results may have deviated from predictions based on interim tests.

âBut there was no reason to believe that any of these actions would have yielded more reliable results or more accurate results,â she said. âIt was clear to me it would be very easy for a district like ours to fall down a rabbit hole of testing investigations only to find out that because there are no widely accepted standards there is no agreed upon result that would have satisfied the press or the public.â

Henderson also referred to Monday's column by New York Times education columnist Michael Winerip challenging the propriety of Education Secretary Arne Duncan sharing a panel with Rhee while the school system was under investigation. He also called the departmentâs selection of Henderson as one of the conference's opening speakers "disheartening."

âMore generally the press has framed the challenge of test integrity as their struggle to out deceitful school districts,â Henderson said. âThis approach is exactly wrong. Schools districts like ours struggle with these issues constantly.â

— Bill Turque
Washington Post D. C. Schools Insider blog





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.