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NCLB Outrages

Possible Cheating Probed at D.C. Schools With Rising Scores

This just went up on the web this afternoon. It will probably be in the paper tomorrow. Is anybody surprised? This is what happens when you put this kind of pressure on people, and when salaries depend on standardized test scores. . . .

By Bill Turque

District officials revealed Thursday that they commissioned an investigation last fall into possible cheating at 26 public and public charter schools where reading and math proficiency on the 2008 DC-CAS standardized tests increased markedly.

The probe, an analysis of incorrect student answers that were erased and changed to correct answers, found "anomalies" at some of the schools. But the investigation, conducted by the test's manufacturer, CTB McGraw-Hill, recommended that officials "should not draw conclusions about cheating behavior" on the basis of the findings, according to a memo from the company released by the District.

District officials did not name the schools, nor did they release a copy of the CTB McGraw-Hill report, which was requested by The Post on May 29.

According to the memo, the "erasure analysis" was requested in August 2008 by then- D.C. State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist. Accompanying the request was a list of 26 schools with proficiency gains of 20 percent or more on the 2008 DC-CAS. It is not known whether Gist was acting on specific information when she requested the analysis. She resigned in April to become state education commissioner in Rhode Island.

According to 2008 District test results, that list would include Aiton, Hearst, Raymond, Thomas, Hendley, Garrison, Maury, Reed, Draper, Powell, Bowen, Young and Cleveland public elementary schools, along with Winston Education Center, Sharpe Health School and Mamie D. Lee School, which are also public schools. The public charter schools would include Community Academy, SAIL, St. Coletta, Tri-Community and Kipp DC Will Academy.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee hailed the gains in public school scores as a testament to the hard work of teachers and students. Teachers and administrators at public schools with gains of 20 percent or better in both reading and math received cash awards.

Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso said D.C public school officials and Gist's successor, Kerri L. Briggs, reviewed the methods used to investigate the tests and determined that the findings added up to a "confusing picture."

The cheating probe was discussed this morning by Reinoso, Briggs and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty as part of an announcement of newly revamped test security guidelines.

— Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff


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