Let us not lose sight of the real victims of the massive cheating scandal on the DC-CAS standardized tests here in the nation’s capital.
It’s the students who are being falsely claimed as being proficient when they really need extra help.
I was asked to try to estimate how many children this might be.
It’s difficult, I replied, because we don’t really know the extent of the cheating — partly because DCPS and OSSE hide the data as well as they can, even the reports from CTB-McGraw-Hill. And they use Caveon to try to whitewash the whole thing.
But I’ve done a couple of analyses in a couple of different ways, and it appears that it’s many hundreds of children, perhaps in the thousands, who have had their scores finagled upwards.
In one attempt, I looked at all of the schools that had massive numbers of flagged wrong-to-right erasures, and made the assumption that most of the unusual drops and rises in student scores at those schools was suspicious. When I do that, I get that about 1200 students had fraudulent scores that were in too high a category.
I then did a separate analysis, simply looking at the percentages of students in every single charter or regular public school in DC who were “below basic” in reading in 2010 and in 2011. If there was a large rise or fall, I took that, also, to be suspicious; I then looked at the grade-by-grade scores to see if there were suspicious rises and falls in a given grade or from one grade to the next.
I also had to take into account that there are four schools where over 90% of the students are “proficient” or “advanced”, yet a good number of the students at those schools are officially designated as having “limited intellectual ability” — a fancy way of saying they are mentally retarded. A number of them also have physical disabilities as well. What do we do with the scores of those students? I don’t believe the scores at all. In fact, I’m not convinced that many of the students even saw the tests or bubbled in any answers at all.
In any case, just counting the number of students who seem to be bounced into or out of “below basic”, suspiciously, I got a total of about 960 students who have been cheated.
Erich Martel has raised another good point: in DC, even though there are standards for math, reading, and other subjects, they don’t really mean very much.
Because DCPS and OSSE tell teachers and administrators well in advance that only a very small portion of the standards will be covered on the test — and they spell out exactly which ones they will be.
Thus, many teachers and administrators decide to throw out the vast majority of the curriculum, and turn the entire school year into test preparation for the handful of topics that will be tested. So that they can keep their jobs and perhaps earn a bonus.
BTW, it’s not just the regular public schools who evaluate teachers based on changes in test scores. Some, at least, of the charter schools do much the same thing.
Which means that all of the students of math, reading in grades 3-8 and grade 10, and all students in any other course with a DC-CAS final exam, are getting cheated as well. Their scores on those tests may perhaps look decent, but there is a good chance that they really didn’t learn anything close to what their fellow-students in, say, Montgomery or Fairfax Counties learned in identically-named courses.
So, perhaps the answer is: ALL of the students in DCPS and the charters are getting screwed out of a decent education by the current obsession with useless tests.