An Off The Record Briefing By DCPS On Hiring An Unqualified Firm to “Detect” (?hide?) Cheating

Someone told me this afternoon somewhere between 3pm and 4pm  that there was going to be a briefing in less than an hour, in the form of a conference call, by DCPS administration, concerning the highly embarrassing test cheating scandal. I volunteered to write an article for a small local newsletter, so I became an official reporter (again). Sort of. Unfortunately, I missed 95% of the conference briefing because the contractor who’s going to replace our windows was late, and I had to sign some papers and stuff, and he loves to talk.

There were a few weird things about this conference call:

(1) If this was so important, why only a few hours’ notice?

(2) There were extremely few members of the conference – they counted five at one point. Me, the two speakers, and what other two people? Bill Turque wrote in a tweet that he discovered it was off the record, with no explanation for the secrecy; so he skipped it. Probably the right call.

(3) The most important thing they seemed to want to stress in the part that I heard is that they had an elaborate chart showing how all these steps would be done to, supposedly, insure integrity, but that they couldn’t answer any questions. And, again, that all that was off the record. Perhaps that’s why nobody had any questions at the end. Perhaps the other two or three people hung up. I had missed so much of the call, and didn’t have any time to download the PDF of the powerpoint presentation, I felt that if I asked anything at all, I would appear like I hadn’t been listening at all. Which I hadn’t — see paragraph 1.

Here is the email I was forwarded:

CONTACT:                   Melissa Salmanowitz

Thursday, March 8, 2012
(desk) 202.535.1096

DCPS to Participate in OSSE Led Independent Testing Integrity Investigation

TODAY AT 4:30: DCPS to Hold Background Call with Reporters to Discuss Flagging Methodology

WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will support an independent investigation into 2011 DC CAS results to be conducted by Alvarez and Marsal Public Sector Services, LLC (A&M), DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced today. A&M, a leading independent global professional services firm, selected and managed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), will examine standardized test results in DC public and charter schools. In addition to welcoming the OSSE-led investigation, DCPS will also request A&M’s investigation of an additional set of classrooms.

There is more.

It looks like the company (Alvarez and Marshal Public Sector Services, or A&M) has no experience in education that they would care even to mention on their masthead. Instead, and I quote from their own home page:

Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) is a global professional services firm specializing in turnaround and interim management, performance improvement and business advisory services. A&M delivers specialist operational, consulting and industry expertise to management and investors seeking to accelerate performance, overcome challenges and maximize value across the corporate and investment lifecycles. Founded in 1983, the firm is known for its distinctive restructuring heritage, hands-on approach and relentless focus on execution and results.

I thought perhaps education would be hidden in there somewhere, but I was wrong. I went to the part where they discuss the industries they deal with (law enforcement and education and mining are all industries, I would think). Here is what they wrote:

Industries Overview

Alvarez & Marsal focuses teams of senior professionals directly on client problems. With wide ranging industry experience across sectors such as automotive, consumer products, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, media and entertainment, retail, technology and telecommunications, and transportation, A&M offers powerful insight and ensures rapid appraisal of industry-specific situations, when time is of the essence.

I’ve been told that A&M’s main or only experience in education was in turning nearly the entire New Orleans Public School System over to charter schools. Perhaps one of my readers could share some links confirming or disproving this rumor.

In any case, they have no business investigating and then issuing a white-wash over the famous non-investigation of Erasuregate in DC Public Schools.



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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Alvarez & Marsal had disastrous experience running St. Louis schools. Got $16 million to change NYC bus routes and left thousands of kids stranded on coldest day of year. Charged $500 an hour for executive advice.


  2. Gary,
    They were also responsible for debacles in NYC and St. Louis. DCPS and OSSE and others should be ashamed. Atlanta wrote the playbook on investigating a testing scandal. This is such a contrived dog and pony show it defies and insults common sense and intelligence. What is the IG doing? Once again DCPS is breaking new ground. This time in how NOT to conduct an investigation. This is truly sad and pathetic. I expected more from my city where I was raised,educated and chose to become a teacher.Although for those in charge, this is one benefit of mayoral control. I wonder how this would have played out with a school board and the old Parents United attacking the problem?


  3. Keep up the great work. I bet you didn’t think you’d be working this hard after retiring from DCPS. Many thanks for all you do.


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