Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

What Exactly Were the Differences Between Cheating in Atlanta Under Beverly Hall and the Cheating in DC Under Michelle Rhee?

We all know that administrators and teachers in DC and in Atlanta cheated in order to keep their jobs and gain large cash bonuses. In one city, scores of teachers were indicted, some plea=bargained, some went to jail, and the chief died of cancer. In the other city, only a couple of whistle-blowers lost their jobs, but the chief went on to fame and fortune while all the other culpable parties kept their bonuses.

But why is it that only in Atlanta were teachers and administrators indicted and convicted, but nowhere else?

What difference was there in their actual behavior?

To me, the answer is simple: in DC, officials at every level, from the Mayor’s office up to the President of the US and the Secretary of Education, were determined to make sure that Michelle Rhee’s lying and suborning of perjury and lies would never be revealed, no matter what.

Read for yourself part of the official documents in Atlanta (I’m quoting from The Answer Sheet) and see if you can find any real differences in behavior between what happened there and what happened in DC.

“A[tlanta] P[ublic] S[schools] principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated. When principals and teachers could not reach their targets, their performance was criticized, their jobs were threatened and some were terminated. Over time, the unnreasonable pressure to meet annual APS targets led some employees to cheat on the CRCT. The refusal of Beverly Hall and her top administrators to accept anything other than satisfying targets created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.

“To satisfy annual targets and AYP, test answer sheets were altered, fabricated, and falsely certified. Test scores that were inflated as a result of cheating were purported to be the actual achievement of targets through legitimately obtained improvements in students’ performance when, in fact, the conspirators knew those results had been obtained through cheating and did not reflect students’ actual academic performance.

“As part of the conspiracy, employees of APS who failed to satisfy targets were terminated or threatened with termination, while others who achieved targets through cheating were publicly praised and financially rewarded. For example, teachers who reported other teachers who cheated were terminated, while teachers who were caught cheating were only suspended. The message from Beverly Hall was clear: there were to be no exceptions and no excuses for failure to meet targets.

“Beverly Hall placed unreasonable emphasis on achieving targets; protected and rewarded those who achieved targets through cheating; terminated principals who failed to achieve targets; and ignored suspicions CRCT score gains at schools within APS. As a result, cheating became more and more prevalent within APS, until by the time the 2009 CRCT was administered, cheating was taking place in a majority of APS’s 83 elementary and middle schools. This was substantiated by GOSA’s erasure analysis, which identified 43 APS elementary and middle schools with at least one out of four classrooms within those schools having a statistically improbable number of erasures changing wrong answers to right answers. GOSA’s erasure analysis identified an additional 9 APS elementary and middle schools as having at least one out of five classrooms with a statistically improbable number of erasures changing wrong answers to right answers. Confessions by dozens of APS employees subsequently confirmed what GOSA’s statistical analysis indicated; widespread cheating occurred on the 2009 CRCT.

“It was further a part of the conspiracy and endeavor that targets achieved through cheating were used to obtain financial and other rewards for many of the conspirators.

“It was further part of the conspiracy and endeavor that targets achieved through cheating were used by Beverly Hall to obtain substantial performance bonuses.

“It was further part of the conspiracy and endeavor that Beverly Hall and other conspirators would interfere with, suppress and obstruct investigations into cheating using various methods. Conspirators would refuse to investigate reports of cheating; suppress and deny the existence of reports of cheating; fail to act upon APS investigators’ conclusions that cheating was occurring; suppress and deny the APS investigators’ conclusions that cheating was in fact occurring; fail and refuse to provide complaints of cheating to the Governor’s Special Investigators, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office; and intimidate witnesses with the intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the communication of criminal offenses to law enforcement officers. When questioned by the Governor’s Special Investigators and law enforcement officers, many of the conspirators made false statements some under oath denying their knowledge of and participation in the cheating.”

Indictments in Atlanta Cheating Scandal Make Me Wonder: When Will Michelle Rhee & Her Enablers Also Be Indicted?

Those who trust our DCPS leaders to do the right thing regarding building a school here in Turkey Thicket should consider this:
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Beverly Hall, the ex-superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, was just indicted with a recommended multi-million-dollar bond for leading a massive cheating ring run by her and some administrators and teachers on their state’s standardized tests; she and her cronies raked in big bucks and much fame and honors for these fake high scores. A link to today’s NYT article: http://nyti.ms/10ocfEK
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USA Today ran a brilliant series of investigative columns about a year or so ago on cheating by adults on standardized tests in Atlanta, Washington DC, and several other cities. The cheating here in DC, according to their serious, well-documented investigation, was about on a par with that in Atlanta, IMHO.  The most brazen example that they found — and one of the few examples where the reporters could find people willing to speak on the record — was right here in Brookland at Crosby Noyes ES/EC, under then-principal Wayne Ryan. You may have also noted that the principal at Noyes who followed Ryan found extremely clear evidence of said cheating ring, and spoke out about it, and was forced to resign for telling the truth. (Look up John Merrow’s PBS special on that.) That principal was later also publicly vilified by Henderson — essentially for telling the truth about the cheating.
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If you recall, Ryan earned big bucks, a promotion, and lots of fame and honors for leading a ring of teachers and administrators who changed students’ answers on the DC-CAS for many years. Michelle Rhee promoted him to the central office as being “all that” – a position that he mysteriously abandoned once the excrement hit the ventilator (figuratively speaking), just as Beverly Hall conveniently retired.
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Rhee herself similarly lied, repeatedly, in print and in numerous interviews, about her own non-existent, utterly unbelievable “90% below the 13th percentile rising to 90% above the 90th percentile” miracle in Baltimore. She lied about much more on her resume, and once chosen to be chancellor, gave all DC principals marching orders on how much to inflate their students’ test scores in the coming year and earn big bucks, or be fired. Kaya Henderson defended Rhee and Ryan, and was deputy to Rhee during all those shenanigans and lies.
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BTW: I and many others have shown that there has been NO tremendous surge in NAEP scores in DCPS under the disastrous reign of Rhee and Henderson. The one big change is that the gap between the scores of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, between those of white kids and non-white kids, and between those with free or reduced-price lnches and those without, has WIDENED and the gap is by far the widest here in DC than in any other state or city. If you don’t believe me, go look up the NAEP scores yourself, or look in my blog under NAEP in its little search engine. (You can also use my blog to do searches for the original news articles on the scandals I am discussing here.)
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I wonder when the turn before the grand jury will come for Ryan, Henderson, and Rhee.
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(Obviously not while we have Arne Duncan in the DOE and Charles Willoughby as our IG.)
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My conclusion is this:
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My neighbors here in Brookland should not expect any of the people I mentioned to do anything right for you or for me or my kids or my grandchild-to-be.
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The people I named are utterly corrupt, and take their lying very seriously.
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Not our welfare.
Your thoughts?

How to Find the Investigative Report into the Atlanta Cheating Scandal

I definitely recommend reading the report yourself to see what they said. Here are several ways of getting there:
Via the New York Times:
on this page, there are links to all four volumes of the report. They are PDF files, and are quite large. Separately, they are
and
and
and
Or you can go to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
as a sidebar to this article, there are links to other ways of looking at the reports.
Published in: on July 8, 2011 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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More Details on Atlanta Standardized Test Cheating Scandal

Or:

Why do I keep thinking “DCPS” whenever they write “APS”?

Here are some more excerpts from the report on the standardized cheating scandal in Atlanta, which sounds more and more like what we have here in Washington, DC. (Also known as “RheerasureGate”.) I got these from the NYT and not the AJC.

And, get this:

Here is one particularly egregious example of a cheatin’ middle school. Notice that SEVEN teachers confessed to the cheating.

 

More information, this time the ‘Analysis of Evidence’:

 

 

Notice the stonewalling by Atlanta public schools administrators.

This report is NOT a cold-as-dust bureacratic tissue of tedium. It’s actually quite gripping, and I can’t think of any novelist or short story writer who could have possibly made it up.

Go ahead and read it! It names names, and it will make you think more and more of what the situation is here in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Summary of Atlanta Public Schools Findings on Massive Cheating

Here is a summary of what the Atlanta investigation found.

PDF_-_Summary_of_CR_983551a

Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for this.

Here is the  text of the overview of the report. I put in bold-face a couple of sentences.

Thousands of school children were harmed by widespread cheating in the Atlanta Public School System (APS). ln 30 schools, educators confessed to cheating. We found cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in 44 of the 56 schools we examined, and uncovered organized and systemic misconduct within the district a s far back as 200l. Superintendent Beverly Hall and her senior staff knew, or should have known, that cheating and other offenses were occurring. Many of the accolades, and much of the praise, received by APS over the last decade were ill-gotten.

We identified 178 educators as being involved in cheating. Of these, 82 confessed. Thirty-eight of the 178 were principals, from tvvo-thirds of the schools we examined. The 2009 erasure analysis suggests that there were far more educators involved in cheating, and other improper conduct, than we were able to establish sufficiently to identify by name in this report.

A culture of fear and a conspiracy of silence infected this school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct. From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS leadership in our attempt to gather evidence. These actions delayed the completion of this inquiry and hindered the truth–seeking process.

(Here is the source)
Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 5:04 am  Comments (5)  
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The Atlanta Verdict Is In: Massive NCLB Cheating Inflated Gains

An article in the Huffington Post by Joy Resmovits outlines the results of a real investigation into the cheating scandal in the Atlanta public school system. The issue is also the subject of several posts at RheeFirst! The conclusion of the report, which is also covered in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is that there was massive cheating to make the school administrators and teachers to look good and to allow teachers to earn bonuses because of falsified high student test scores.

Much like here in DC.

The report also concludes that the system also engaged in a massive cover-up to hide the extent of the corruption.

Just like here.

One bad consequence for some of the students: those whose answers were erased to make them appear to be high-scorers when they were really far below acceptable proficiency levels — they missed out on necessary remediation and summer school classes.

A few telling quotes from the article, which also contains a video file of the Georgia governor talking about the scandal:

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Tuesday that widespread cheating inflated Atlanta Public Schools’ 2009 state standardized tests scores.

The product of a two-year investigation, the report concluded that systematic cheating occurred within Atlanta Public Schools — which had been lauded for its quick testing gains — including at least 44 of the 56 examined schools. The report implicated 38 principals, noting that 178 educators pled the Fifth Amendment when questioned. Eighty-two other educators confessed to various forms of cheating, including erasing wrong answers on students’ multiple choice exams and then replacing them with the correct ones.

“The 2009 CRCT [test] statistics are overwhelming and allow for no conclusion other than widespread cheating,” a summary of the report circulated by the governor’s office said.

The cheating can be traced back to as early as 2001, the report found. It detailed how warnings of cheating in late 2005 were ignored and how the school system destroyed documents and provided false statements to hide wrongdoing.

“In a statewide erasure analysis … the Atlantic Public School system test results demonstrated a pattern of wrong to right changes, evidencing that these changes did not occur in a valid testing environment,” Gov. Nathan Deal said at a Tuesday press conference.

Investigators spent more than two years looking into much-lauded gains on 2009’s state standardized tests after questions about “statistically improbable” test score increases were first raised by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

An initial report was deemed superficial, with one high-ranking official saying her testimony had been edited to soften the blow.

Then-Governor Sonny Perdue ordered a new report, this time with the help of Georgia’s equivalent of the FBI.

When Deal took office, he allowed the investigation to continue — and received its results last week. In his Tuesday press conference, Deal told reporters that “there will be consequences” for those implicated by the report.

The report itself was not released to the media, though officials gave the Atlanta Journal Constitutionan early look at the document.

According to the AJC, the investigators concluded that APS chief Beverly Hall — who retired recently after serving the full length of her term despite the investigation — “knew or should have known” about the cheating. Hall led Atlanta’s troubled schools for 12 years, leading to her being named “Superintendent of the Year” in 2009.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lists of DC Public Schools With Suspiciously High Wrong-to-Right Erasure Rates


Please note that it was the TESTING COMPANY ITSELF that found all of these erasures over the past three years to be suspicious. They informed the State Superintendent of Education, who has exactly zero power in DC, so she asked Rhee and Henderson and their underlings to investigate. The latter group, naturally, stonewalled, and hushed the whole thing up.

As jaded and as cynical as some of you might think I am, I had no earthly idea that this evident fraud was so widespread. Naturally, Michelle Rhee has now said that she thinks that the USA Today investigation itself is an “insult” to teachers and students. I disagree. I think that everything that Michelle Rhee has done since she quit teaching in Baltimore has been an insult to parents, teachers, students, and honest administrators.

I think that the DC Inspector General’s office needs to investigate this fully and to indict the leaders who caused this fraud to happen.

There was a time that the IG office actually did their job and investigated serious crimes and official misdemeanors in DC; but apparently those days are over. In Atlanta, the investigation was far-reaching and has revealed widespread corruption. See this, this, this, and this. The way they got the ‘goods’ on the higher-ups was the usual: low-level teachers and counselors who did the cheating under orders or threats were offered immunity in exchange for truthful testimony.

Here is a link to the USA Today article. Lots of tables!

Is your school on the list?

By the way, classes were “flagged” as suspicious if the number of wrong-to-right erasures on a test was four or more full  standard deviations above the mean. Four standard deviations (or ‘four sigma’)  is a TREMENDOUSLY HUGE increase over the normal number of such erasures. For comparison, there are typically 2 or 3 such erasures on a single student’s test.

To put it in more familiar terms, think about the average adult man’s height in the USA: about 5 feet 9.5 inches. Anybody within about 3 inches of that (taller or shorter) is within one “sigma” of the mean – and this means, statistically, that about 68% of all adult males are between 5’7″ and 6’1″ – and that includes this writer.

So, ‘one sigma’ in terms of adult US male height is about 3 inches of variation in height.

To be over four sigma higher than the mean adult height is to be a giant.  Here is a little table that will allow you to look at what it means. When you look at it, also try to think about the fact that there are just about one hundred million adult males in the US. (100,000,000) So to be one of those 3,200 people who are four sigma above the mean is to be, basically, a freak of nature. And there are only 28 people who are five sigma above the mean. And there are only TWO humans in the entire WORLD (over six BILLION people) who are 6 sigma above the mean. (Source is here.)

Notice that four sigma above the mean (i.e., 6’7″ and higher) doesn’t even show up on this graph!

However, in DCPS, according to the testing company that scored the DC-CAS (not according to me!) we have HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of classes where the AVERAGE number of erasures is FOUR SIGMA above the mean.

There is only one reasonable explanation for this situation.

I will soon post documents from the previous investigations, so you can look at them for yourself. Stay tuned!

Big-Time Cheating: Confessions in Atlanta

A number of people have predicted that if scores on multiple-choice tests have important consequences, then the pressure to cheat on them becomes intense. Apparently, that is exactly what has happened in Atlanta, GA. I reprint the  first few paragraphs of a recent article.  There have been very strong suspicions of the same sort of thing here in Washington, DC.

Atlanta Public Schools cheating:

Some teachers [and others] admit guilt

By Bill Rankin, Heather Vogell and Alan Judd

Numerous Atlanta Public Schools employees have confessed to changing students’ test papers, providing answers to students or watching others manipulate tests, according to an official briefed on the state’s investigation into cheating on standardized tests.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said some teachers are telling investigators, “I’m guilty. Here’s what I did. Here’s what I know happened.”

The revelation comes as criminal charges against APS employees appear increasingly likely as a result of the state’s investigation. GBI director Vernon Keenan and two special investigators on Monday met with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

GBI officials have said teachers are not targets for criminal charges as long as they are truthful with agents and investigators. But administrators may be.

Potential felony charges that educators could face include lying to agents or investigators, which could bring up to five years in prison, and the destruction or altering of public documents, which could result in up to 10 years in prison.

Stories in the AJC in 2008 and 2009 revealed some Atlanta public schools were posting statistically unbelievable scores on state CRCT. In February, state officials announced they had found suspicious erasures on answer sheets for last year’s tests in hundreds of classrooms at Atlanta elementary and middle schools.

The state ordered the district to investigate 58 of its schools, more than any other district statewide flagged by the erasure analysis. But the district’s probe — conducted by a “blue ribbon commission” composed of civic and business leaders — was rejected by Gov. Sonny Perdue in August as inadequate.

In appointing his special investigators, Perdue gave Bowers and Wilson and private investigator Richard Hyde subpoena power to reinvestigate the possibility of widespread cheating in Atlanta classes.

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