USA Today Cites Massive Test Score Erasures in DC Schools

HopeTracker| America’s education reform movement as no more visible eader than Michelle Rhee, formerly chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools and now head of a new political organization committed to raising $1 billion to continue her agenda.

Today’s Daily Beast writes that Michelle Rhee, who spent large amounts of her time fighting the teacher’s unions in D.Cc, is under fire over allegations of fraud in reported test score gains in her star-improvement schools.

The school at the center of the investigation is the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which saw spectacular score gains during Rhee’s tenure. Rhee held up the school as a model because the percentage of students who reached proficient on D.C. tests soared from 10 percent to 58 percent in a two-year period. The school was her example of what could happen as a result of her policies. In its recruitment advertisements, the District school system identified the school’s principal, Wayne Ryan, as one of its “shining stars.” Rhee twice showered bonuses on the school’s staff, with $10,000 for the principal and $8,000 for each teacher.

USA Today Investigation of Test Erasure Irregularities at Noyes

USA Today (source of the Daily Beast analysis) conducted an investigation under the Freedom of Information Act into Noyes and also the totality of test scores in the D.C. school system. The focus is ‘erasures’, the number of times that wrong answers become right ones.

In 2007-08, six classrooms out of the eight taking tests at Noyes were flagged by McGraw-Hill because of high wrong-to-right erasure rates. The pattern was repeated in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, when 80% of Noyes classrooms were flagged by McGraw-Hill.

The average for all D.C. schools erasures was less than 1 on the 2009 reading test, meaning that per student, one answer was erased from wrong to right. In the Noyes classroom, the average per student was 12.7.

In a McGraw-Hill March 2009 report to D.C. officials, the testing company agreed that there can be innocent reasons for multiple erasures. A student can lose his or her place on the answer sheet, thus filling in wrong rows. If test takers are encouraged to review their work, they will make more corrections.

The USA Today investigation comes after district-wide investigations in D.C. prompted by the McGraw-Hill advisory concluded that there is no fundamental problem with test cheating in the D.C. school system. One should not draw conclusions that have been rejected by the school administrators of D.C.

Statistically, according to the laws of probability theory, the ongoing results out of the D.C. school system under Michelle Rhee’s watch, are nearly impossible and especially over a period of years. USA Today does not raise these questions lightly in this thoroughly researched article, which will open up a massive pandora’s box. Read on: When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?