Elizabeth Green's piece in the NY Sun on how South Bronx principal John Hughes got great scores by urging teachers to give a little bit of help, is more prevalent than is imagined. That was the modus operendi in my school for 25 years. Just as in this article, teachers at the school we fed into used to laugh themselves silly when they saw the scores. That the school just happens to be a bonus/merit pay school is gravy, but the bonuses are a new thing and will only exacerbate a problem that has existed for a long time.
The covert and overt cheating - and I look at the artificial pump of test prep as part of this - goes a long way to explaining how kids' scores drop dramatically from the 4th to the 8th grade.
Hughes tried to solve the problem by moving up from the feeder to the fed school - IS 301, where he immediately alienated teachers, including a TFA who refused to "help" the kids in the way Hughes wanted and was driven from the system while TFA supported the principal - naturally. TFA apparently believes in closing the achievement gap by hook or crook.
The big problem facing all the Regressive Ed Reformers is to figure out a way to get the same level of cheating in the 8th grade, where kids will blab more freely than younger kids.
If you want a reality check, have teams go into randomly selected schools in mid-September to give tests. Assume a summer loss drop but I bet it will go way beyond that.
The perfect example, as Green wrote:
"These kids didn't know how to write, they didn't know how to add," a math teacher at M.S. 201 who is leaving the school, Elizabeth Cano, said. "How could they be getting level 4?" Ms. Cano said the discrepancy would be clearest when the teachers gave pre-tests in the first week of school. "They used to all get a level 1," she said.