Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Atlanta and Philly Cheating Scandals Would Pale in Comparison to NYC...


 ...but don't expect there to be any where near the investigation needed. Here are a few excerpts from today's NY Times piece:  Review Aims to Avert Cheating on State Tests
 Before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won control of the schools, the city did conduct erasure analyses, but they were stopped by the Board of Education because of concerns about cost and effectiveness, city officials said. ---Sharon Otterman, NY Times
That about sums it up. Bloomberg was "worried" about "cost-effectiveness" when it came to monitor cheating. How far did Sharon have her tongue planted in her cheek when she wrote that?

New York does not conduct statistical analyses of its high-stakes third- through eighth-grade tests to scour for suspicious results that could signal cheating, like unusual spikes in a school’s scores or predictable erasures on multiple-choice questions, officials said. 
Another knee-slapper.
While New York City conducts investigations when questions about results are raised at a particular school, the city’s Education Department does not look systemwide for suspicious patterns on the tests. Those tests are the primary way the city judges the performance of elementary and middle schools on its annual school report cards.

I can tell you about schools where teachers were ordered to put up large sheets with the answers in front of the room. Guess who would get in trouble, the principal or the teachers?

What would it take to really expose cheating in NYC?

Read Mike Winerip's ripping piece in Monday's NYTimes on what it took in Atlanta.
In Pennsylvania, Suspicious Erasing on State Exams at 89 Schools
A large data file contains evidence that suggests cheating on state exams at 89 Pennsylvania schools.

For places that are serious about exposing cheating, there is a new gold standard: Atlanta. In the bad old days, Atlanta school officials repeatedly investigated themselves and found they had done nothing wrong. Then, last August, the governor decided that, once and for all, he was going to get to the bottom of things, and appointed two former prosecutors to oversee an inquiry.
Sixty of Georgia’s finest criminal investigators spent 10 months on it, and in the end turned up a major cheating scandal involving 178 teachers and principals — 82 of whom confessed — at 44 Atlanta schools, nearly half the district. 
Once the questionable schools have been pinpointed, the serious work begins. In Atlanta, the investigators chosen to conduct the cheating inquiry were given the necessary legal tools (subpoena power) and generous resources (over 100 people were involved). Then they went out and worked the schools like police detectives, flipping one cheating teacher, who in turn would identify others.
Where there's no will there's no way. And no matter what Meryl Tisch or John King say, there's no will on the part of the State Ed Dept  to do what Atlanta did because they are complicit up to their eyeballs.

But the NY Times has resources to at least do what the tiny Notebook in Philly did. Does the Times have the will?

More links: The state is reviewing test security measures. (GothamSchools, Daily News, Times, Post, WSJ)


NYC drops controls to ferret out cheating on high-stakes standardized tests

Wednesday, August 3rd 2011, 4:00 AM
The city dropped a system to flag suspicious standardized test marks in 2002.
Martin Shields/Getty
The city dropped a system to flag suspicious standardized test marks in 2002.

The city has dropped key controls for detecting cheating on the state's high-stakes standardized tests, the Daily News has learned.
In 2002, the then-Board of Education dropped an analysis system to red-flag suspiciously high erasing on tests, officials said.
The city also downgraded the number of random monitors sent to schools on test day to police for cheats, former officials said.
"I was shocked because I felt that we caught people cheating and there may have been people cheating that we didn't catch," said Kathleen Cashin, a former regional superintendent in Brooklyn who is now a member of the state Board of Regents, recalling her reaction to the policy change.
Checks on cheating have become a hot-button issue across the country after an analysis of erasures on answer sheets in Atlanta this summer uncovered widespread cheating. More than 150 principals and teachers in that city have been implicated in the scandal.
In Philadelphia and Washington, similar analyses have pointed to possible problems of staff boosting scores improperly.
New York City Education Department officials note erasure and other analyses still get used when there are reports of problems. They also still send monitors to roughly 10% of the schools on a random basis.
City officials also say they have upped security in key areas, including imposing a strict deadline of 3 p.m. on test days for the submission of answer sheets to grading centers.
The lack of checks on cheating comes at a time when the city has raised the stakes on the standardized tests by using them to rate teachers' performances, to close schools and to hold back kids who underperform.
"If the tradeoff was increasing test security procedures or lowering the stakes, I would tell you to lower the stakes," said Robert Tobias, former head of testing at the Board of Education, who noted the city's security for testing was "state of the art" when he left in 2001.
"Try to reduce the incentives to cheat by using the tests the way they were intended to be used - that is as a general measure of pupil performance and school performance.
"If you're going to continue with a high-stakes environment ... you should do everything you possibly can to discourage and detect it."rmonahan@nydailynews.com

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.


  1. Are we waiting for all 50 states to report cheating on standardized tests? It's the high stakes tests,dummies!!People cheat to keep their jobs, to keep principals happy , to keep their schools open ,to obtain bonuses, and to keep the myth perpetuated that public education is alive and well!The truth is that the death knell has been sounded for public education by the billionnaire business boys club and politicians! Watch for its burial!!It's coming!

  2. The blank is hitting the fan all over. In New Mexico:
    (And unflattering news on cherished charter schools there: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Local%20News/District----Grave--concerns-with-ATC )


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