Saturday, April 2, 2011

Education Reform: D.C. Test Results Revisited

Posted For

Sandra in Brevard

Washington D.C. School Board President Ted Trabue is taking the U.S.A. Today investigative report on D.C. test irregularities seriously. He has called an April 6 hearing, which will "examine how the D.C. Public Schools, then under Rhee, handled previous investigations into high erasure rates." Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson has also requested the D.C. Inspector General to investigate the reported irregularities. The D.C. city council chairman is considering holding hearings on the matter and possibly using subpoenas. In Georgia, a similar revelation of high erasure rates has led to a criminal investigation.

According to the USA Today report McGraw-Hill scores the D.C. tests and alerted the district when unusually high erasures from wrong to right occurred. Their electronic scanners tally erasures and new answers for each student. In 2008, the district conducted no investigation and in 2009, it hired a private firm, which conducted a limited one. Caveon Testing Security focused "mostly on process" by interviewing school personnel as to their observations and thoughts on why there were so many erasures; however, the company did not conduct its own data analysis and determined there was no reason to believe cheating occurred. The company could have done more, but were not asked to do so. Caveon has released a
 as to their procedures and findings. Current D.C. Public School Chancellor Kaya Henderson indicated that all allegations of testing impropriety were investigated and "punished any wrongdoers."

An additional review of procedures and outcomes will go a long way to reassure parents that the scores reflected their child's abilities and assure taxpayers that the money invested in testing yields verifiable results. If the irregularities are nothing more than irregularities, then this review will shine a bright light on the successes and the failures. Who could find harm in that? The whole nation would benefit from such an audit especially since the D.C. reforms are highlighted as exemplars for all to follow.

If Michelle Rhee were not an advisor to Governor Scott, Floridians would likely find her reaction to the USA Today article a yawn. Rather than project complete confidence that the scores and investigations under her watch would stand under greater scrutiny, Rhee replied dramatically that the USA Today article:

“It isn’t surprising that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved for DCPS students unless someone cheated."
Enemies of school reform? Bring the audit on and let's see what it reveals. The USA Today report raises questions that deserve an answer. What's to be afraid of?

UPDATE: Rhee says her comments were "stupid" and supports an investigation into possible cheating,reported in the Washington Post by journalist Jay Mathews, who applauded much of Rhee's work to improve D.C.s schools.

Read all of Sandra's Blogs at Grumpy Educators



  1. If an audit of irregularities is part of enemies of educational reform, then I will wear the badge. If the data is questionable, it must be validated; otherwise garbage in and garbage out.

  2. If you're going make something a Like's Rhee's DC Program National Model, and the model is flawed, you're looking for trouble.

  3. It appears Caveon has been down this road before,'s.Criticism

  4. Yes, Madpole, Caveon is a test security company, thatnis what they do, investigate. Their GA investigation led to criminal charges. In D.C., they did not do the same kind of investigation according to their own statement and reports.


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