Through an open records request, the AJC has obtained affidavits of two DeKalb school administrators who admitted that they reviewed CRCT answer sheets, realized their school would not make its critical benchmarks and then systematically doctored answers so their kids not only passed, but passed with flying colors.
The details are in this AJC exclusive story.
And they are chilling.
As AJC education writer Kristina Torres reports:
A few dozen of their elementary school students had just finished high-stakes summer retests — exams first taken in spring but not passed. With just a glance at the answer sheets, Atherton Elementary School Principal James Berry and Assistant Principal Doretha Alexander saw they were in trouble.
“We cannot not make AYP,” Alexander said. Not making AYP, or adequate yearly progress, meant not meeting a required federal benchmark. These students, all fifth-graders, also faced being held back if they did not pass.
“OK,” Berry answered. He pulled a pencil from a cup on Alexander’s desk. “I want you to call the answers to me.”
With that, he began to erase the students’ answers.
In light of the devastating state audit of CRCT test sheets that revealed possible answer tampering in many schools. I suspect this scenario happened more than any of us ever suspected. I want to salute the AJC education team members who set this whole thing in motion with their in depth look at CRCT scores over the last 18 months.
In the fall of 2008, prior to the state’s investigation, the AJC published an analysis that showed improbable gains at some schools on tests taken first in the spring and then in the summer. One of those schools was Atherton, where half of the DeKalb school’s fifth-graders failed a yearly state test in the spring. When the 32 students took retests, not only did every one of them pass — 26 scored at the highest level. At the time, Berry told the paper that he knew of no problems with test security.
To my AJC colleagues who spent months on this investigation and who prompted the state to finally act, I offer my gratitude both as a journalist and a parent of four kids in public schools.
And to the education world, I have to ask how this was allowed to go on and what is the next step to restore public confidence and improve teacher morale?
Many of you complain that the actions of Berry and Alexander reflect a test mania that has gotten out of hand. But without testing, how can we know for sure how students are doing? And why is testing vilified?
No one complains about testing in medicine when they are sick. Yes, you trust your doctor’s evaluations that you have a serious disease. but you undergo the tests to verify the doctor’s observations and professional judgment.
So, while parents may trust a teacher’s assessment that their child is on target, why not test to verify?