CRCT investigation: Could Atlanta students erase more than the rest of the state?

At a school board meeting Thursday, 21 speakers defended APS  against suspicions raised by the CRCT investigation that grew out of a state audit of unusual erasures on 2009 answer sheets. The CRCT is a high-stakes state test that determines whether schools meet benchmarks, staff get bonuses and, in some cases, principals keep jobs.

APS takes the test very seriously, too seriously according to teachers who complain that they have to drop everything and double up on test prep when practice exams show students aren’t doing well.

I would like to believe that there was some unique trait that led to two-thirds of Atlanta elementary and middle schools being tagged by the state for erasures that exceeded the state average. But is that plausible?

Are Atlanta students that different than students in Gwinnett where there wasn’t a single school on the severe list? Are they that different than thousands of others in the state whose school systems have no flagged schools?

To me, that is the most serious evidence against the system, that their schools and students are out of sync with the behaviors of their peers around the state.  APS principals contend that they teach test taking techniques that encourage large numbers of erasures .  Nor are they troubled that their APS students made so many more erasures from wrong to right, defying the odds that kids will sometimes change right answers to wrong ones.

I continue to ask this question: Do these children in flagged schools exceeding on the CRCT continue to do so the following years? At this point, at least 20 posters have commented that they are teachers who have had children come to them with great CRCT scores  yet unable to perform even basic grade-level work.

In the far-reaching investigation approved Thursday by the APS school board, I hope there is some effort to reconcile scores and student performance over time.  I can tell you this: In my stint teaching college here, I had students who could not write a sentence tell me that they were A students in high school.  After a while,  I saw a pattern of which high schools gave reliable grades and which gave mercy ones. I don’t think it served the students well to send them off with confidence in skills they did not have. Because someone at some point had to break the news to them that their skills were low and that they needed remediation.  It is not an easy conversation to have with a 20-year-old.

According to the AJC story on the APS board meeting:

“We have nothing to hide,” West Manor Elementary School Principal Cheryl Twyman said during an at-times emotional board meeting, where principal after principal, as well as parents and community members — 21 speakers in all — defended the system’s teachers and students against suspicions raised by state officials last week.

The state’s report identified 191 schools statewide as needing scrutiny, including West Manor and 57 other Atlanta elementary and middle schools. Atlanta had more schools flagged than any other system. It also had the worst suspected offenders. In one school, almost 90 percent of classrooms came under scrutiny.

John Wesley Dobbs Elementary Principal Dana Evans said teachers often exhort children that they can do anything. But students at many of the flagged schools are black and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. She also welcomed the scrutiny, but worried children would walk away thinking, “You can do anything unless you’re poor, unless you’re black, unless you erase too much” on a test.

Other principals talked about the work their staffs already do with outside agencies to review their work and progress. Those agencies include the state education department, which, one principal said, offered test-taking strategies. One strategy included crossing out answers students know to be wrong, so that they don’t consider them in their final answer, then erasing those marks before handing in the test.

Updated Friday at 3: The APS communications director  sent me this e-mail that I want to share here. It speaks a bit to the status of the 58 schools on the state’s severe and moderate list

Since the issue of APS Targets and AYP has come up in your articles, we wanted you to have the following information that may provide clarity for your readers.

AYP
· Five of 58 schools were in Needs Improvement status
· Of those 5,  two closed: Williams and Carson
· Of the 3 remaining  only one made AYP.
APS Targets
· Only 13 of the 58 schools made targets in 2009
· One closed: Blalock Elementary
The remaining 45 schools on the severe and moderate state list did not make 2009 targets
NAEP: NAEP is independently administered and monitored by Westat, a federal contractor.
· The district has shown consistent growth in all areas tested since 2002

117 comments Add your comment

MusicTeacher

February 19th, 2010
8:42 am

““You can do anything unless you’re poor, unless you’re black, unless you erase too much” on a test.” That would be fine if other poor black students in other counties showed the same number of erasures. This has nothing to do with race. This has to do with a system that has had a “by any means necessary” mentality for testing. Whatever test-taking strategies the state offered were certainly provided to other school systems. This has the makings of a class action lawsuit for the parents of the students affected.

Mac

February 19th, 2010
8:49 am

My burning question: Why were the Summer retake tests not evaluated for erasures? Weren’t these the ones that got the first bunch caught?

V for Vendetta

February 19th, 2010
8:50 am

Isn’t this indicative of an even bigger problem? The CRCT is a joke. The test is geared towards the lowest common denominator so that any success can be touted as proof that Georgia education is on the mend. If a school system needs widespread cheating to meet the standards of the CRCT, what does that REALLY say about the level of education provided to the students?

Gwinnett dwarfs every other system in the state, yet it had no schools on the list! I didn’t notice any from Cobb, either. There were other districts notably absent–ones that cover diverse socioeconomic strata.

Here’s a good question to ask, Maureen: Why did APS need to cheat on the CRCT in the first place?

I think their deplorable actions are evidence of a far larger–and far scarier–problem.

EX-Evil Old English Teacher

February 19th, 2010
8:54 am

And yet Sonny wants to base merit-pay off of gains in these scores. Lovely.

Pierre

February 19th, 2010
9:04 am

No matter what the outcome of the investigation, I think the real story will emerge next year, when APS students will no doubt have to take the tests under much more secure conditions, with state officials randomly showing up at schools to observe testing conditions, with teachers not being allowed near their classroom or students during test-taking, and administrators being more closely watched in the aftermath of the testing (which would be when the abuse would occur if it is indeed systemic). If this is effectively done–and I think the pressure from the state will be huge to ensure that it is–the scores will more accurately reflect student progress, and reflect what we all suspect is the truth: that teachers and administrators, under enormous pressure from Hall and her underlings, fixed the outcomes and artificially inflated their “success.” So see to what extent scores rise, remain the same or (most likely) fall next year among the same teachers and students who last year made these great “gains.” Therein will lie the truth of the matter, and I can’t wait to see how Hall will explain it away.

Maureen Downey

February 19th, 2010
9:06 am

Mac, I think the governor wanted to do a statewide review that would look at every test taker and create statewide averages. The summer retests are limited to poor performing students so it would not be a wide lens look at how students behave and perform.
Maureen

Spark

February 19th, 2010
9:08 am

AJC, thank you so much. You are awesome. I love the ‘find your school’ data you provided as of yesterday.

I would like to talk about C.W. Hill. This school interests me because, being in a huge Title I environment, one principal left, and a new came in. Scores flew sky-high with the new principal. The new principal was moved to Springdale Elementary. All we heard about was how we were receiving Yolanda Brown because of her magical rise in test scores at C.W. Hill. The rise in scores was magical, yes! Now she’s our principal.

Without making any accusations at all, I would simply like to point out a few, we will call them, “coincidences.”

Let’s look at C.W. Hill’s flagging data:

http://www.ajc.com/news/search-georgia-crct-cheating-301564.html?appSession=534225226551663

WOW. That is extremely interesting – much more interesting that the data of schools that had school-wide erasures. I’ll tell you why:

*****Principals and teachers are scrutinized by the Grade 3 and Grade 5 scores. Their bonuses (or lack of bonuses) are determined by Grade 3 and Grade 5 scores. These are called the two ‘benchmark years.’ Aside from bonuses coming from them, the scores of Grades 3 and 5 determine if kids are promoted or retained. Most people don’t even look at a school’s test scores outside of reading and math of Grades 3 and 5 (sad).

But what do you see here? Hardly any classes are flagged, and then you get to grades 3 and 5 … and wow, they’re mostly flagged – erasures galore! Isn’t that strange that the extreme majority of erasures just happened to occur in Grades 3 and 5??? Again, we’ll call this a coincidence.

Ms. Downey, I know a lot of schools have even higher erasure %s, but I think this one is interesting, because the erasures suddenly appear at the 2 grades on which administrators/teachers are judged the most harshly – the 2 grades that determine if bonuses are given as well.

(APS gives bonuses based on R and M scores of grades 3 and 5. Principals’ bonuses are much higher than teachers’. How well the kids do in these 2 subjects in these 2 grades determines not only if bonuses are received, but how high they are.)

Also, it is interesting because we received Yolanda Brown mostly because of this huge jump in test scores.

I would like to see her be asked: Why do these erasures mostly appear in Grades 3 and 5, the superintendent’s ‘target grades?’

I would also like to ask a statistician: What are the odds of these erasures not only occurring this much above the state average, but also mostly in these 2 grades that happen to be bonus/target grades? What are the odds?

I just want to know the odds of these coincidences. Not making any accusations.

Thanks for all your hard work. And when we write in, can APS get our email or IP address from you? No?

ATLNative

February 19th, 2010
9:15 am

Maureen, something that AJC could consider doing is creating a frequency plot of % of classrooms that were flagged for the entire state. The state sample size is big enough to be statistically very valid. Then, do this for each district. Compare the distributions for districts with similar demographics. This would show the case of improbable results very well and very graphically.

Maureen Downey

February 19th, 2010
9:17 am

Spark, APS cannot get IP addresses from the AJC. I think your comments on the grades involved are interesting as others have pointed out the erasures were highest in grades that were not do or die. It would be interesting to go back and look at which grade levels showed the highest numbers of erasures and whether they align with the pressure points.
Maureen

Lee

February 19th, 2010
9:24 am

“You can do anything unless you’re poor, unless you’re black…”

When all else fails, pull the race card out.

“APS principals contend that they teach test taking techniques that encourage large numbers of erasures”

Maybe if they taught the subject matter instead of how to bubble in an answer sheet, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The phrase “gaming the system” comes to mind.

“After a while, I saw a pattern of which high schools gave reliable grades and which gave mercy ones.”

Yes. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Seems that everybody KNEW that students were being passed from grade to grade who couldn’t do the work and that schools were graduating illiterates, but nobody did anything about it.

First rule of politics is to create a crisis. Well, they didn’t have to look far to find one. No, the schools served them up a crisis on a silver platter. The end result was the ill-advised NCLB.

Regarding Sparks post above, good analysis. Perhaps if ATL’s school leadership wasn’t asleep at the wheel, they would have figured that one out.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

Mac

February 19th, 2010
9:34 am

A good reason. I do think they should also look at the retakes now though. I believe the pressure to cheat may be even higher on those as they are primarily the ‘bonus’ grade levels of 3 and 5. I hope they aren’t being left out because someone is afraid another more ‘popular’ district might show up (like Glynn did last year)

Spark

February 19th, 2010
9:40 am

Gosh, maybe the “ones” who made school-wide erasures were of at least a higher intelligence than the ones who erased only in the target/pressure grades…then the erasures don’t stick out like a sore thumb as they do in C.W. Hill’s grade 3 and 5 data….maybe some knew it would look horribly to have erasures just mostly in 2 grades, and thought it would be less suspicious to erase school-wide.

Jennifer

February 19th, 2010
9:58 am

So I have a question. Does the GOA audit regularly if students in enrolled alternative education programs (not alternative ed schools) consistently get reported back to the home school ? That would represent probably close to 15,000 middle and high school students each year. This would be another big loophole that has been identified nationwide already, wonder where Georgia stands on this ? Seems that in some other states, those test scores do not consistently end up back in the home school AYP data.

justbrowsing

February 19th, 2010
10:01 am

Something else which seems interesting as related to this topic, is that there are comparable schools within the district which did not cheat. That is evidence alone that school leadership is at play. Not all of APS’s schools are caught up in this mess. The cheating is indicative of a culture and climate of abuse which permeates from building leadership. That seems to be the determining variable between these schools where there are like students. I do not believe that schools that emphasize professionalism and integrity, are going to bear these types of results. It brings up the question as to why did teachers feel pressured? If leadership created these climates, what is the dominating ethos within the district that perpetuates this sick kind of leadership? Georiga has got to revisit the notion of school climate if they want stable schools that can perform- as they once did long ago. Attrtition is not only expensive, but it stalls any attempt at progress in a school.

RJ

February 19th, 2010
10:40 am

@V for Vendetta you stated, “If a school system needs widespread cheating to meet the standards of the CRCT, what does that REALLY say about the level of education provided to the students?”. What you may not understand is that these kids start behind. The entire time they’re in school they’re playing catch up. The schools that don’t have that problem aren’t on the severe list. Many APS schools use reforms such as SFA, Direct Instruction and Project Grad Math. Teachers are expected to teach using the scripts provided without deviation. While the reforms may not be perfect, they were put in place to increase student achievement. It’s a really tough job teaching inner-city kids. I have always said that if you can successfully teach at-risk students you can teach anywhere.

ga

February 19th, 2010
10:44 am

I think the AJC should consider looking into possible grade inflation patterns for athletes, especially in high school.

ga

February 19th, 2010
10:45 am

BTW Maureen – thank you to you and the rest of the AJC staff for the coverage on this important issue with the CRCTs

Spark

February 19th, 2010
10:48 am

Yes, thank you. Best of luck.

Education in America????

February 19th, 2010
11:00 am

Think its a problem now….just wait till teacher pay is based on a students ability to take one single test!!! Many teachers will certainly begin cheating because of the economics involved. Note how it was often administrators at the APS schools that admitted to changing answers to meet AYP. So why did they cheat? Economics!! They would lose their job if not meeting AYP. Thus, a person’s livelihood was endangered because of weak students. Just wait…It will be rampant in the future with absolutely no test having true – valid results.

Kate H

February 19th, 2010
11:27 am

While I can understand Dr. Hall’s reluctance to condemn individual teachers and principals based solely on statistical evidence, I find her reluctance to acknowledge that widespread cheating occurred dishonest. Among the general public there are a lot of people who lack understanding of statistics and data analysis; however, Dr. Hall has a Ph.D. in education and is the superintendent of a major school system. In this age of increased emphasis on standardized testing a good understanding of data is a vital part of her job.

An individual student having an unusually large number wrong answers changed to right answers is not proof that that student cheated, or that his or her answers where later changed by a teacher or administrator. It is quite possible that the student filled in all the answers a line below where they should be, noticed the mistake and then corrected it. However, an unusual concentration of such tests in one classroom becomes suspicious. I believe that the study estimated the chance as one in one thousand or 0.1%. This is very low and needs to be investigated, but in a system as large as APS it is expected to happen occasionally. When an unusually large number of classrooms in one school show an unusually large number of wrong-to-right erasures it becomes much more unlikely to have happened by chance. This is why the GOSA report classifies those schools to be of concern, and recommends action. As an analogy, if a person you know wins the lottery, it is notable, but not unbelievable. After all someone is going to win. However, if everyone in that person’s family were to win lotteries, it would be extremely suspicious.

In APS there are an unusually high number of schools of concern. This is even less likely to occur by chance than an unusually high number of classrooms with wrong-to-right erasures in a single school. It is beyond a reasonable doubt that widespread cheating occurred within APS. Dr. Hall should certainly understand that. While it is appropriate to investigate further before blaming any individual, Dr. Hall should take immediate action to prevent cheating on future CRCTs . I would like to see an outside group with no vested interest in the results to take over administration of the CRCT within all APS schools. It would likely be an expensive step, but I believe that it is necessary to restore the faith of all parties in the testing system.

Thank you for your attention,

Kate
(APS Parent and Math Ph.D.)

Darryl Aftel

February 19th, 2010
11:36 am

I had the pleasure of working for APS for 27 years. While I was employed I met many wonderful people and established relationships that care on through today. I’ve had the opportunity to meet Dr. Hall and I know she is a person with high goals and morals and would not be a part of anything underhanded. The same can be said of her cabinet members and all the administrative leaders in the system. I don’t believe for one minute that anyone encouraged or participated in any type of cheating.
Does cheating go on; I’m sure it does and if APS discovers any thing that looks out of order they will take swift and immediate action. Let’s give APS time to investigate and then talk about the situation.

Dan

February 19th, 2010
11:59 am

Education in America is absolutely correct, having teachers pay rely on a test will only lead to more rampant abuses hard to think of a worse scenario except of course relying on those who would cheat on a test to do whats best with no accountability standards at all.

Dr. John Trotter

February 19th, 2010
11:59 am

V and Spark: You guys are so right about the things of which you speak. The CRCT is a a rinky-dinky test which will test only the minimum of information. It is not normed against students throughout the country. Essentially, the CRCT is for public consumption — to make the voters of Georgia think that something good is happening in our schools. It is pretty much just window-dressing. Maureen, I know that this must distress you, but V is correct. The CRCT is a joke and yet most of the students in Atlanta and DeKalb would horribly flunk this easy test, if not for the wholesale cheating. Then, the public would really have an idea of how bad the situation is. There is not order in the urban schools especially. I am just telling the truth. The discipline (and I am not talking about Marine-type discipline) is disastrous, but NO ONE wants to talk about this. It is the 800 pound gorilla in the parlor. Arne Duncan, Sonny Perdue, Kathy Cox…no one dare breathes the reality that enough students REFUSE to do what the teachers request; REFUSE to even bring paper, pencil, or books to class; REFUSE to shut up in class when any of the other students want to learn; and REFUSE to quit talking on their cell phones (which, by law, should not even be in class) or to quit eating in class or to quit shouting out in class or quit fighting their classmates in class or quit cursing their classmate and their teacher in class. Should I go on? The teachers in these schools know what I am talking about. They know. They know that MACE is the ONLY group which addresses this. This is why they respond to MACE, It is not because we offer them cute tote bags. We don’t. It is not because we offer them nice events like student spelling bees. We don’t. It is not because the administrators at their schools and at the county offices push them to join MACE. They don’t. It is because we speak the truth on these matter. We address them forthrightly. And, we advocate and defend our teacher-members to the fullest and most aggressively. This is also why these pititul administrators hate to see us coming.

Yesterday morning, I wrote a fairly lengthy letter for a teacher in a DeKalb elementary school. Then, we ascended downtown to Capitol to picket between the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building (LOB). Our signs were colorful and they were definitely catching the attention of the legislators who were coming into the Capitol at 2:00 PM. (An education committee meeting had just adjourned at the LOB.) The signs, off the top of my head, were such as: “Teachers Teach. Administrators Cheat”; “Save Teachers. Reduce Administrators”; “Chop Administrative Bloat! Furlough Administrators”; “Next Election: Teachers With Pitchforks” and others. The Capitol and State Police force were all agitated and calling in re-enforcements, claiming that we could not picket at this location. Well, if you know me, you know that this precipitated a big confrontation and a pow-wow between the police and me. I take umbrage at the fact that law enforcement officers just do not respect a Category One Free Speech Forum. After I went in detail about the U. S. Supreme Court’s dissertations on the First Amendment (time, manner, and place regulation which must be accompanied by a compelling State interest which also must guarantee “the least restrictive alternative,” which in this case would be directly across the street in front of the Legislative Office Building and the Judicial Building; the fact also that any regulation has to be “content neutral”) and after much fulminations were impregnating the air, we decided to move the picket to the Washington Street-Trinity Street corner of the Capitol, much to the relief of the Officers. This too was a good location to picket. I must give a “shout-out” to Captain Les Robinson. He was called in to deal with the MACE Picketers. He handled himself most professionally. He told me that he really didn’t want to have to arrest me. I told him that I had earlier in my career spent some time in the “Garnett Hotel” around the corner from the Capitol and that my biggest complaint about going to jail is that it is so excruciatingly boring in jail, and I feel like I am an expert in this area, having matriculated through of few jails in my professional career. I have never been convicted. Charges have always been dropped (except on one occasion when they were “dead docketed”). I must say that I am proud of all of the times that I have been arrested…always for speaking out on what I believe to be right — speech protected, mind you, by the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as well as protected the same by our Georgia Constitution.

For the record, the State has a “Code 50″ that apparently (note that I say “apparently”) gives the State Police the right to regulate demonstrations in front of State buildings. I demonstrably (yes, this will soon be on MACE LIVE TV via http://www.theteachersadvocate.com, You Tube, and many other distributors) told the Police that the State’s Code 50 did not meet muster with the U. S. Supreme Court’s rulings on Category One Free Speech Forums. For example, the Washington, D. C. City Council passed a local ordinance forbidding citizens from picketing in front of the United States Supreme Court building. But, in U. S. v. Grace, the U. S. Supreme Court struck down this ordinance as unconstitutional, saying that citizens could indeed picket the Court.

I looked at the schools on the “cheating” list. Many of the schools have been picketed by the MACE Picketing Squad, including C. W. Hill Elementary on two or three occasions. As I have mentioned before, we get so much anecdotal evidence at the MACE Office about cheating and other dubious practices at the various schools. After conducting a couple of pickets yesterday (yes, we had to go down the block to the Atlanta Public Schools to picket there after the Capitol picket), we returned to the MACE Office and did another episode of “MACE Kicks A_s” on the MACE LIVE TV. Beside the phone lines being full of teachers calling in, asking for assistance, the Office’s waiting area was also full. Teachers from Atlanta’s Kennedy Middle School, Clayton’s Brown Elementary School, and DeKalb Indian Creek Elementary had appointments for the evening. (We often are booked three weeks in advance.) The complaints each night are pretty much the same. I did not do the input last night, though I did socially meet with the teachers in the reception area. I am not privy to the details of their complaints, but on most nights the complaints are basically the same…unfair evaluations (evaluations are often used in the most manipulative, retributive, and punitive ways), angry and abusive and non-supportive administrations, especially in respect to defiant and disruptive students who often also have irate and irresponsible parents. Typically, the administrators want the teachers to cave in to the parents’ wishes for a higher grade for their unmotivated and non-performing children or want the teachers to inflate their classroom grades because the county office doesn’t want that many failures on the class rolls, etc. The MACE Office was not closed until after midnight last night. A fairly typical day.

One thing that we are not so good at MACE…getting the media to cover our events. We generally operate like a triage center, and the pace is so fast that we don’t have time to send out press releases about a gathering or demonstration. I hear that PAGE, GAE, and even GFT are planning different demonstrations at the Capitol. Good. I am glad. The more demonstrations, the merrier. At MACE, we generally do not ask our teacher-members to take a day off to show up at the Capitol to picket. We, as MAC Staff, usually do the picketing for our members. In 2000, this was an exception to the rule when Governor Roy Barnes was in the process of dismantling due process rights for teachers in Georgia. Then, we did call upon our members to take a Personal Leave Day. We showed up at the Capitol in mass and had three straight days of pickets against “Redneck Roy,” as I dubbed him and was roundly criticized in this fair newspaper for doing so. We had some most colorful signs back then, such as: “Roy Flunked Character Education!” I would like to be able to attend the demonstration on Saturday, but my parents have been married for 65 years, and we planned a big celebration for them in Columbus on Saturday evening. As many teachers who can get out, please attend any and all of the demonstrations against the efforts to balance the State budget on the backs of teachers as well as against the asinine notion that the so-called “All Star Teachers” program will do anything but to further perpetuate and facilitate the culture of cheating in Georgia. (c) MACE, February 19, 2010.

Dr. John Trotter

February 19th, 2010
12:08 pm

Pease forgive the couple of typos. Thanks, Maureen, for the free-flowing blog. Without the AJC, this scandal would still be in full flight! My hat off to the Publisher and to you!

V for Vendetta

February 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

Darryl,

Did they hand out Kool Aid at the last faculty meeting? Sheesh. The evidence speaks for itself. The prevalence of the erasures alone is enough to condemn the APS system as a fraudulant and ethically bankrupt institution.

Make no mistkae; there is more than enough ethically questionable behavior taking place in districts such as Gwinnett and Cobb. The sheer scale of APS’s is what is truly mind-boggling. The fact that little or nothing has yet to be done about it is truly disheartening.

Remember: NCLB was BIpartisan! Its roots go deep into the Clinton administration, but it was ultimately passed by Bush. Both sides are to blame!

So why do you keep voting for them?

Ed Johnson

February 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

RJ, what is to be understood is that Atlanta’s kids generally start out in first grade on par with their peers, statewide. But then APS school reforms tend to drive down kids’ learning competencies, continually, from grade to grade, year after year. Why? Because inherent in APS school reforms is the belief and practice that the kids are, as you say, “inner city.” “Inner city” and “urban” are convenient excuses for the board and superintendent to go after simple solutions to complex problems and to avoid their responsibility to learn to do otherwise. They rely too much on “The [external] research says …” and seemingly never have done any manner of internal research–for example, Action Research by any teachers let alone any administrators or even the board.

Thus APS school reforms inherently treat the children at a lower level of humanness than seems ethical.

APS school reforms have limited conception of student learning. Rather, their conception, like yours obviously, is student achievement. Learning and achievement are two very different things. Achievement is a result, an outcome, a test score. Learning is a process, a complex process and it is continual. Learning never stops, in school, out of school. But achievement, a test score, or any result, is a one off event. An achievement has relevance only to the achievement. Learning, however, has temporal and spatial spread. Now why in the world would anyone want to be so darn focused on achievement to the exclusion of learning? Perhaps because achievement is easy to measure, simple, so allows simple solutions as targets, incentives, bonuses, pay for performance, and such other destructive and evil practices known to incite behavior to “game the system” and otherwise cheat to meet the targets and get the incentives, etc.

David S

February 19th, 2010
12:18 pm

Its certainly good to know that APS will be suffering the fate of every other business that fails its customers when they take their money and go to a better competing business. They will be forced to either improve or go out of business.

Oh wait, that can’t happen since nobody can take their money and go elsewhere. How is a private sector alternative worse than a government-run monopoly again?

Sarah H

February 19th, 2010
12:18 pm

We have heard that they are checking the tests for fingerprints. I hope this is not true because I touched every one of my students tests while gving them out and taking them up.

catlady

February 19th, 2010
12:34 pm

Points on erasures and test-taking: Kids can write in the test books. We encourage ours to mark out obviously wrong answers IN THE BOOK, not on the answer sheet. In addition, if “the state” is promoting,as some claim, the “testing strategy” of going through and guessing answers, then coming back and revisiting the answers and correcting them, THAT IS A STUPID TEST TAKING STRATEGY. Moreover, we certainly haven’t been told by the state to teach the kids to do that!

These “excuses” for excessive erasures are like those of the Dekalb superintendent for his excessive use of gasoline refilling for “his” car. Bogus.

How were the erasures on the non-gateway subjects? Did the “kids” erase as much in social studies, for example?

And please stop blaming the teachers. It is almost inconceivable that any teacher would have enough time with the answer sheets to change any answers. Anyone who knows about the testing protocol knows this!

V for Vendetta

February 19th, 2010
12:44 pm

Ed Johnson,

I completely disagree. You are placing all of the culpability on the APS system, but you are failing to mention the deplorable state in which many of their students arrive at their doors. I am in no way justifying their actions, but I know people who have taught at socioeconomically disadvantaged schools. The condition of the students upon arrival is unbelievable. Though cheating to meet (completely unrealistic) state and federal standards is morally reprehensible, so to is chiding a system that deals with students from such conditions.

Perhaps you’ve watched “Stand and Deliver,” “Dangerous Minds,” and “The Freedom Writers” one too many times. Reality is quite different.

Dan

February 19th, 2010
12:54 pm

Love the “logic” that says that tieing test results to accountability and promotion is to blame for cheating, whats the alternative? leaving those who would cheat to their own devices for self motivation? Laughable! The rampant cheating proves the need for heightened accountability

Attentive Parent

February 19th, 2010
1:17 pm

Spark-

Did you see the previous posting on one of the CRCT threads that Hall and Augustine took Yolanda Chaplin Brown with them to the national ed conference in Arizona to give a presentation called “Flipping the Script”. There she is in the picture helping them pat themselves on the back.

http://www.aasa.org/NCE/NCEcontent.aspx?id=11944

RJ-Could you tell us which APS schools are using Direct Instruction and other explicit materials? That’s not the story APS tells on itself. It proudly trumpets its “constructivist” approach.

In fact, here’s a quote it usesto describe its practices: “Constructivism is a theoretical model stemming from the areas of philosophy, philosophy of science, psychology, anthropology, and sociology – founded in the idea that all children learn by doing. Activities will be relevant and varied, encouraging active participation by all learners”.

Research has found consistently that this approach is not sufficient for most students who lack cultural scaffolding from home that can make up deficits of academic knowledge and skills. Cites have been provided to the peer reviewed studies and can be again.

Is this discovery, activity approach part of APS’ problem? Logic and research would say yes, but cheating could be masking the deficits. Unfortunately, we cannot remediate problems while they remain obscured.

As Maureen said, there are few things more tragic than a young adult who has been allowed to remain ignorant and without needed academic skills and only discovers it in college.

Maureen- Did you see Robert Pondiscio compared you to Mencken this AM in a post for your witty “Erase to the Top” title?

a [parent

February 19th, 2010
1:21 pm

Sarah H, dont worry as long as you didnt erase, I am very sure that technology is so advance it would tell the true…..

Gotcha Sarah H.

February 19th, 2010
1:24 pm

Now the GBI needs to look for a teacher named “Sarah H”, because she apparently is guilty of test irregularities. Otherwise why would she be concerned about her fingerprints being found on the tests like every other teacher’s giving the test in the state? Real smart for a teacher.

haven't we ever heard of fedex?

February 19th, 2010
1:37 pm

fix this once and for all. take the tests when completed. Put into envelope. overnight to Atlanta. eliminates any time for funny business

d2

February 19th, 2010
1:39 pm

People the CRCT is not a rinky dinky test. It is a tough test. I wish people would look at the 8th grade math test. I advise some one to take it. The test is out to trick what you know, not what you know. So please spare me that this test is easy. The graduation math test is so much simplier than the seventh grade CRCT. That is the problem, people shoot from the hip. Take a look at the coach book for some of the subjects. It makes me ill when people talk about the CRCT as some simple test. Yes, some are simple, but others are hard. Rinky dink-Teach in the real world folks.

blue_moon916

February 19th, 2010
1:42 pm

Today I polled a group of 25 minority students who are in my 9th grade APS current issues class. I wanted to know if they could remember how many erasures they may have made [on average] on each of their 8th grade CRCT tests. In this very unscientific poll, all but three of the students in this class said they remembered making more than 3 erasures–At least four of the students said they even made 8, 10, 13, and 15 erasures respectively, on a single test–with one student explaining that she kept ’second guessing’ herself. I don’t know why APS students have a higher erasure percentage than the state average–but I do know that students notice the behaviors of other students when they are testing…if too many students finish early–other students will rush through the test…and if students seem to be carefully checking their work and making a lot of erasures…others are more likely to check over their work and erase ‘unsure’ responses. While such classroom polls are not at all scientific…they do say a lot about human nature.

Sarah H

February 19th, 2010
1:46 pm

Gotcha Sarah H. – you are the idiot. All teachers have to give out and take up the tests and therefore their fingerprints would be on the test. I just thought it was crazy that anyone would test for fingerprints but several of my co-workers told me that they heard this on the news.

Spark

February 19th, 2010
1:57 pm

Wow, Attentive Parent, no I didn’t see that picture. We will see it again after an OUTSIDE investigation, I am sure, in a different manner. The picture will be used differently. They shouldn’t have posed!

micro manage?

February 19th, 2010
1:59 pm

I have been hearing complaints by teachers of micro-managing by principals in the area i live. Where does this model for treating teachers come from? Is it an APS strategy? Is the GA DOE pushing it?

Cobb Parent

February 19th, 2010
2:13 pm

I hope I’m not the only one that sees the issue this way but why don’t we change the testing procedures so that it would be extremely difficult to cheat on all future tests. Theoretically, schools that cheated before won’t have the luxury now so classrooms/schooled that were flagged before and see their test scores drop dramatically can then be further scrutinized (presuming innocence of course).

Ed Johnson

February 19th, 2010
2:35 pm

V, here’s the deal. “[T]he deplorable state in which many of their students arrive at their doors” simply means the system must be dynamic enough and adaptable enough to absorb the varity that arrives at the doors. But APS, being not a learning organization, lacks the capability to evolve to do this. APS simply relies on scripted school reforms driven by outside research and simplistic metrics. This is not a value judgment of APS but it is APS’ current reality. So, yes, it’s mainly the system. Do you see?

Understand, too, that reality is an ever chancing aspect of life; it isn’t fixed, as you imply.

And please let go appealing to the silly movie stuff to help frame your position. Those movies are great entertainment, and that’s about all.

catlady

February 19th, 2010
2:39 pm

Re my 11:26: In addition, the students in each class do not get the same form of the test, either. So a teacher would have to have time to figure the answers for a dozen different forms of the test and THEN change the answers. Simply can’t be done in the few minutes (never unsupervised/unobserved) that teachers control the tests. And we don’t see the tests ahead of time. In fact, we can only view the instructions for giving the test during the faculty meeting where we are told how to give it.

James

February 19th, 2010
2:44 pm

RE NCLB – NCLB did not force people to cheat on tests. In fact; as I understand it; if these schools had been failing AYP (which would’ve been happening if there was no cheating) then NCLB would’ve given these kids school choice wouldn’t it?

on point

February 19th, 2010
2:45 pm

I just love this journalist’s point . . . like teachers have the TIME for all this stuff . . . right?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-reinbach/why-teachers-teach_b_468012.html

aggravated

February 19th, 2010
2:50 pm

Did you know that students only have to get half of the questions correct on the CRCT to receive the passing score of 800? Ridiculous!! I am a 6th grade teacher and 5th graders come to me every year not being able to do basic grade level work, but yet passed the CRCT. What is most interesting is that these students do horrible on the test the first time and then some how pass it the second time after a “three week review period”. Yeah right!!! Then students with IQs of 50-60 are expected to pass the same test as students without a disability. The whole thing is absurd!!!

Laurie

February 19th, 2010
2:51 pm

“One strategy included crossing out answers students know to be wrong, so that they don’t consider them in their final answer, then erasing those marks before handing in the test.” This is an interesting claim, because, if it is true, it could theoretically account for the increased number of cases in which wrong “answers” were erased and right ones selected in the schools in which that technique was taught. But is there any proof that this technique actually was taught in the flagged schools?

catlady

February 19th, 2010
2:54 pm

At least 5 people legitimately handle each test at our school.

what's right for kids???

February 19th, 2010
3:00 pm

I keep reading that the poor children are not ready; the schools are not funded; the system fails the children. Why are the parents not involved? Why is it that teachers and schools and school systems are the only ones responsible for a child’s education? Start charging for school or fining parents for misbehaving students, and there will be a complete turn around with students, their behavior and their grades.
Guess what will happen then? Teachers will be able to teach, test scores will go up, and everybody goes home happy. But then we wouldn’t have an education blog and no one would be able to point fingers at anyone else.

aggravated

February 19th, 2010
3:01 pm

James- Counties such as mine only have one elementary, one middle, and one high school. So there is no school choice. Its a loop hole in the system.