Instant test score improvement: Remove weak students

Here’s a surefire way to boost test scores in a hurry. Unenroll the students likely to perform poorly. (Schools could also lock potential low scorers in the closet during testing, but that might get noisy.)

What I don’t know from this story is how much time these kids had really missed. I don’t condone the manipulation, but I have to question the fairness of holding schools accountable for children whose parents don’t get them to school. I can understand why schools would want these chronically absent students out of the mix.

But this seems like an obvious trick – to remove kids from the school rolls and then put them back on after the testing period. And I guess it was since this DeKalb principal is now out of job.

Channel 2 Action News reports:

Channel 2 Action News has learned that a DeKalb County principal resigned after admitting she tried to improve her school’s CRCT scores by unenrolling some students.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned that the incident took place as Rock Chapel Elementary in Lithonia prepared for last year’s CRCT exams. Belcher got his hands on a letter from interim DeKalb County Superintendent Ramona Tyson alerting the Professional Standards Commission of a possible violation of the state’s Code of Ethics for Educators by principal Angela Jennings. The commission investigates alleged misconduct by educators.

Belcher obtained a written statement that Jennings gave to DeKalb School investigators. Jennings wrote that she was “worried about the effect certain students would have on her school’s chance to make annual yearly progress, or AYP.”

“Before the CRCT, I sent a letter to the parents of 13 students advising that they would be withdrawn due to poor attendance, which would cause the school not to make AYP,” Jennings explained. Belcher thought it might be the first case of its kind, but Gary Walker of the state’s Professional Standards Commission said there are others.

He chuckled while thinking about a case of roster manipulation in another county. He said 86 students were withdrawn, and then reinstated.”In one day?” Belcher asked.”Yeah, they were withdrawn one day, and a day later they were reinstated. They were out one day,” he said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

65 comments Add your comment

Top School

February 3rd, 2011
7:16 pm

Filed December 9, 2010…allegations of discrimination—IS THIS HOW THEY KEEP THEIR TEST SCORES HIGH?

Office of Civil Rights has been contacted to investigate the segregation of HISPANIC students by reassigning them to GARDEN HILLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL instead of their neighborhood schools, JACKSON ELEMENTARY, SARA SMITH AND MORRIS BRANDON.

In noncompliance with the Title VI regulation at 34 CFR 100.3

Under current investigation…Complaint # 04-11-1100
I wonder what this will uncover?
Does APS bus these undesirables to another school?
Blatant Student Discrimination/Jackson/APS Leadership
http://www.youtube.com/user/TopSchoolAtlanta?feature=mhum#p/u/5/0tCFMSuQBTQ

Richard Belcher obtained open records for me …but he said my story would not turn heads in less than 3 minutes at the dinner table. He does a better job blowing the whistle on the “RIGHT” people.

I can say thank you RICHARD for the open records YOU gave me in the parking lot of WSB-TV.

And Gary Walker…at the PSC…Shame Shame Shame…

Roach

February 3rd, 2011
7:23 pm

If the number is all that matters, then the number is all that matters. The truth is that actually assessing student progress takes lots of work, time and thought. Improving student achievement while slashing school budgets take devotion, expertise, a supportive community and a light bulb that wants to change. One stupid test doesn’t accomplish anything–but it sure can make folks think that you’re doing something.

Nona

February 3rd, 2011
7:30 pm

The sad thing is that such high stakes are put on these ridiculous tests that they put the fear of Gd in otherwise ethical and professional educators and motivate them to do such ridiculous things. Get the testing companies out of education. Get the publishing companies out of education. Get the politicians out of education. Stop being afraid of parents and start talking straight to them about their kids’ performance and their own responsibility for it. And oh yeah: get the politicians and their cronies & financiers who make zillions off the system out of education.

Bruce Kendall

February 3rd, 2011
7:37 pm

It is the un-official policy in some schools, that if a student has missed ten or more days in a row, to unenroll them. Attendance counts toward making AYP. And no I am not saying this is appropriate behavior.

As for locking the students most likely to perform poorly in the closet during minimum standards testing; most schools facing that issue do not have enough closet space, they would have to use the gymnasium for space and access to bathrooms.

Sidebar: I was informed over supper that the number of students who fail the Social Studies portion of the minimum standards GHSGT is so high. The state of Georgia has created a special prep course schools can use to prepare them for the test.

I was promised a link to verify. If anyone has the link please provide it.

Bruce Kendall

February 3rd, 2011
7:40 pm

Is anyone else getting this message when they post?

“Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

irisheyes

February 3rd, 2011
7:47 pm

I think that the fact attendance counts towards AYP is ridiculous. The fact that a parent can’t find the motivation to get their child on the bus to school every day has absolutely nothing to do with whether I am an effective teacher or not. And schools should not have to spend huge sums of money trying to get these parents to take responsibility. I’ve had students that would miss AT LEAST one day a week consistently, and that was in early elementary, so it’s not like the kid was hanging out at the mall. It was all the parent’s fault. Of course, that would require the parent to actually get up at a decent time to make sure that they can get their child on the bus.

That being said, I certainly don’t agree with how this principal handled it. But, like the administrators that changed answers, the constant pressure to improve scores and make AYP will cause even sane people to do seemingly insane things.

Hall County Teacher

February 3rd, 2011
7:57 pm

Happened in our district from what I hear. Principal was sent to another school as an AP and kept his same salary. Still there.

chillywilly

February 3rd, 2011
7:57 pm

@Top School – I often wondered why Garden Hills had so many more Latino students than Smith, Jackson and Brandon.

Hall County Teacher

February 3rd, 2011
7:57 pm

Sugar Hill Elem.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alisa T. Jackson, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Instant test score improvement: Remove weak students http://bit.ly/gCttej [...]

Jennifer

February 3rd, 2011
8:06 pm

oldest trick in the book. there are a few more and I can’t wait for them to start rearing their ugly heads.

Real

February 3rd, 2011
8:09 pm

Removing a weak student(s) is/are the number 1 strategy in APS during CRCT Testing. PCS needs to investigate and remove all the principals in APS. They use this strategy in all levels: Elementary and Middle Schools.

Mike

February 3rd, 2011
8:10 pm

Manipulating students and records to meet AYP!? Say it ain’t so!

Sort of like this?:

This is the text of an email that went out to all our highschool principals, counselors and graduation coaches. This has been going on for at least 3 years here. And our Super is heading up Barge’s transition team…
From: Jones, Danny

Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 10:21 AM

To: HS – Graduation Coaches; HSCounselors; HPALS

Subject:

It’s time to look at whether you want to transfer any of your COPs to LCA to improve your graduation rate. We’ll be glad to do that for you again if you want us to. Here are a few things to consider:

1. After the state data record is sent in, students cannot be returned to you. So, it is important that you do not transfer any student whom you think might be able to pass the GHSGT in the summer. I would recommend that if a student is missing only one test, you might want to keep him/her. Your call.

2. All special ed students will need to have the transfer shown in their placement paperwork. Please do not transfer them without getting all that accomplished.

3. Please make sure that parents and students understand what is going on and the reasons behind the transfer.

4. We will need a list as soon as you have it. The transfers cannot happen until all grades are posted and finalized. We will handle withdrawing them from your school (as of Wednesday, May 20), enrolling them at LCA on May 21, and graduating them on May 22.

Danny Jones, Principal Lanier Career Academy 770-531-2330 Ext. 1205

COP is Certificate of Performance. Those kids count against graduation rate AYP don’t you know. Just unenroll them to make the grade. Same concept.

BehindEnemyLines

February 3rd, 2011
8:12 pm

re: “otherwise ethical ” … like being a little bit pregnant?

Just a Thought

February 3rd, 2011
8:13 pm

This principal’s actions are more common than you might think. But maybe it won’t be after this article gets out. What we need is a strong attendance policy in our county that has some teeth in it. Right now, there are no real consequences for poor attendance in school.

How about this for high school? If you have more than 10 absences in a class you automatically have to repeat the course. That would cut down on fighting (10 day suspension typically) and would make parents more vigilant about their child’s attendance. (Of course legitimate absences like long term illness, etc would be excluded). PLUS your parents have to appear in truancy court as a prerequisite to making up the course.

Mike

February 3rd, 2011
8:14 pm

Hall County Teacher

If that is true then all involved in covering it up should be reported to PSC.

Top School

February 3rd, 2011
8:19 pm

And this is how they “do it” on the NORTHSIDE…
iT will be interesting to see if the OFFICE of Civil Rights can be manipulated by the parents, too.

I hate to see them corrupt this investigation, too.
I don’t have much faith left in any of our justice systems.
I hope their investigation will not be another horse and pony show.
Maybe the GBI can investigate this one, too.
SEGREGATION in Atlanta Public Schools…
I never dreamed of discrimination happening in the city where Civil Rights began.

Hall County Teacher

February 3rd, 2011
8:21 pm

I think it was ESOL or Hispanic students in this case.

FRUSTRATED

February 3rd, 2011
8:28 pm

***PLEASE*** DROPPING STUDENTS FROM THE ROLL JUST PRIOR TO THE CRCT TO MEET AYP FOR ATTENDANCE IS ROUTINELY PRACTICED ALL OVER DCSS. This principal resigned and admitted to what everyone else is doing. This is not new or shocking. There should be more fallout and a lot of nervous principals.

Echo

February 3rd, 2011
8:29 pm

Why do people keep insisting that we need to turn stuff in to the PSC. These districts will block efforts to investigate the administrators, then go after the person filing the complaint. The PSC is a little shady as well, teachers get thrown under the bus while most CO/admin types get a slap on the wrist (if anything). In my nearly 15 year career I have met only a handful of unethical teachers but most administrators are the most deceptive, untrustworthy people I have ever met! Maybe it is part of their job description.

ND

February 3rd, 2011
8:41 pm

Looks like somebody is a Family Guy fan.

ajani

February 3rd, 2011
8:42 pm

At our school the kids with the worse attandance actually passed the CRCT and the kids with perfect attendance not only failed the test but also most their classes.

Truth

February 3rd, 2011
8:54 pm

Sad but true this is common practice in APS – not only at Elem. and Middle with CRCT but with High School for GHSGT and EOCTs

Real

February 3rd, 2011
8:56 pm

@ ajani, Well, I believe someone changed wrong answers to right answers for those with the worse attendance at your school during the CRCT. That does not make any sense.

ScienceTeacher671

February 3rd, 2011
8:57 pm

@Bruce Kendall, is this the program you’re asking about?

https://www.georgiastandards.org/resources/Pages/Tools/ExPreSSPrograms.aspx

Once several years ago, we were told by the DOE that they regarded the science GHSGT as a “gateway test” and that there was a significant reading comprehension component to the test in addition to the science content.

The graduation tests were instituted in part because employers complained that new employees with high school diplomas couldn’t read or do basic math. At this point it’s embarrassing to have students who’ve completed 11-12 years in Georgia schools but still can’t read or pass the math test. Read the GaDOE’s testing newsletter – it takes a higher reading level to exceed expectations on the 6th grade CRCT than to get pass plus on the ELA GHSGT.

Science and social studies are “harder” though, so the political fallout isn’t quite as bad if students fail those. Just means we need to get “better teachers”, right?

I could be wrong, but I’d bet money that the reading passages in the social studies test have gotten longer and more complex in the past few years.

Teaching is worse in FL

February 3rd, 2011
8:58 pm

Every hear of gerrymandering? It’s done with school zones too…..

Real

February 3rd, 2011
8:58 pm

@ Truth, You feel me.

ScienceTeacher671

February 3rd, 2011
9:00 pm

ajani, at my school, the kids with the worst grade point averages got into the best colleges, and the honors students couldn’t get into any college at all and are now on welfare.

*rolling eyes*

Ashley

February 3rd, 2011
9:03 pm

I cannot say I’m surprise with cheating and manipulated test scores , surely more heads at the top will roll, but where does the delinquent parent figure into all this ? Parents who don’t send their kids to school should face some type of punishment. The principals timing was very suspect, here ethics were all wrong. I’m sure this will open a whole new can of worms and we all know what the outcome will be , once again nothing positive about the school administration. I just wonder whether her boss knew this was happening and made her the lamb to slaughter.

Rush Self Shooter

February 3rd, 2011
9:10 pm

Looks like the bullets are coming from the students & parents (absenteeism bullets, truancy bullets, apathy bullets, fighting bullets, poor parenting bullets) toward the schools.

But if the school fired back (withdrawal for cause), oh my sweet Lord!

AYP status should not be affected by events and situations beyond the school’s sphere of influence.

De Vastey

historydawg

February 3rd, 2011
9:44 pm

How is it wrong for schools and teachers to do things like this, while the State proclaims that a certain percentage of students passed a standardized exam, when in fact a grade of 70% requires that a student answer 40% of the questions on the exam correctly? The entire system is designed so that some “fail” and that some “pass.” It is all about the headlines, and these headlines are constructed for the sole purpose of ending public education in Georgia.

Truth

February 3rd, 2011
9:50 pm

Sometimes it has nothing to do with attendance….some principals put students in “dummy” classes (i.e. Reading Support, Math Support, or some other “elective”) that does not take a critical test. Even going as far as asking teachers to let them know which students they think wont do well based on diagnostics and assessments – then moving those students a few months or weeks before the test…smh

say what?

February 3rd, 2011
9:54 pm

@Mike

February 3rd, 2011
8:10 pm

I cannot believe that someone actually usedtheir email to share this info. Now the person is working at the State DOE, where he will not have to resign.

Schools are now upping their discipline referrals this semester to get as many kids out as possible. The kids will then be transferred to one of DCSS many alternative education schools, and the Title I funds for those kids will not go with them.
The State’s #2 and DCSS #1 school with discipine referrals needs to have a better review of what is occurring. High discipline referrals, kids removed from school, then you make AYP for 2 years. Stop the discipline referrals, keep more of the kids, and 2010 did not make AYP. But the principal’s friendship with Mr. Ramsey,and board member Womack means that nothing will be done as always.

Teacher Reader

February 3rd, 2011
9:56 pm

Schools make false classes and assign kids into small classes all of the time, at least in DCSS, so that they can get more funding. It’s a crock and waste of tax payer money, as these children are receiving nothing special.

Dr. John Trotter

February 3rd, 2011
9:56 pm

I believe that we at MACE stated on several occasions in the past (on sidewalks with pickets signs, on televsion, on our website, and on blogs like this one) that DeKalb County was “a gangsta school sysem,” but who’s counting? My, my, my…how the chickens do indeed come home to roost.

justbrowsing

February 3rd, 2011
10:08 pm

Well- I suspect that things will only amp up when attendance is no longer an indicator. Could be a good thing. If this had occurred when attendance was not a second indicator, I suppose 130 as opposed to 13 would have been unenrolled- and at an earlier date. Could ultimately improve things across the board.

APS Teacher

February 3rd, 2011
10:16 pm

This is a common practice all over APS.

BassAckward Dekalb Administrators and Curriculum Leaders-Do not know how to read the data--Basic Statistics.

February 3rd, 2011
10:21 pm

What!!? A new new low!

HCT

February 3rd, 2011
10:31 pm

Maureen – What ethical standard or standards id the principal here accused of violating?

justbrowsing

February 3rd, 2011
10:53 pm

@HCT- I agree. There is no violation as long as they have missed those days. There is no unethical practice threshhold at the PSC- for anything- perhaps there needs to be now.

gradstudent29

February 4th, 2011
12:41 am

It seems something is wrong when we have to teach, using test prep books – the TEST. Does that make sense? I thought the high stakes tests were to measure what the students are being taught in the classroom based on the standards. Why would we need to go out of our way to teach the test? Who has funds to print up a bunch of test prep books?

RIP@Home

February 4th, 2011
1:25 am

APS has been cheating for a long time!!!!!!! Students unable to read scored 99% on the ITBS. We should be concerned with gains made from students

David Sims

February 4th, 2011
3:15 am

Didn’t the Atlanta Public Schools do this same thing, except massively and permanently? I’ve heard that they used “alternative schools” as a disposal chute leading to dumping about 18000 low-scoring students over a three-year period (was it 2003-2006?). The conditions at the “alternative schools” were so bad that many students assigned to them dropped out, and the drop-outs were deliberately mislabeled as transfers. It was one of many tricks APS administrators used to boost their test score averages, or so I’ve heard.

David Sims

February 4th, 2011
3:58 am

@Top School. There are five elementary schools in the Atlanta district that have maintained high test score averages without being suspected of cheating to get them. The five schools are: Jackson, Lin, Morningside, Smith, and Brandon. All five of them have mostly a white student enrollment. That is why their test scores are so high. But I doubt that the demographics in the schools reflect anything more than the voluntary segregation of Atlanta residents into ethnic zones, while their children are enrolled in the nearest school appropriate to their age group.

Of course, if you want to spend the extra tax money busing kids across town, simply to mix up the races inside the schools, that could be done. But why? What do you gain, aside from possible racial conflicts at school? If busing kids is naughty to achieve one racial arrangement (i.e., monoracial schools), then it must be just as naughty to bus kids to achieve another racial arrangement (i.e., multiracial schools). Leftist political preferences in matters of race are not moral axioms. If parents have moved their place of residence to escape multiracial schools before, then they will simply do it once again if you try to meddle, and in the end you will have spent a lot of money to accomplish nothing.

David Sims

February 4th, 2011
5:03 am

Looks like Rock Chapel Elementary School has a new principal.

We are “Striving Towards Excellence”
Patrick S. Muhammad

Jennifer

February 4th, 2011
8:50 am

Why is it when the media comes out with these stories – it is only then that we see kids as victims and adults rally to their side ? When in fact – every darn adult in the metro school systems (elected and not elected) know that these practices are in fact institutionalized. We have thousands of metro students this year thrown into alternative disciplinary schools – the VAST majority of them are there to boost test scores of their home schools. If this isn’t institutionalized corruption I don’t know what is. Give me a break adults.

da bear

February 4th, 2011
9:17 am

What’s the big deal? Charter and private school, those “superior” formats, do this as part of their daily routine.

Its how they “improve”. Poor chances on a test score, go back to public schools. Poor attendence, go back to the public schools.

If the students are not attending, why should their scores count???

Philosopher

February 4th, 2011
9:22 am

Well…this dam adult didn’t know it was going on. My child has asthma and missed many days during elementary school…and aced every test given to her. Attendance is NOT everything. So if attendance was the problem, kids like mine should have been included, or the parents of the ones unenrolled would have had reason to scream discrimination. And had my daughter been unenrolled for attendance issues, LOTS of noise would have been made.
I wonder if all the schools had simply let the chips fall where they would have…maybe the writing on the wall would have been evident sooner…the message that AYP is a worthless system of measurement/reward. And the kids wouldn’t be seeing their “role models” making bad choices.

I Wonder Too...

February 4th, 2011
9:31 am

I wonder if all the schools had simply let the chips fall where they would have…maybe the writing on the wall would have been evident sooner…

I wonder too …if the schools had let the chips fall where they would have, how many more schools would not have made AYP? Which also makes me wonder, how many schools throughout the state (not just APS and DCSS) take advantage of this “loophole” in order to meet the AYP requirements?

sad APS Dad

February 4th, 2011
9:58 am

This happens in APS as well – I was told by an administrator at the middle school down the street that they expel “problem” students for the week of CRCT testing in order to improve performance. Trust me, this is a tactic that they have been doing for years.