The Atlanta Journal Constitution will publish the results of a seven-month investigation of test scores nationwide in the Sunday AJC. (If you don’t get the Sunday paper, make sure to go out and buy it as this will be one of the most discussed education stories of the year.)
The story is expected to appear online today at noon at AJC.com, and I will post a summary here on the blog at that time. We will have a lot to talk about once you get a chance to see the great work my colleagues have done.
I will also do a video chat with the investigative team Tuesday, and I’ll post details of that.
As it did with Atlanta Public Schools in 2008, the newspaper’s investigative team analyzed scores nationwide, including those in Houston.
Here is a statement released by the Houston school chief who apparently felt compelled to offer a response to the AJC investigation even before the story’s publication. (The AJC interviewed school chiefs in systems that are discussed in the story so they are aware of the findings.)
Dear HISD Community:
I am writing to let you know in advance about an article that we expect to appear in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper on Sunday that analyzes test scores from school districts across America. The story comes nearly a year after a major cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. This national exam score analysis was done in an effort to identify schools in which student test performance increased or decreased significantly from one year to the next. The newspaper interprets such shifts in performance as signs of possible cheating.
We have been alerted that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis has identified such test score spikes at campuses across America, including some in the Houston Independent School District.
I want you to know that HISD takes these allegations seriously and does not tolerate cheating. We believe that adults who participate in cheating are robbing their students of the quality education they deserve. I also want you to know that I believe in the integrity of the overwhelming majority of educators working in Houston schools.
Now, I don’t know everything that happened in Atlanta. But I can tell you that in 2010 and 2011, HISD hired outside law firms to conduct aggressive investigations of possible cheating at 22 schools. These investigations resulted in nine confirmed cheating cases. Twenty-one HISD teachers were recommended for termination, did not have their contracts renewed, or decided to resign or retire as a result of these investigations. We currently have five ongoing cheating investigations.
Our testing security measures are comprehensive. Our teachers are not permitted to administer state exams to their own students. On test days, we send monitors to each campus to personally ensure that proper testing protocols are being followed. We have a telephone hotline for people to anonymously offer tips of possible cheating. On each campus, only two people have keys with access to testing material storage rooms, most of which are monitored by video camera.
Again, HISD swiftly and thoroughly investigates allegations of testing impropriety. We will continue to recommend termination for any employee found to have participated in cheating. I have great faith in the vast majority of our 12,000-plus teachers and administrators, and I am certain they support our efforts to protect the integrity of our children’s education.
Terry B. Grier, Ed.D.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog