AJC cheating series: National Blue Ribbon Schools that may be red-faced at these revelations

testing (Medium)The AJC has published the second installment in its major series on test score disparities nationwide. Today’s stories look at the improbable score patterns in some of the nation’s most highly decorated schools, National Blue Ribbon Schools.

AJC reporters included a winning school that even merited a visit from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Highland Elementary in Maryland.

“This school, just four or five years ago, wasn’t a Blue Ribbon school,” Duncan said that morning in September 2009, according to video of thew award event. “It had the same type of children, same type of families, same type of community — but dramatically different results.” Now, he said, “this school has more students at the advanced level than any other school like it in the state. It’s absolutely remarkable.”

And remarkably unlikely, according to the AJC analysis. It is essential to verify the achievement at these heralded school as they are held up as role models.

According to the series:

The AJC examined Blue Ribbon winners as part of a nationwide analysis of test scores. In an article last month, the newspaper identified nearly 200 school districts where test-score changes reflected a pattern that, in Atlanta, pointed to widespread cheating by teachers and principals.

The full analysis of 69,000 public schools showed that Atlanta’s cheating was no fluke. The examination of 605 recent Blue Ribbon winners suggests that test manipulation may be even more prevalent among schools considered models for others to emulate.

Statistically improbable test scores spiked at dozens of schools in the year they applied for the award, the analysis found. In that year, suspicious gains occurred about three times more often in Blue Ribbon winners than at all schools nationwide.

Among all Blue Ribbon schools with suspicious scores, the analysis identified 27, including Highland Elementary, that had the most unlikely gains. In some grades and subjects, the odds against increases occurring without an intervention such as tampering were so high as to be virtually impossible.

No statistical analysis alone can prove that anyone cheated. But in data and documents and in interviews with school officials and testing experts, few other credible explanations surfaced for how the scores of so many students could shift so quickly to such odds-defying degrees.

“Those kinds of changes are just incomprehensible,” said Jaxk Reeves, director of the University of Georgia Statistical Consulting Center. Reeves was one of the academic experts who reviewed the AJC’s analysis.

Another researcher who advised the newspaper, James Wollack, director of testing and evaluation services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said many schools credit their instructional strategies for overnight success. But no changes in teaching methods, he said, are enough to account for “ridiculous, nonsensical gains.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

116 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

April 28th, 2012
2:21 pm

I see the AJC is on its moral high horse again about cheating. Good work by the reporters. But given the AJC’s history, isn’t that moral high horse more like a Shetland pony?

Former AJC staffer Paul Donsky gave the AJC editorial board all the evidence any rational person would need that massive, widespread cheating was rampant at APS.

To steal a phrase from Bowers, they KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. No the data erasure analysis wasn’t there, but the EVIDENCE was there, as was Jean Dodd, the ONLY APS member with teaching experience who told the paper the scores weren’t real.

The story literally BEGGED for a follow up, if not MULTIPLE follow ups.

But they didn’t want to listen; instead, the editorial board made a deliberate conscious choice to “sell the narrative” of Hall and the Atlanta miracle.

This was 2001. Not 2011 mind you, 2001.

2001.

Word is AJC higher ups squashed Donsky’s follow up (what other reason would there be for not following up a story THAT explosive?)

And with the AJC and the “bidness” community behind her, the story died. For close to a decade.

For close to a decade.

For close to a decade, Atlanta’s children suffered in no small part because the AJC editorial board would not use their bully pulpit to shine a spotlight on the massive scam that was being foisted on the public.

Where’s the accountability? Where’s the acknowledgement “We were wrong. We should have done more.”

Sure, the AJC is doing yoeman’s work…now. And you can’t fairly call the board the (alleged) Jerry Sandusky of educational cheating.

But is it not far to ask if, from 2001 to 2008 they were they not the Joe Paterno of educational cheating in APS?

Is that not a fair and legitimate question to ask?

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
2:39 pm

@Maureen, the AJC continues to be in complete denial. It still believes that it did “quality journalism,” when in fact, the research has been proven to be materially flawed. I am still waiting for the newspaper to retract its story. A sad story on the state of journalism in America.

Ron F.

April 28th, 2012
2:54 pm

If you read the entire article, at least part of the gain can be attributed to this:

“Myrtle emphasized reading and math, used data to diagnose students’ weaknesses, clamped down on students’ behavior. And he pushed out teachers who weren’t on board with his approach.”

Now that could either be good or bad. Either he got rid of ineffective teachers or he surrounded himself with a bunch who would do anything, including cheating, to make the school look good. Time will tell, I suppose, which is true.

The school began to go back down after Myrtle left. No surprise as any time there is administrative change, scores change. If the replacement wasn’t as focused and hard line, and the article doesn’t say anything about this, then the score trend begins slowly going back the other way. It’s hard to maintain the frenetic pace and pressure that Myrtle apparently ran the school with, and few schools continue it after an administrative change. Challenged schools will always be challenged, and working in one and maintaining spectacular growth is very unlikely.

That said, I’ll be waiting to hear the analysis of answer sheets and erasures. I wonder how many Blue Ribbon schools will have high enough numbers to be suspicious. This series of articles hopefully will shed some light on the fallibility of standardized testing. It’s laborious, often unreliable, and a costly system that encourages cheating. There has to be a better way to fairly test student achievement. How many more cheating scandals will it take to convince those in charge?

mift

April 28th, 2012
3:12 pm

Shameful, AJC. The first investigation was flawed and this builds on that mess. There are many places where education is not working but the flawed data AJC has used paints the entire profession with a broad brush. behind these damaging assumptions are real teachers and students working hard each day.

mift

April 28th, 2012
3:15 pm

Who investigates the AJC?

Beverly Fraud

April 28th, 2012
4:05 pm

@Maureen, the AJC continues to be in complete denial. It still believes that it did “quality journalism,” when in fact, the research has been proven to be materially flawed.

@Censored much as there are fair and legitimate questions about when the AJC was willing to FINALLY address what they knew or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, I seriously doubt over 80 educators confessed because the AJC’s erasure analysis was bogus.

I ALSO seriously doubt the PRECIPITOUS drop in test scores the once it became known test erasure analysis was a real possibility was just a mere coincidence.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
4:10 pm

Several experts have debunked the study as materially flawed, and the AJC removed one city from the original story instead of publicly acknowledging that their list of methodology flaws were, in fact, VALID. Haven’t heard much in the national press since the story broke. It’s best to just ignore such pathetic journalism.

The mainstream media was quick to promote the story to the nation; however, the facts prove that they continue to parade flawed methodology and are scaring educators, parents and policy-makers.

The cat is out of the bag, and no one believes the AJC anymore!!!

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
4:12 pm

@Beverly Fraud – I am talking about their accusations of school districts around the nation, not APS. There was a cultural failure at APS, but researchers have already pointed out that the study they unveiled on 3/25/12 was without merit.

catlady

April 28th, 2012
4:34 pm

A large group of students (a school) MIGHT show a little improvement from one year to the next, given the best of all situations. Measureable, slight. You would have to observe for quite a few years to be sure it isn’t an anomaly. Tremendous improvement in a large group of students in a year or two? No, and no.

The only individual kids I have ever seen (in 39 years) making earth-shaking changes academically or behaviorally over 2 or more years had something in common: Their mothers married or took up with men who demanded improvement, OR the kids were placed in stable foster homes leading to adoption (almost an oxymoron here in Georgia). If we want to help kids do better, put them in stable homes where there are expectations of doing well, Where education is valued and promoted, where the parents are willing to hold the student accountable and willing to help when needed.

Beverly Fraud

April 28th, 2012
4:34 pm

Well Censored, as much as I’d like to see the AJC (or anyone else) blow the lid off systemic cheating in this country, if indeed the methodology has been accused of being flawed, they should address that.

At first glance, the evidence seems just as compelling as the AJC story on APS. Where is it flawed?

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
4:42 pm

Creative Loafing has written a terrific op-ed today and it is clear that the AJC is truly afraid of responding to the criticism, both locally and nationally. Seems they are afraid of being exposed as frauds!!

I am not going to list the long number of methodology flaws, but a good list can be found at the MNPS website which came from researchers at Vanderbilt University and other sources.

teacher&mom

April 28th, 2012
4:43 pm

Step back for a minute and look at the big picture called NCLB. No one. No one. wants to hear the policy was flawed from the very beginning.

Ask the average person on the street and they will tell you that 100% was a fool’s wish.

However, we were constantly bombarded with “success stories” which lead many to believe the impossible.

Slowly the public has been brainwashed to believe the myth.

100% is doable.

Just ask Beverly Hall and Michelle Rhee. The nation and media applauded these individuals. These ed. reformers took on the education establishment and swept out the incompetent administrators and teachers. We placed them on the covers of magazines and praised their heroic efforts. Then we insisted other leaders emulate their reforms.

Accountability was working!

The nation cheered….and began to demoralize those in the classroom who were trying to do it the right way but only showing modest gains.

Some tried to raise concerns about the quality of education under NCLB but they were quickly hushed with the dreaded “status quo” label.

Why? Because those schools proved it could be done quickly and efficiently.

So everyone turned their attention to the instructional practices at those schools. Word walls…CRCT pep rallies…scripted lessons…test prep books/computer programs…increased reading and math coupled with the loss of science, social studies, art, music and PE classes …etc. began to spring up throughout the U.S. Consultants descended on schools with the promise of higher scores (which is not to be confused with deeper learning).

Everything became centered around improving test scores.

Teachers who did not follow in step were written up and placed on professional development plans. If they left the profession or went into the private school system, leadership celebrated. They too, just like Rhee and other hardline reformers, were sweeping the out the incompetent.

High attrition rates for beginning teachers? Who cares? They were obviously ill-prepared or lazy was the subtle message given to the public.

Onward we, as a nation, marched to the beat of standardized tests. Come with us or leave the profession.

And now we find that perhaps those gains weren’t so miraculous after all.

*sigh*

So much damage has been wrought.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
4:50 pm

Sorry teacher&mom, but you’re wrong here. I don’t believe standardized testing should be given the weight it is given, but at the same time, do NOT think FOR A SECOND that mass cheating is taking place as the AJC believes it to be. Shame on the AJC!!

APS failed because of a poor leader. But that is not what is happening in some urban school districts. Turnarounds ARE happening, and what’s sinful is that the AJC released a study before it could be validated as BULLETPROOF. There are too many holes, and there is no need for me to outline the list of missteps the AJC did along the way.

teacher&mom

April 28th, 2012
5:06 pm

@Being Censored: I firmly believe turnaround can happen. A change in school leadership that focuses, to steal a phrase from John Trotter, on the the teaching and learning conditions will experience success. Exponential success? No. Small and steady gains? Absolutely.

Be careful. The testing empire will not be deposed so easily. It is a multi-billion dollar business that has spread its tentacles far and wide. They will fight back with every ounce of power they have. And they have a lot of power. Power to create their own studies. Power to hire their own researchers to refute anything that goes against their profit margin.

I’ve read the criticism regarding the AJC study. The language used to discredit the study is difficult for the average person to understand. Is that on purpose?

Why don’t you outline the lists of missteps? Break it down for us?

You won’t bore us. I sincerely look forward to your outline of missteps.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
5:09 pm

My last post here. Maybe the AJC is trying to place blame in the wrong place. If I were @Maureen, I would look myself in the mirror, and look at a spreadsheet I am looking at which lists all expenditures by category, and graduation rates, for ALL counties in Georgia! The data is mortifying! Look at these graduation rates! APS – 52%!; Gwinnett – 68%!; Dekalb: 59%! And in some rural districts like Taliafero County with 199 students – 40%! Even the best large school districts like Fulton and Cobb are not graduating 30% of their students! And most of these districts are spending more than $10K per student. Problem is, they’re spending far too little on teachers and digital learning and far too much on central office admin!! We should all be outraged at a system that is truly inefficient, and still running the same way it did 150 years ago!

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2012
5:13 pm

Beverly Fraud-I have stated for years that APS’s numbers could not be real given the curriculum they mandated in their schools, the nature of the instructional policies and practices, and the poor track record of those curricula and practices with anyone but especially kids at high risk.

I also said part of the leverage Bev Hall has always had was the desire to make those practices the basis for what was to be mandated nationally as Common Core. Bev Hall knew why.

Last week a Harvard Ed Professor, Meira Levinson, published a book No Citizen Left Behind on her theories of what education should be about. She was a teacher at APS in the late 90s.

On page 310 she says that APS underwent a drastic change in its ed model in 1996 and that same school reform model is the basis for what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now mandating nationally under Race to the Top.

APS’ dysfunctionality and academic failures go national. Except this time they are getting rid of those pesky revealing tests so we are not supposed to recognize the true impact.

Too late. Plus I thought of you Thursday. Members of the Ga legislature have put together a report of which school systems spend the most per student on Central Office admin.

Not only was APS no 1 in Georgia, its CO admin costs about $3000 per student.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
5:16 pm

You want missteps – I’ll give you all missteps:

1. The research did NOT take into account mobility. In some districts, mobility rates were more than 40%. That means, from one year to the next, you may not be looking at the same students.
2. Obvious errors in data provided where children who were absent from testing were assigned a “zero” rather than being excluded from the analysis – resulting in average scores that were below the minimum score possible.
3. The AJC methodology will automatically identify 5% of the cases/classes analyzed statewide, but schools with changing populations (see previous bullet) or higher than usual numbers of highly effective or highly ineffective teachers (research supports that teacher effectiveness make the greatest difference in test score gains) are likely to have higher percentages.
4. A significant number of ALCs (Alternative Learning Centers) and special schools were flagged in the data; these schools often have very fluid populations – ALC populations have 100% annual turnover.

There are many others, but some of the list are district-specific. Each school district will have its own set of conditions as it relates to ELLs and other factors that the AJC study did not take into account.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
5:20 pm

Oh. I forgot a few others:

1. The analysis is based on school-level data and not individual student-level data. Accordingly, it was not possible to ensure that the same students were in the group in both years. I touched on this earlier.
2. The analysis of irregular jumps in test scores should have been coupled with irregularities in erasure data where this data was available
3. The analysis by the AJC generates predicted values for schools, but this does not incorporate demographic characteristics of the student population.

Maureen Downey

April 28th, 2012
5:27 pm

@Being Censored, You made the same claims when the series began and I printed a rebuttal from our database expert.
Let me say this and be clear: The same criticisms you are making about this series were made about our first series in 2008 on test disparities at APS. In fact, APS hired a national expert to debunk our analysis, but instead he confirmed the AJC’s findings. (That was the report that Dr. Hall did not release or even share with the school board.) Then, Gov. Perdue demanded a statewide audit that found the most severe evidence of tampering in the very same schools that the AJC’s own experts had found.
I can assure readers that this series and the methodology used went through multiple reviews and crosschecks, including experts at UGA. Those same experts have looked at everything that Being Censored has said and essentially said the criticisms are groundless.
The AJC spent a year on this project and spared no time or expense in getting it right.
Maureen

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
5:30 pm

And the @AJC is getting it WRONG this time. Let me reiterate what I said weeks ago. I have experts to counter your experts. Why don’t you respond to Eric Celeste at Creative Loafing? Why didn’t the AJC respond to Nashville’s concerns and instead, quietly remove references to Nashville from the original story? You’re kidding yourself. Why did the AJC hire a PR firm to promote the story to more than 300 news outlets around the country? You got quotes from Duncan and Isakson in the original story because you put them in a corner! They had no choice but to say something without reviewing the integrity of the data.

What goes around comes around, and I have no doubt that eventually, this will come back full circle and the AJC will have to retract the story!

Maureen Downey

April 28th, 2012
5:38 pm

@Being Censored: You fail to address my point — our groundbreaking work on APS test scores has not been refuted but confirmed. Please note that one of the worst test score disparities the AJC found in APS was Parks Middle.
Our findings were not simply confirmed by the state audit ordered by the governor; they were confirmed in confessions from educators at the school about blatant test tampering. Have you read the testimony?
I don’t get your point. You persist in saying that we have gotten this wrong and will be exposed. We did the APS investigation in 2008. Four years ago.
You don’t think that was time enough to prove us wrong?
You ignore the fact that every attempt in that four years to discredit our analysis has failed to do so, and that our methodology has been proven accurate not only by the state audit but by the actual confessions from educators at the schools flagged by our investigation.
Maureen

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2012
5:42 pm

Highland Elementary and what was really going on there just got much more interesting.

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/regulatoryaccountability/SafetyGlance/fy2008/schools/02774.pdf

shows that Heath Morrison was the relevant super for that school and others undergoing “school improvement” plans. He rode the idea he was turning around high needs schools successfully to go from Montgomery County to be Washoe County, Nevada’s (Reno) Super to lead their “school improvement” efforts.

That turnaround plan, adopted May 2010, won him National Super of the Year for 2012.

It also just won him the job as Charlotte-Meck’s new Super, named just about a week ago.

Given the Charlotte-Meck alums all now having senior positions in Fulton it is important to monitor what was and is really going on there.

Just like Dallas hiring the Colorado Springs Super is relevant to what policies Hinojosa was pushing in Dallas and seems to be pushing now in Cobb.

One big national chess game but with our money and our children.

teacher&mom

April 28th, 2012
5:43 pm

Here’s where I take issue with current education reform efforts that are centered around standardized testing….and not centered around learning. There is a difference. Often times the public is led to believe they are one and the same. They aren’t.

I suspect that some of the Blue Ribbon schools raised test scores without cheating on the test. I believe that is possible. If you devote a large portion of the school year to test prep in math and reading, you’ll see gains. If you constantly feed students a large daily portion of practice test questions, isolated reading passages, Study Island, Success Maker, etc., you’ll get gains.

If you happen to purchase your test prep resources from the same publisher of the standardized test, I suspect you’ll stand even a greater chance of improving your test scores. It’s a win-win.

Or is it?

While we all rant and rave about erasures, we forget that a entire generation has been short changed and cheated out of a solid education. We still refuse to address how standardized testing has wrecked havoc on our schools.

Too many students have been cheated…without ever cheating on a standardized test.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
5:43 pm

APS had a leadership failure! It just so happened that in APS, there was a cheating scandal, and the state did their own investigation. But it is not happening en masse around the nation, and researchers have pointed out a series of flaws with how this recent study was conducted.

Your readers will believe anything you write, and it seems that the mainstream media just likes to talk about sensationalism and won’t ever have the guts to publish a retraction.

When the US Dept of Education and other “neutral” bodies corroborate your research and we start to see a wave of analysis that validates the AJC study, then I will be the first one to publish a “mea culpa” on my own blog.

But I truly doubt that will ever happen!

Maureen Downey

April 28th, 2012
5:52 pm

@Being,
Last response as this is getting idiotic. Your argument appears to be that while the AJC’s investigation and data analysis got it right with APS, we are getting it wrong with the other school districts — even though we used the same methodology.
That somehow our results for those other school districts cannot be accurate even though our results were accurate for Atlanta?
Because Atlanta is somehow extraordinary in its degree of test tampering but every other system with similarly improbable score gains is, in fact, just doing a great job?
Is that what you are telling us?
Let me add this part of today’s story to clarify the degree of improbability we are talking about here:

Among all Blue Ribbon schools with suspicious scores, the analysis identified 27, including Highland Elementary, that had the most unlikely gains. In some grades and subjects, the odds against increases occurring without an intervention such as tampering were so high as to be virtually impossible.

No statistical analysis alone can prove that anyone cheated. But in data and documents and in interviews with school officials and testing experts, few other credible explanations surfaced for how the scores of so many students could shift so quickly to such odds-defying degrees.

“Those kinds of changes are just incomprehensible,” said Jaxk Reeves, director of the University of Georgia Statistical Consulting Center. Reeves was one of the academic experts who reviewed the AJC’s analysis.

Another researcher who advised the newspaper, James Wollack, director of testing and evaluation services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said many schools credit their instructional strategies for overnight success. But no changes in teaching methods, he said, are enough to account for “ridiculous, nonsensical gains.”

“More often than not,” Wollack said, “something other than student learning was causing those gains.”

Maureen

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2012
6:10 pm

Maureen-the Council of Great City Schools had a model. What APS was pushing is consistent with that model. That’s why they wanted Bev as their Pres.

That model has poor results on standardized testing because academics in the traditional sense is not the point of what is to be going on in the classroom.

If you have a culture that views the tests as an illegitimate measure of what should be going on in classrooms, it is easy to justify cheating. That’s another point in Levinson’s book. She only had the license to pursue the type of classroom experiences she believed to be empowering if she was teaching in an area not measured or had a principal who did not care about test results.

Some of this is a desperate attempt to protect constructivist pedagogy and methodologies from the inevitable poor results when dealing with ESL or high poverty kids who are much less likely to get remediation at home as a natural by-product of a language rich environment and analytical, fact-based interactions with available adults from an early age.

Never met a parent who would rather the school nurture a sense of grievance and group identity instead of teaching the knowledge and marketable skills to lead an independent adult life.

Jayne

April 28th, 2012
6:16 pm

I read through the states wrong to right erasure analysis and anyone who thinks that all was well at the AJC is not in the real world. The statistical liklihood of these wrong to write erasures is so small as to enter ricidulousness. Only the wilfull can deny the truth that the AJC and many other systems have engaged in wide spread and systemic cheating.

Brandy

April 28th, 2012
6:22 pm

@Being Censored, I am willing (if asked) to go on record confirming that cheating went on in Baltimore City during my tenure (2006-2007) there. Which district(s) do you dispute having cheated?

The only district I might (darn, I wish there was an italics function on here) agree may not have had mass cheating was Dallas. Why? Because, by-and-large, they were the only district that responded to the AJC’s expose like adults. They admitted they had screwed up, but also explained what they were doing differently. If other highlighted districts responded in kind, I would be more inclined to give your claims credence. Unfortunately, they did not and have not.

I would love to actually hear from these experts you keep alluding to. Please, enlighten us all by presenting links to their works. Otherwise, stop wasting our time and get off your soap box.

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 28th, 2012
6:36 pm

This is my LAST post. @Maureen, re-read my last comment. I will be the first person to write a “mea culpa” if it is proven that the AJC conducted sound research. When the US Dept of Education and other independent bodies validate the AJC report, then I will acquiesce. But believe me, it’s not happening.

All of the other readers on this blog who are commenting that there was cheating at their schools – I am sure there were isolated instances. But the AJC is not going to get the same “pass” from other state governments and the federal government.

Brandy, I have already made a list of methodology flaws and they come from MNPS and other sources. But the AJC refuses to respond to Eric Celeste, MNPS. or any of the other bodies that have listed a great many flaws with the methodology.

Believe what you want to believe, everyone. Until the AJC has the guts to let another blogger author a yang to @Maureens “yin,” then you will all believe one side of the story.

Atlanta is not getting balanced reporting on education policy!

Dr. John Trotter

April 28th, 2012
6:58 pm

A few quick points before delving into some home-cooked gumbo…

1. I am glad that the AJC finally has taken an interest in the riveting cheating scandals — not just in Atlanta but nationwide. By doing so, the AJC becomes significant. When an enterprise puts out a significant product, the consumer responds favorably. Thanks, Maureen, for keeping the topic before.

2. @ Bev: The AJC might have been a long time coming but it did in fact play and still is playing a very significant role in exposing this insidious sin (if my may use this word in this family newspaper – ha!). Thanks, Beverly Fraud, for always being so persistent!

3. Catlady is right. There can be incremental strides, but when you see the huge jumps, an alarm ought to go off in your head. Cheating! The Law of the Large Numbers simply does not permit such astronomical jumps. That’d be like South DeKalb county voting overwhelmingly for Romney in November. It’s not going to happen. If it does happen, you can be certain of voter fraud.

4. @ teacher&mom: It is indeed all about the money. The entire standardized test-driven culture which now dominates the public schooling ethos is driven by money. Too much money is being made by the tests and the preparations for the tests. Billions of dollars are at stake.

5. Is Arne Duncan really this naive or is he just engaging in unconscionable hucksterism?

Teachers Rule!

April 28th, 2012
7:13 pm

The whole problem is how the educrats at the central office administer these tests. Students should not fill in the answers. The teachers should fill in the answers. Teachers know what they taught their students and are so smart they know exactly what the students learned becasuse we all know Georgia has the best teachers in Amereica. They are more better than at least two whole other states full of teachers, Arkansas and Mississippi. They are 49 and 50 out of 50 and that is simply remarkable. They deserve a blue ribbon just for that alone.
Anyway, as I was saying, the teachers should just fill out the test answers because they know what they taught and their skills are perfect so every student should pass all areas. Erasing test answers from wrong to right is what should have been done. Teachers wen’t cheating. They were correcting what the students should have known and the teachers are alwasys honest and can never be bribed.
Maureen Downey only has a degree from Columbia, which is a shoddy school compared to A&M and online Universities like Phoenix. Phoenix is so much more selective than Columbia. ANyway, Maureen is just jealous that she is not as smart as a teacher and that is why she forced the AJC to make up all these false accusations against GA teachers. It’s a vast liberal right-wing conspiracy by Maureen and all the liberal Republicans to discredit teachers.
I’ll not stand for that. We should all just thank Jesus for Georgia taechers.

Prof

April 28th, 2012
7:30 pm

“Teachers Rule!” has to be a high school student.

Old Physics Teacher

April 28th, 2012
7:34 pm

Maureen,

There are additional ways to tell if “miraculous gains” on test scores are valid: What did the same kids score the next year when they were at different schools with different teachers? If the test scores stayed high, then you have some evidence the gains were valid. People do leave Las Vegas with a million dollars. Individuals do beat the Laws of Statistics. If the scores fell, then, well,… the laws of statistics are rarely violated.

Oh and before you goody two-shoes claim the teachers at the old school were so great that their teaching made all the difference, you might want to check out the thousands of studies that show teacher effect is extremely small. If the first teachers were that great, then the material the first teachers taught so well was remembered and could then be easily increased. if the scores fell, then the previous success DID NOT OCCUR.

And for the people who claim the principal was the causative effect, hahahahahaha. Tell me another good one.

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2012
7:58 pm

One more point. What makes you think “student achievement” doesn’t have a meaning apart from test scores?

Redefine the terms without saying so.

Classic ed world gaming.

You show improvement because the criteria changed.

Footnotes are such a useful source of info.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 28th, 2012
9:06 pm

Maureen,

KUDOS to the AJC for confronting malfeasance in the APS, in GAPubEd, and in USPubEd.

It’s refreshing to see a corporation withstand the economic pressures which are assuredly being placed upon your executives to dissuade them from supporting your investigative reporting efforts. While “there isn’t much courage in Augusta, GA,” there’s quite a bit in your executive suite. You and we are lucky for it.

Beverly Fraud

April 28th, 2012
9:41 pm

Just as I suspected, Maureen would address @censored, as it is a comparative softball in relation to answering the fair and legitimate questions about Paul Donsky’s work back in 2001.

As Maureen is saying (rightly) that while the data doesn’t “prove” cheating, when no other viable alternative exists, we are left with cheating as the most logical explanation.

By that same token, Paul Donsky’s work back in 2001-yes 2001 was evidence enough that the most logical explanation was, (as has been proven with the 2008 follow up) WIDESPREAD MASSIVE cheating.

The question remains, where is the acknowledgement that the AJC sat on Donsky’s story for a full SEVEN years, because the editorial board (or other higher ups) thought it was more important to sell the Hall narrative than serve as a true watchdog advocate?

Where’s the apology to the children of APS?

Yet where is the acknowledgement from the AJC that they failed their r

Ron F.

April 28th, 2012
10:07 pm

Wow, this is fun to read!! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read the numbers and wonder. You get a 10-20% gain in a year, maybe you really did do a good job of shoveling the test knowledge into kids. If they sustain that level of performance, then they learned it. If you double scores and go up 40,50, 60% in just a few years, you gotta wonder. If it’s not cheating, then it’s teaching almost exclusively to a test, which is just as bad. Either way, kids are robbed of a quality education. Teaching to the test has increasingly become the norm instead of teaching beyond it. I think the reason this upsets some so, and why they just cannot seem to accept the facts of the widespread cheating is that it challenges their blind acceptance that standardized tests are the only way to assess learning.

bootney farnsworth

April 28th, 2012
10:25 pm

public ed is broken beyond repair.

bootney farnsworth

April 28th, 2012
10:29 pm

@ beverly

knowing the potential heat which may come from this…

the AJC never was gonna look to closely at the so called APS turnaround. for political and social engineering, the Beverly Hall
mythos had to stand as correct, honest, and true.

in the most race obsessed city in the country, the far left of center
AJC was not ever gonna take a hard look at the reality in the classroom

Anonmom

April 28th, 2012
10:49 pm

To me this is a “duh” — if you hinge teacher and administrator jobs on “performance” and “improvement” as solely measured under NCLB as “being on grade level” and reaching 100% of kids at grade level, which is itself statistically impossible because of things like below-normal IQs and IEQs and economics and transience and then you layer onto that the fact that you’re going to make the teachers “pay” with bonuses and “dings” and “firings” if they don’t “succeed” with this effort and lable schools as “failing” and then add to that the fact that teachers are humans but have little control over their environments in many of these situations (e.g. give them classoroms that are stuffed with 30-35 kids at all sorts of levels, above and below grade level and tell them exactly and precisely how they are to teach the curriculum — pacing charts and pre-tests and post-tests so that they have little control over the outcome) — why is it that anyone is surprise that the schoolhouses have figured out how to “game” the system? Where it is as it was happening at my highly regarded DCSS high school by intentionally setting up tables of 4-6 with 1 or 2 “smart” kids with ones needing help so they could cheat off of each other or by someone within the schoolhouse erasing and changing answers or by someone filling in the bubbles or calling out the answers. How naive are we? The stakes are very high with jobs riding on the results. The teachers may be ones cheating or it may be the administrators. If the test-takiers are statiscially and IQ-wise unlikely to make it to “grade level” it is highly likely that something is askew. I’m sorry if this sounds cynical but that’s the way they’ve designed the program. Now, if they would design the program to look for improvement and give the teachers control over how to teach the curriculum then you could really look to see if improvement was takiing place. But it is completely unrealistic to expect some random set of children in a classroom to be at a fixed place by the end of the year the way we are currenlty doing it with the pressures being put in the places it is being put with the “controls” set the way they are…… Sorry to Rant. We are getting exactly what we “bargained” for at the rate of billions of dollars a year.

William Casey

April 28th, 2012
11:31 pm

I remember thinking when NCLB was implemented that its unreasonable goals just begged people to CHEAT…… CHEAT….. CHEAT. I certainly wasn’t clairvoyant. I’d simply taught long enough to know that human beings faced with IMPOSSIBLE goals will “find a way.” This in no way JUSTIFIES what was done by administrators, teachers or Bev Hall. It was simply predictable Fear is a powerful motivator.

.

Old Physics Teacher

April 29th, 2012
12:29 am

bootney farnsworth

It’s not broken beyond repair.

All that is needed is for the legislators – federal and state – to say, “I’ve screwed this up; I’m sorry; I thought I could “fix” this, and I’ve done nothing but make a bad situation worse, AND for school administrators to say: “I have no idea why I thought that if you gave me more money, I could make all children learn. I’m sorry.” Then everybody let the TEACHERS DO WHAT THEY DO BEST – teach, and let PARENTS DO WHAT THE DO BEST – discipline their kids. It worked before. It produced the “Greatest Generation” and the people who put us into space.

Will they do it? Absolutely not. No person in power wants to admit they were the cause of a catastrophe. They want a scapegoat. They found the people with the least power and blamed it on them. Well, duh.
The problems would all sort themselves out once the idiots get off the playing field

bootney farnsworth

April 29th, 2012
7:01 am

@ old physics

you’re argueing my position for me

public education has become a lab for social engineering and profit.
we don’t teach HOW to think, we teach WHAT to think, and why.

our system is designed to do the following
1-keep those currently in power staying in power
2-propagandize kids
3-stifle any real creativity, initative, or curiousity
4-social engineering, especially in the arena of race
5-football

that’s broken. beyond repair broken

@Beverly Fraud

April 29th, 2012
7:43 am

Why would Maureen want to address your Paul Donsky question? After all she was to busy defending the great Bev Hall during those years…remember?

Dr. John Trotter

April 29th, 2012
8:13 am

My thoughts on a Sunday morning…

Not many honest educators are promoted within the school systems…especially the large school systems. Their integrity is a threat to the environment. It’s not just that cheating took place on a massive scale in these school systems; it’s that so much phony baloney takes places on a daily basis, and the professional bullsh1tters don’t want the honest educators to have a voice. A voice is too powerful. A voice is a ominous threat to the servile-ocracy which has been the culture of public school systems (and other large corporations) for many decades now.

If you will give up your voice, if you will renounce your integrity, if you will just be a number who is happy to receive your pay check, benefits, and nice retirement, then this servile-ocracy will reward you, beginning with the assistant principalship. If you demonstrate that you will continue to renounce your integrity and give up your voice, then you will move up the corporate ladder — and much quicker if you are a sexy woman or a handsome and athletic man. But, no matter how good looking you are, you first have to renounce your integrity and your voice. © JRAT.

Am I being too direct? Am I not telling the truth? You know that I am. Ha!

Good morning!

Being Censored by @Maureen

April 29th, 2012
8:25 am

@Maureen still won’t respond to all of my questions and the initial list of methodology flaws. I will guarantee you that the AJC will NEVER directly respond to each and every point brought up by Eric Celeste, Gary Miron, and other researchers, including MNPS.

I blogged about this – having been in the media industry for more than 20 years – rule #1 is that you NEVER publish research unless it is BULLETPROOF. You all believe want you want to believe. For most of you – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! In twenty years, the Brandys of the world will WISH they had embraced change. Shame on you!

mountain man

April 29th, 2012
8:25 am

Anyone who thinks that you can turn around a school systemn with just “accountability” – without addressing issues such as parental involvement, attendance, discipline – they are fooling themselves. They are ripe for the snake-oil salesmen like Beverly Hall who supposedly make great gains in test ability magically by just “making teachers responsible”. Teachers were already responsible, but they lacked any authority – to discipline, to grade and fail, and thus were denied any pathways to success. That left them only one path to keep their jobs – cheating on the test. They are not miracle workers. You can’t take a group of students who have been socially promoted for eight years, who arrive several grade levels below where they need to be, in classes of thiry students, and , with no extra support, catch them up to their grade level in one year.

Maureen Downey

April 29th, 2012
8:35 am

@Beverly, I have to tell you that you are dreaming if you ever think there was ever a single discussion about how the AJC editorial board could spread the Hall narrative. There are far simpler reasons why the AJC could not do the story in 2001. We didn’t have the computer access, the computer know-how or the database reporters like John Perry back then to do what we did in 2008.
You focus on APS because that is your personal interest, but there are dozens of investigations that the AJC and other newspapers are now doing that were not possible a decade ago without access to massive databases and tools to compare the information.

Maureen

Dr. John Trotter

April 29th, 2012
8:37 am

Edited Edition of “Give Up Your Voice”:

Not many honest educators are promoted within the school systems…especially the large school systems. Their integrity is a threat to the environment. It’s not just that cheating took place on a massive scale in these school systems; it’s that so much phony baloney takes places on a daily basis, and the professional bullsh1tters don’t want the honest educators to have a voice. A voice is too powerful. A voice is an ominous threat to the servile-ocracy which has been the culture of public school systems (and other large corporations) for many decades now.

If you will give up your voice, if you will renounce your integrity, if you will just be a number who is happy to receive your pay check, benefits, and nice retirement, then this servile-ocracy will reward you, beginning with the assistant principalship. If you demonstrate that you will continue to renounce your integrity and give up your voice, then you will move up the corporate ladder — and much quicker if you are a sexy woman or a handsome and athletic man. But, no matter how good looking you are, you first have to renounce your integrity and give up your voice. © JRAT.

Am I being too direct? Am I not telling the truth? You know that I am. Ha!

Good morning!

mountain man

April 29th, 2012
8:40 am

“And he pushed out teachers who weren’t on board with his approach.”

Just like Beverly Hall. I am looking forward to a full investigation and see where the students who had such remarkable gains are today. Are they at MIT making straight A;s?