It was a heart-warming story: A school where nine in 10 students were poor enough to receive a free or reduced lunch, and yet where nine in 10 students met or exceeded most state testing standards.
As recently as 2009, Atlanta’s East Lake Elementary School was honored as a “No Excuses” school and deemed not only to be making the critical Adequate Yearly Progress, but to be doing so in “distinguished” fashion.
Then came the state’s analysis of suspicious wrong-to-right erasure marks on test answer sheets, including red flags for 42 percent of East Lake Elementary’s classrooms. Tighter monitoring was on order during the 2010 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, and the results, as reflected in the school’s test scores, were devastating.
Of 15 CRCT exams (three subjects apiece for five grades), scores fell from the 2009 levels in 13. In the third and fourth grades, they fell by double digits across all three measures — reading, math and English/language arts —