- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

An investigative report in USA Today this morning is questioning the academic gains of a D.C. school lauded for a dramatic increase in standardized test scores during the administration of schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

In 2006, only 10 percent of students at Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus in Northeast scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58 percent achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading, the story says.

“A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.”

The story says that erasures are detected by the same electronic scanners that CTB/McGraw-Hill, D.C.’s testing company, uses to score the tests. While there are legitimate reasons for erasures, several standardized testing experts are quoted saying the pattern at Noyes and other D.C. public schools is rare.

D.C. public schools issued a statement Monday:

“DCPS adheres to stringent training and test administration guidelines, and begins the thoughtful process of ensuring test security long before the first tests are given. Employees on every level of DCPS assist, from school-based to central office staff. When we are informed of possible test improprieties, we work closely with OSSE, and third party partners when necessary, to carefully and promptly investigate and take appropriate next steps.

“In 2009, DCPS acted swiftly to bring in Caveon Test Security, an outside firm with vast expertise in the area of test security, after OSSE flagged a handful of schools for follow up investigations based on erasure data. For the majority of schools, the firm found no evidence of wrong-doing. For the rare cases in which the firm recommended a consequence or next step for individual staff or schools, we followed the firm’s guidance diligently. We know that the vast majority of school staff and students approach the test with the highest integrity. However, for those rare incidences when staff and students fall short of this standard, we do not hesitate to act quickly to maintain or uphold the integrity of DCPS as a whole.

“Out of fairness to our students and teachers, DCPS not comment on schools where no violation was substantiated after a full investigation. We can share though that we are committed to ensuring that our test taking procedures adhere to the highest standards of testing.”

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