So here’s what we are already sinking to. Pressure to deliver better bubbles is making educators act in loony, if not potentially criminal ways.
Take the case of Noyes Education Campus. (You may recall them, a school Michelle Rhee put on her “shining star” list after student bubble test performance went from 10% proficient or advanced to 58% proficient or advanced… IN TWO YEARS!)
Well, it turns out they might have used the other end of the pencil to achieve those scores. Yep, it looks like somebody done done some erasin’!
Yep, that bastion of journalistic enterprise, the USA Today, has a scoop that stinks of poop.
According to Robert Pondiscio…
“On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on answer sheets; the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than 1. The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.”
He then says…
“… DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education asked test-maker McGraw-Hill to do “erasure analysis” after some schools showed big gains in in proficiency rates on April 2008 tests. “Among 96 schools flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where [DC Superintendent Michelle] Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards ‘to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,’ as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these.”
Here’s a portion of Michelle Rhee’s response:
“This story is an insult to the dedicated teachers and schoolchildren who worked hard to improve their academic achievement levels,” said Rhee. “There are many reasons for erasures and the presence of erasures does not mean someone cheated. In fact, it can mean that our students are being more diligent about doing well…”
Once again, here’s what USA Today reports:
The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.”
And once again, here’s what Michelle Rhee said:
“There are many reasons for erasures and the presence of erasures does not mean someone cheated. In fact, it can mean that our students are being more diligent about doing well…”
But can you blame them? (Actually, I can, but that comment was intended as a rhetorical device to illicit a sense of sarcastic accusation, a point I only mention because now that we have cut the NWP funding entirely and are crazed with spending every last drop of our cash on bubble tests, somebody’s got to try and teach a few writing lessons.)
Basically, Ms. Rhee was ready to torch every job in DC unless she saw improved test scores. And then she dangled cash, cash, cash on the opposite end. So the folks at Noyes were faced with 1) get fired and be professionally tainted forevermore or 2) boost scores and land an $8,000 bonus, to boot. (10K for the principal).
Hmm, which side won?
10% proficient to 58% proficient is practically a statistical anomaly. (I’ve heard a “data geek say, Trust incremental movement; distrust giant leaps.) And then, to have the erasure “coincidence” be equivalent to winning the Powerball Grand Prize?
Now, I am all for cutting some slack and letting the detail working themselves out but is anybody buying this comment from Miss Rhee?
“Often times when the academic achievement rates of a district like D.C. go up, people assume that it can’t be because the kids are actually attaining higher gains in student achievement but that it’s because it’s something like cheating, which in this case was absolutely not the case,” Rhee said.
Can we please get someone with a guilty conscience to fess up and say, “Look, the pressure was insane. I need my job, I have my own family to feed and things sort of snowballed faster than I expected. I admit it… we cheated, we’re ashamed and let this be a lesson to all of us that bullying, threats and tyranny is not the way to get results.”
Supposedly, a DC Councilperson is now opening a big investigation.
At what point are we going to realize we can’t trust the bubble tests, for any number of reasons?
Are those teachers going to give their cash back if they’re found guilty. Are the teachers who lost their jobs because “they couldn’t keep up” with folks who were cheating (if, indeed, they were) going to be offered restitution?
What are we bringing on ourselves?