Another way cheating on test scores can screw you: Our old pal Bill Turque wrote a fascinating front-page report in yesterday’s Washington Post.
Once he got started, that is! We’ve never ever seen someone bury the lede quite the way Turque did!
Turque wrote about a fifth-grade teacher in DC who got fired because of her students’ test scores. This teacher got excellent ratings from superiors who observed her work in the classroom.
But when their end-of-year test scores came back, her students hadn’t done as well as they did the previous year. On that basis, the teacher was fired.
So far, there isn’t a lot to this story. For all anyone can know, this could have been a lousy teacher who simply got good subjective evaluations.
But in paragraph 19, deep in his piece, Turque finally got to the point. What the heck took him so long? In this passage, the rubber at last met the road:
TURQUE (3/7/12): Wysocki [the teacher] said there is another possible explanation: Many students arrived at her class in August 2010 after receiving inflated test scores in fourth grade.There’s no way to know what happened here. But here’s what might have happened:
Fourteen of her 25 students had attended Barnard Elementary. The school is one of 41 in which publishers of the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests found unusually high numbers of answer sheet erasures in spring 2010, with wrong answers changed to right. Twenty-nine percent of Barnard’s 2010 fourth-graders scored at the advanced level in reading, about five times the District average.
D.C. and federal investigators are examining whether there was cheating, but school officials stand by the city’s test scores.
Kamras [a DC school official] acknowledged that the Barnard data are “suggestive” of a problem but said that without clear evidence, nothing could be done. Overall, he said that Wysocki was treated fairly and that her case does not reflect a deeper issue with IMPACT.
“I stand behind my evaluation of her,” he said. “It does not, in my view, call into question anything.”
When these children were fourth-graders, someone tampered with their tests, producing bogus achievement levels—“inflated test scores.”
As fifth-graders, they couldn’t maintain this artificial success. Result? Their teacher got fired!
There’s no question: Under the “value-added” testing system, a fifth-grade teacher is royally screwed if her students’ fourth-grade teacher (or their principal) cheated on their test scores.
In theory, “value-added” makes perfect sense, although there are serious technical limitations. But when it comes to testing programs, cheating blows everything up.
Teachers and principals cheated all over DC. Is that why this teacher got fired?