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Posted at 05:17 PM ET, 08/08/2012

Inspector General clears D.C. schools of widespread cheating

I didn’t expect much from the D.C. Inspector General’s investigation of cheating on the annual D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests over the past few years, so I was not surprised that the IG report, released Wednesday, said it found no evidence “of criminal activity or widespread cheating.”

The 14-page report said the investigators conducted a significant number of interviews at only one school, the Noyes Education Campus, and found lax test security that created an atmosphere “where cheating . . .. could have occurred.” But the investigators said they decided that having found so little at Noyes, there was “an insufficient basis to warrant” an investigation of other schools with unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets.

Many D.C. educators have convinced me that the wrong-to-right erasures at many schools, averaging more than 10 per child in some classes, could not be the work of the test takers. Students almost never correct their answers on such tests, since they have no effect on their grades. The answers had to have been changed, several teachers said, by school officials after the tests were handed in, since those officials would benefit from high scores.

The IG report, however, never mentioned the improbability of students making so many erasures and cited, instead, teacher statements that their students were asked to be especially careful and must have made the changes themselves. The report said, in explaining why investigators did not expand their probe, that “it is logical to conclude that once the erasure issue came to light, any improper practices that may have occurred in the past would diminish.”

Some Noyes teachers said copies of the exams were handed out to them before the test was administered in order to help students prepare, a violation of test security rules. One Noyes teacher said she silently pointed to wrong answers on some students’ test sheets until they changed wrong answers to right, but not in numbers that would explain the large number of erasures at the school. The report indicated that all Noyes personnel denied changing answers after tests were handed in.

The investigators made note of D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s defense of another elementary school with as many erasures as Noyes — J.O. Wilson. The report said Henderson defended Wilson as a great school where any visitor can see “quality, engagement and rigor.”

The investigation made no attempt to interview students at Noyes and ask them if they remembered making any erasures on test sheets full of indications of answers being changed.

I will have more on this in Monday’s column. I think the truth of what happened in these tests will come out some day, but not because of the three inadequate investigations financed with D.C. tax dollars.

By  |  05:17 PM ET, 08/08/2012

 
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