D.C. official resigns as school faces questions of test security

June 20, 2011

Wayne Ryan, a former Noyes Education Campus principal who won acclaim for dramatic test score gains, has resigned from a senior position in the D.C. school system as the school he once led faces questions about possible cheating.

Ryan announced he was stepping down as instructional superintendent in an e-mail to colleagues Friday evening. He did not specify a reason for leaving.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to pursue new options and old interests,” he said. He also thanked Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson for “many years of support, encouragement and friendship.”

Ryan did not respond to an e-mail or phone message to his office Monday.

D.C. school officials, citing personnel rules, said they would not discuss the reasons for Ryan’s departure. He has been accused of no wrongdoing. In 2010, after nine years at Noyes, he was promoted by then-Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. As instructional superintendent, he supervised a group of principals.

Ryan, 55, who practiced law in Texas before becoming a principal, won a 2005 Distinguished Educational Leadership Award, sponsored by The Washington Post. But his career took off under Rhee, who hailed him as a rock star when reading and math scores on standardized tests grew dramatically from 2006 to 2009. Reading proficiency rates spiked from 24 percent to 85 percent, while math proficiency surged from 10 percent to 63 percent. He became a poster image for D.C. school reform in the Rhee era. “Are you the next Wayne Ryan?” said a principal recruitment ad.

But Noyes was also one of more than 100 D.C. public schools with classrooms flagged by authorities during that period for elevated rates of answer sheet erasures in which incorrect responses were changed to correct ones. A USA Today analysis of erasure data published in March found one seventh-grade classroom at Noyes with an average of nearly 13 wrong-to-right erasures per student. The District-wide average for seventh-graders that year was less than one.

Other schools with high-erasure classrooms included J.O. Wilson Elementary, Aiton Elementary and Coolidge High School.

Henderson has asked the D.C. inspector general to investigate USA Today’s research. Sources familiar with the probe, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said investigators have interviewed Noyes staff members.

Sources said last month that a fourth-grade teacher at Noyes was dismissed for test security violations on the 2010 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System. Authorities also invalidated test scores in three classrooms — at Noyes, and at C.W. Harris and Leckie elementary schools — for irregularities in 2010.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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