Jun 26, 2012

Ignoring DC Public Schools Erasure Gate!

to whiten with whitewash, to cover up or gloss over the faults or errors of; absolve from blame

Written by Candi Peterson

Last week, Washington Post education columnist, Jay Mathews and blogger of Class Struggle wrote an excellent piece titled: "DC Keeps Ignoring its Test Erasure Scandal." While I don't always agree with Mathews, he certainly hit the nail on the head this time. Two thumbs up to Jay Mathews!

Mathews believes that the results of the second investigation into the testing erasure scandal in DC Public Schools is a cover-up. I wholeheartedly agree with him. As a veteran reporter, Mathews knows a white wash when he sees one.  Mathews gives full disclosure in his article stating that he is married to Linda Mathews, editor at USA Today who conceived and exposed the series of articles in 2011 into testing erasure scandals not only in DC but Atlanta, Georgia, as well.

Mathews asked the million dollar question of DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson,"What about all those erasures?" Mathews writes: "Henderson seems uninterested in the question stating that I am pleased that this investigation is complete and the vast majority of our schools were cleared of any wrongdoing." What is interesting about Henderson's comments, is what she doesn't say. The  investigation conducted by Alvarez and Marsal is only for the 2011 school year. We are still awaiting the DC Inspector General investigation results for school year 2010 and there will be no investigation into years 2008 or 2009. DC officials limited the scope of the probe so that a full scale investigation will not take place. Go figure.

I'm troubled that in the years where there was a great likelihood that there was rampant cheating under the Michelle Rhee/Kaya Henderson administration, we will never have a legitimate answer as to what really happened. Mark Simon, DCPS parent wrote a post on the Concerned for DCPS list serve explaining why some think that an investigation into 2009 would be insignificant. Simon writes :"When IFF looked at the test score results for the past three years, they noted an abnormal bump in the scores in 2009. They said that since cheating was widespread across the school system, they discounted it as having an effect in any particular school."

In Mathews' article, he all but asks what's wrong with this picture, when an investigation does not make any mention of asking students about erasures. For me, this is problematic, especially since as Mathews writes, no students were questioned in the initial Caveon Consulting Company investigation. It seems to me this investigation didn't really want to find out what happened. Rather, as Mathew reports, Cate Swinburn, Chief of Data and Accountability for DC Public Schools had her own hypothesis that wrong-to-right erasures "might have been caused by students first making tentative answers, then going back to rethink them as teachers often recommend." How did Swinburn arrive at such a conclusion especially since students were never questioned by investigators about their own erasures? Not to mention, that the frequency of wrong-to-right answers, evidenced by erasure reports in DC Public Schools is unlikely to happen, according to Mathews' sources.

I am more inclined to agree with Mathews position when he makes the argument: ".... had investigators taken seriously the possibility that high erasure rates could have been due to principals or testing coordinators changing answers after students turned them in, it would have helped to determine if students who had many changes on their tests, remembered making them. " That is of course, if Alvarez and Marsal had thought to question students about their erasures. Mathews states DC students were asked questions that were not related to the issue of test erasures. Students were asked if they cheated? and if they knew who did? What else would we expect from a company whose motto is: "when the stakes are high, companies and stakeholders look to A & M to help find the right answer and deliver the solution ?"

In looking at the comments that followed Mathews article, I noticed that one poster asked why are we surprised at the results. I am not surprised at all especially at this 'no accountability administration' who regularly points the finger of blame at teachers for all that's wrong in public education. Being the idealist that I am, I did hope for a comprehensive investigation.

Mathews opines a final point in conclusion, with which I concur: "The failure to do the kind of thorough inquiry that revealed massive test tampering by principals and teachers in Atlanta after high numbers of erasures will leave many people here in doubt. The latest investigation, which cost $400,000, has done the children of D.C. no good at all."

Mathews' article can be viewed by clicking the title of his article: DC Keeps Ignoring its Test Erasure Scandal.

© Candi Peterson 2013


Anonymous said...

Candi It is great you are writing again. Many of us value your opinion. I love the graphic and your writing.

Anonymous said...

Another very interesting and heartbreaking story. It is vital that the media understand that the administrators of DCPS are more adamant about raising their own self esteems than raising the bar for teaching the children. Where is the emphasis on safety and security of students; all year round for that matter. Where are good tutoring and summer programs that really impact student progress and ability to function in the real world.

It is obvious that the cycle keeps turning in the same direction; test scores and their need to be high, high and higher. What will they do as this % bar increases and children are not able to reach those scores no matter where they go to school or who their teachers are?

It is evident that these erasures were made by someone???? Perhaps students coached by adults in the test taking process or perhaps by adults after collection of the material???? Either way it is unethical and shows nothing about the learning ability of that child.

When will something be done that will make education what it should be for the children of the Capitol City of the Nation ????

Anonymous said...

It is beyond time for local and national politicians and the US Secretary of Education to stop lying for Rhee. She is a liar who cares only for her career and reputation. Rhee committed corporal punishment, no consequences. Rhee interfered in a federal investigation and caused an IG to lose his job while lying for now- husband Kevin Johnson. No consequences. Rhee fired countless employees on a whim with Henderson's help. Yes, no consequences!

Now there has been cheating and there are no consequences because Rhee's friends in high places can afford to cover it up. This isn't new behavior, it is part of a pattern, except now children are the exclusive victims.

Anonymous said...

I've heard only 2 schools made AYP for the SY2011-20012. Such a poor return on investment. Time to fire that that sorry a** group of liars! The ring leader is Maya Henderson. Bye, bye, liars!

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