Ed. Dept. Inspector General: No Widespread Cheating in D.C. Schools

By Lesli A. Maxwell — January 07, 2013 1 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education’s office of inspector general today said that it has found no evidence that District of Columbia public school officials engaged in widespread cheating on state exams during the time that Michelle A. Rhee was chancellor. The OIG office could only identify instances of cheating in a single school, which was earlier identified in an investigation by the District of Columbia’s local watchdog agency. Specifically, the Ed. department’s inspector general had been investigating whether federal education dollars that flowed into the district would be impacted by allegations of cheating on the school system’s standardized exams.

In a brief statement emailed to Education Week this afternoon, the Ed. Dept.'s OIG said that it could not substantiate allegations that the District of Columbia public schools had made false claims to the department for payment of funds. Because of that finding, the U.S. Department of Justice “declined to intervene.”

Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for the OIG, said the agency would not issue a report on its investigation into the matter, which she said is generally the case with investigations.

During Rhee’s short and turbulent term as chancellor, schools in the District of Columbia saw test scores rise considerably. Since she left the post more than two years ago, however, concerns about cheating surfaced, most notably in an investigative report by USA Today.

Just last week I had checked with the inspector general’s office to ask whether their investigation was complete. It wasn’t as of Jan. 2. And now, it is.

Rhee is already all over the news today, with a story in the Washington Post about tomorrow’s broadcast of a “Frontline” documentary looking into her legacy as chancellor and featuring fresh interviews about cheating allegations, (I blogged about that last week) and several national stories about the new report card her organization, StudentsFirst, has issued grading states on the various policies that her organization is pushing.

Here’s the full statement from the OIG about its examination into DCPS test scores and false funding claims:

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Inspector General has completed its independent investigation into allegations of improprieties related to standardized assessment tests in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Our investigation was predicated on a False Claims Act suit brought by a private citizen and filed under seal in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia in May 2011 alleging that DCPS submitted false claims to ED for payment of funds from the Race to the Top program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, false statements to ED for receipt of funding under the Together Everyone Achieves More awards program and false statements to ED under the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, all related to alleged improprieties involving the administration and reporting of assessment tests administered to DCPS students. Our investigation was unable to substantiate the allegations that false claims were made to ED for payment of funds, and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to intervene. Our investigation was conducted in tandem with the District of Columbia Office of Inspector General's investigation into cheating on the DCPS's standardized exams. Our role was to help determine whether ED funds were impacted by any alleged test improprieties. Our work identified only one instance of cheating on DC's Comprehensive Assessment System exam, which had the potential to impact federal funding and was reported in the D.C. OIG's report on its investigation released in August 2012. The individual involved in that matter was fired from his position."

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.