Education

Possible Cheating in D.C. Schools: The Plot Thickens

September 08, 2009 1 min read

We thought we’d offer some respite from all the brouhaha over President Obama’s speech to students and bring you a quick update on what remains a very curious situation around the possibility of cheating in the District of Columbia public schools.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, beat reporter Bill Turque reports that nobody from the District of Columbia school system ever offered evidence that they had looked into whether cheating went on at several schools during the 2008 administration of the DC-CAS exams. This was despite a formal request to do so by Deborah A. Gist, who until April was the state superintendent of education. Gist sought the same inquiries from 13 charter schools where large gains in math and reading proficiency scores also raised red flags.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Turque got a hold of some interesting correspondence between Gist’s office and that of Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s top staff. It reveals that school officials delayed their response to Gist’s concerns.

What Turque didn’t get is a full copy of the report done by CTB McGraw-Hill, which makes the DC-CAS, that looked at erasure patterns on students’ answer sheets. School officials only turned over, as Turque puts it, “summaries and correspondence describing the analysis.”

If only we knew what Gist has to say about all of this, but she has so far kept mum. As state supe, she had no real authority over the school system, which is controlled by Mayor Adrian Fenty. The state supe does oversee standardized testing and can invalidate scores.

There may have been no cheating whatsoever, but the reluctance to fully reveal the results of the probe certainly makes it look like the district has something to hide.

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

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