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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 06/12/2010

New controversy at Rhode Island school

By Valerie Strauss

Just when it looked like things were quieting down at troubled Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, the place that became famous when all of the teachers were fired and then rehired, there’s a new controversy.

One of the two newly named co-principals was approved by the Central Falls Board of Trustees this week even though his resumé said that math scores at his former school were much higher than they really were, according to the Providence Journal.

Let’s review: In March, all of the teachers and other educators at the only high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island’s smallest and poorest city, were fired so that the school could be restructured with a new staff.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised Superintendent Frances Gallo for firing all of the educators in the building, and President Obama said it showed “a sense of accountability.”

Last month, Gallo and the teachers union reached an agreement that brought back all of the teachers, but not the top administrators,

One of the two new co-principals is Sonn Sam, who has been principal of the alternative Metropolitan Career and Technical Center, or MET, in Providence. He submitted a resumé stating that under his leadership over the past four years, math scores had improved by 79 percent, the Journal reported.

That was, to be kind, a big exaggeration.

According to the Providence Journal, the combined test scores for the three MET campuses are roughly the same as Central Falls, where the educators were originally fired because of low student achievement. The combined MET scores showed 55 percent of students proficient in reading in 2009 — the same as Central Falls — and only 4 percent proficient in math, even lower than Central Falls’ 7 percent proficiency. Over the past three years, reading scores went up 14 points but math scores did not budge.

When the discrepancy was first reported by the local National Public Radio affiliate, WRNI, Sonn Sam said the mistake occurred when a MET school employee gave him incorrect information, though that employee has since left the school. He has already given a new resumé to Central Falls Schools Superintendent Frances Gallo.

“I totally understand on my part that it should have been accurate,” Sam was quoted as saying by the Providence Journal.

Gallo said she had “complete confidence” in Sam and said he was hired because of his strong interviews, not because of statistics on his resumé.

Let’s look at what’s wrong with that statement.

Inaccurate resumés are a problem unto themselves, but how the bad information got on Sonn Sam’s is curious.

How is it that the principal of a school was told that math scores had gone up 79 percent, and he didn’t know that was incorrect? Don’t principals keep track of test scores a little bit better than that?

“It’s unbelievable that there is no accountability for administrators but teachers take the brunt” of all the criticism at low-performing schools, said Central Fall counselor George McLaughlin.

The issue of test scores at MET was already discussed in the community: The Journal wrote back in March that the founder of MET was delighted that Obama had praised the institution. But that story also said this: “The school also has its critics, based in part on what they view as its insufficient progress in annual state testing.”

For Gallo to suggest that the statistics on Sonn Sam’s vita don’t really matter is perplexing. Statistics are what got the Central Falls teachers fired to begin with.

Statistics sure mattered to Gallo then.


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By Valerie Strauss  | June 12, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  central falls high school, central falls school, obama and central falls, rhode island school, teachers fired, teachers rehired at rhode island school  
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Comments

What's the big deal? Don't all of these new educators pad their resumes? The Post doesn't seem to mind repeating Michelle Rhee's claims or Jason Kamras' claims? Look into their numbers a little. Oops, forgot, some people are untouchable. Must be fun working for Jo-Ann Armao.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | June 11, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Amen to that, adcteacher, Amen I say.

The Post has shied a little bit from Rhee's rapturous claims.
I believe it was April last year when Bill Turque noted the baseless claims of Miss Rhee.

But, Jo-Ann loves that Baltimore Miracle.
Read her editorial on Anacostia High school for today.

Posted by: edlharris | June 11, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's not surprising. Teachers are the root of the problems in education, not the administrators. I know this because I've been told so many times :-).

The fact that Michelle Rhee is willing to get rid of failing administrators is one of the things that I have liked about her time her. It is sad that she seems to get rid of them for arbitrary and random reasons, but at least there is accountability at the administrative level as well.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | June 11, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Getting rid of administrators for random or arbitrary reasons is not accountability.

I cannot imagine lying on a resume about boosting test scores. Sometimes accusations are made that are untrue and then the person is left with a bad reputation, through no fault of his or her own.

I would like to see the evidence and the claims for the Baltimore Miracle. There are so many acusations out there. Why can't we read the truth?

Posted by: celestun100 | June 11, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Starting with the Texas "Miracle," unscrupulous individuals realized that they could be catapulted into national prominance and big bucks by declaring test miracles. What's more, they could accomplish this without ever having to teach a group of children for more than two years at the most (or not at all). For some reason, the media did not catch on to this until recently. Now there are more and more articles on "gaming the system" and outright lying and cheating about test scores. It's about time because these false scores have led us down another futile and expensive path of educational "reform."

Educational improvement can definitely be realized but it's a complex process involving parents, students, schools and communities working together. There are no simplistic solutions.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 11, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Look at this article:

Cheat Sheet
Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Tests

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/education/11cheat.html

Posted by: jlp19 | June 11, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

jlp19:

Yes, I read the article and wrote them a letter in response. The media is beginning to catch on to what is happening with all these test "miracles." DC has been at the forefront with this shameful approach, probably for the purpose of discrediting our schools in order to privatize them for personal gain. Hopefully, the awakening of the media will mark the beginning of authentic improvement in education, instead of the smoke and mirror approach that we've had for the past decade.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 11, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't know. It seems to me that teaching to the test used to be considered cheating. Now it is required.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 11, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

There is some confusion between "teaching to the test" and "teaching the test."

Teaching to the test COULD be interpreted to mean teaching to the curriculum that will be tested. For example, if the ability to multiply will be tested, then the teacher will teach multiplication. Many people, including me, see nothing wrong with this. In fact isn't this what a teacher is supposed to do?

On the other hand, many districts and administrators are encouraging teachers to look at the test beforehand and drill the kids on the specific items. This invalidates the test and properly belongs under the category of cheating. I have a strong suspicion that this is what's happening in DC and a lot of other places.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 11, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

LOL

Linda- you're right. There is a difference between teaching the curriculum to be tested and teaching THE TEST.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 11, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I guess teaching the test depends upon the test security that is in place in your district. In my MD district, the tests are sealed and in a locked vault. They cannot be taken from the vault by the teacher until the day of the test. They are immediately returned to the vault directly after completion. There is a 4 page testing security form that anyone proctoring or administering the tests must sign. The document lists all kinds of regulations including what can be hung up on the wall during the test. Any violation of anything in that document can result in dismissal. It's downright scary reading that document. The state testing is such a departure from the "regular" teacher created tests administered throughout the year.

Posted by: musiclady | June 11, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, MD is excellent about test security. Most places are. But, if you read the NYTimes article, not everyplace is.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 11, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

musiclady, don't forget that there have been a couple of cases in Maryland, one involving a MCPS, another one being a teacher , where test security was broken.
The school had to pay a fine and for a retest; and the teacher lost his/her teaching certificate.

Posted by: edlharris | June 12, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

The hiring of an administrator with an outright falsified resume isn't the only disgrace in Central Falls. Gallo also hired Victor Capellan, a colleague of hers & friend of Board of Trustee members as a Deputy Superintendent making the same salary as she just to give him a fancy title. There are now 3 administrators making more than $250,000 for under 900 students! This is in a city currently under receivership! This is also with the blessing of Deborah Gist, Comissioner of Education. Gotta love the transparency.

Posted by: grace_antunes | June 12, 2010 5:40 AM | Report abuse

The hiring of an administrator with an outright falsified resume isn't the only disgrace in Central Falls. Gallo also hired Victor Capellan, a colleague of hers & friend of Board of Trustee members as a Deputy Superintendent making the same salary as she just to give him a fancy title. There are now 3 administrators making more than $250,000 for under 900 students! This is in a city currently under receivership!

Posted by: grace_antunes | June 12, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

edharris wrote: musiclady, don't forget that there have been a couple of cases in Maryland, one involving a MCPS, another one being a teacher , where test security was broken.
The school had to pay a fine and for a retest; and the teacher lost his/her teaching certificate.

-------------------
That is true! My point was that the stakes are quite high and I doubt, under those circumstances, cheating would be common place I just hope that policy makers start seeing the folly in their reliance on test scores as the only measure of teacher effectiveness. No one in their right mind will want to be a teacher if they don't.

Posted by: musiclady | June 12, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

If policy makers do not see the folly of relying on test scores, teachers will have a foolproof method of getting high scores without cheating. Once this recession is over, they will apply only in high-scoring districts. This is happening in my area already. One young math teacher subbed in an affluent district for three years so he could obtain a position in that district.

Two can play the testing game.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 12, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I think many teachers do what you suggest already, Linda. In my suburban district where scores are high, teachers shake their heads about the testing pressure. They say, "We can do this, but, these kids come in with the skills." Almost everyone knows somebody who still teaches in the city. For them, it's not so easy.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 12, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

musiclady-

Each district that I have worked for has had similar strict security rules making it virtually impossible for teachers to cheat. The cheating happens after the tests have been turned over to administration. That's where most of the dishonesty occurs.

Posted by: aed3 | June 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I think Frances Gallo has some explaining to do. I wonder if she will be held accountable for this? Probably not, only principals and teachers have to be accountable.

Posted by: aby1 | June 12, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

You are leaving out the end of the article, which read:
"Reading and writing proficiency rates at the Met have both risen significantly since 2007, but these increases are not noted on Sam's resume"

I'd give Mr. Sam a chance. He's done big things at the MET, and I expect similar success at CF High. Best of luck

Posted by: hiram1 | June 14, 2010 1:23 AM | Report abuse

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