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Cheating on the DC-CAS, Details Redacted

An unspecified number of students at a District school have had their DC-CAS test scores invalidated because they apparently got an advance look at the test, according to a June 18 letter from Acting State Superintendent of Education Kerri L. Briggs.

The letter, from which all names and other details have been redacted, also says that multiple school staff were dismissed following an investigation. The document appears as a "public notice" of a "test security violation" on the Assessment and Accountability page of the OSSE website.

Stories of cheating, many impossible to confirm, surface every testing season. This looks like the real deal. Asked this afternoon why the details had been eliminated, OSSE spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins said, "We are looking into it and should have an answer for you shortly." As of 7 p.m., she had not called or messaged back.

Briggs' letter, addressed to Name Redacted, said the OSSE "commends the leadership" of Name Redacted "for promptly responding to the allegations of a test security breach during this year's administration of the DC-CAS. The OSSE further commends Name Redacted's leadership for conducting a thorough investigation of the allegations and producing a detailed report...Finally, I wish to express my support for the swift and decisive actions imposed by terminating the parties found guilty of test security violations."

Briggs said that it was "unacceptable for teachers to copy and share assessment forms with students before the testing window has begun." She adds: "The scores for the students who were provided with practice test materials and/or who participated in instructional activities using these materials have been invalidated. This means that these students will be counted as performing Below Basic in the computation of the Adequate Yearly Progress for School Name Redacted, the Local Education Agency, as well as the District of Columbia."

Earlier: D.C. Schools Show Progress on Tests

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  July 13, 2009; 7:32 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Very interesting that this came out on the same day that Rhee and Fenty are touting major success on dismal data. The raw data seems to be unavailable.

Posted by: candycane1 | July 13, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

So does this mean that teachers routinely get to see the test in advance and it's only cheating if they show copies to their students? It's not clear whether the introductory paragraph (Turque's) and the final one (quoting Briggs) are describing the same scenario.

You'd think that both teachers and students should have access to practice materials in advance and that neither should be shown the actual test.

Posted by: Cassie2 | July 13, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to compare the test results with personnel changes.
Did DCPS remove teachers or principals based upon these test scores?
How many provisional teachers who were fired had students show great gains?

Posted by: edlharris | July 13, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Believe it or not, this is not an isolated incident. I know for a fact (having worked in every quadrant of the city) that this practice occurs systemwide. When you tie one's job security to test results, this is often what happens. According to yesterday's article (on the attached PDF file), test results are reportedly going to be released to the public after the data have been "reconciled." What does that mean? Where are those independent investigators?

Posted by: schooletal | July 14, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully this story will make the print edition, with more info:

How was this breach determined? (sounds like a whistle blower)

Are these bogus scores included in the "preliminary data"

Which principal was fired?

Any teachers fired for this? Were they provisionary? Can tenured teachers be fired without a hearing?

Posted by: efavorite | July 14, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The other thing I found interesting is that DC children now get almost twice as long to take the DC-CAS as they have in the past (with the DC-CAS and it's predecessor). That our kids were provided more time and the gains were as modest as they are reported seems like a seperate story of achievement (or potential lack thereof).

Posted by: 4LOM | July 14, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

So...were the students willingly given these practice tests? Or were they in a class where the teacher decided to give them, without knowing that it was wrong to see them. One would think a "practice" test is okay, and not actually giving you the answers to the real test.

If the kids weren't willing parties to this, it seems a little unfair to invalidate them and call them "below basic." Give them another test before you tally the statistics!

Posted by: akchild | July 14, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

It isn't clear what types of materials are actually used - it references practice materials, but is it a copy of the actual test to be given rather than an example? For any standardized test such as the SAT and ACT, they have provided students with copies of past exams to get them familiar with the types of questions and what is really going on here?

Posted by: palermo1 | July 14, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm a DC math teacher and can assure you that teachers are not supposed to have seen the actual DCCAS test. We have a great deal of practice material that covers the topics that will be on the test and the format that the test will take. While I don't think the test is exactly what I would want (I don't think it very well measures what a 10th grader should know), it SHOULD be pretty secure (at least it was at our school).

Someone also pointed out that DC students now get twice as long to take the exam. The students aren't getting twice as much time to take the test (since it is untimed, that isn't really relevant anyhow), it's that the test is being spread over more days in order to lessen the impact on the rest of the school day. (So instead of having 2 days of 3.5 hours, it is 4 days of 1.75 hours, or something like that).

At the high school level, I would imagine that most cheating that occurs would be teachers or administrators. One of the MAJOR flaws of the DCCAS is that success or failure have no consequence for the students, and as a result many of them do not take it seriously.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | July 14, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Another water shed moment for the DCPS.
Doesn't matter at all.
Cheating speaks to the failure of this fear based doctrine children are subjected to.

Posted by: eddiemacs | July 14, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

One more thing to consider: Briggs better call Gist to find out if she crossed the line on this one. When this came out, I'm sure Rhee had a fit!

Posted by: candycane1 | July 15, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Everyone knows that a lot of school cheat. From keeping certain kids home, to saying the answers out loud during the test to counselors erasing and bubling answer sheets or pre-bubbling some for the lowest students. When you have a reign of terror, people will respond this way.

Posted by: DCteacher | July 15, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

As a parent of a DC elementary school student I felt that throughout this past school year there was definitely a lack of teaching a steady curriculum. Day after day we had to fill out answers of multiple choice questions which were supposedly given in the past. So when my child came home and declared that the Math exam was a piece of cake because he had already seen the exact same problem, with the same numbers in his practice packages, I informed the school; but to my dismay my questions was dismissed. When I informed a couple of other parents, they said the school was focused on making a 20 point gain and that they were happy with the principal's choices.

I am not sure that our school made the list of those who cheated. As DCPS education is becoming increasingly data driven with success (and salary) measured and directly proportional to numbers percentages, there is no doubt teachers and administrators will do anything and everything to be at the top of the charts.

Posted by: edline | July 15, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

There was more than likely cheating. Anytime stories are all around town about certain administrators taking papers home to "doctor them up" on the kitchen table, you know cheating has gone on. What is amusing is that there was no rock star cheating, unless of course they cheated to cover up a much less than flattering performance to begin with. With all of the threats and hostility in DCPS, it's a given that there has been cheating. Laughably for rhee the results have been less than stellar.

Posted by: southyrndiva | July 16, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Edline - please report your experience directly to the reporter, Bill Turque.

Nothing will change until these abuses are investigated and reported. I know you're trying to help by commenting on it here, but until things like this are checked out, it's just gossip.

As I'm sure you know, you're not helping your child or the school by colluding in the cheating going on. The more people assume they are powerless victims the longer all the children will suffer.

Posted by: efavorite | July 16, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

About five years ago there were headlines about two teachers losing their jobs in Silver Spring because a student had complained how the teacher had given parts of the Math exam in a test preparation package. Parents were outraged and after an investigation the teachers were let go. From what Edline is writing, it seems most parents in her school do not really mind if their children have previously seen the test. Is this because DCPS is so bureaucratic? Is it because it is at the elementary level? Do they think that public education cannot be better? Or will it be used by real state agents to promote the neighborhood with a great public school?

In my country tests are important but it is more about really mastering the subject; where as here all we hear are test preparation and test results, even though children are promoted regardless of the final results.

So can someone tell me what is considered cheating and how is it determined?

Posted by: pacco | July 20, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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