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Nickles Says Erasure Analysis Wasn't Erased

Last Friday, after spending three months considering the matter, District officials finally responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for an analysis of answer sheet erasures on the 2008 DC-CAS standardized tests. Former D.C. State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist asked the test's publisher, CTB McGraw-Hill, to run the study last summer out of concern that cheating might have inflated big test score gains that some schools posted that year.

When the District finally delivered its FOIA response, it came with data tables, some e-mails CTB study. Nor was there a follow up analysis reported to have been conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). That is to say, there was nothing that looked like a government-commissioned study, with a transmittal letter, an executive summary, a table of contents, etc.

So do we need an erasure analysis to find the erasure analysis?

D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles says no. He says the actual erasure analysis was more like an erasure conversation.

"Our search did not turn up any documents responsive to your request that included reports or analysis from CTB or AIR," Nickles wrote this afternoon. "Only data tables were provided through emails, and those data tables are included in the letters sent to DCPS and the charter schools. Discussion regarding those tables and any analysis performed was apparently done verbally between OSSE staff and the staff of the two firms. Thus, what we provided to you represents the full set of responsive documents."

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  September 8, 2009; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Please stay with this story until you get to the bottom of this. These test scores are being used to evaluate teachers and to set policy for the children of D.C. and possibly the nation.

Are these scores being used to get federal funds? If so, maybe the False Claims Act will help with an investigation.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 8, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

When the attorney general is providing answers to an issue regarding cheating on a school test, we have big big problems. Concernedaboutdc: I'm with ou. Every bathroom in DC should have a roll of Peter Nickles. This is so laughable.

Posted by: candycane1 | September 8, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so obviously there was no analysis of the erasure irregularities. Fenty and Rhee were probably hoping the issue would just "go away" with the departure of Deborah Gist. Thank you Bill Turque for your continuing investigation of this issue. It is not a trivial matter when Rhee, Fenty and Reinoso are using these test scores to "prove" that Rhee is a good chancellor.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 8, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

In other words, some of what Rhee, Fenty and Reinoso said in their statement and you then reported in the paper didn't actually happen. They just made up and manipulated information to get their best possible version of the cheating story as widely reported as possible, before additional damaging facts came out.

This is reminiscent of the information DCPS gave to PBS that Shaw's "scores stayed the same" before the public data came out (after being delayed by DCPS) showing that Shaw's scores declined. PBS had already aired the false information nationally and had to make a correction on its website.

So now you have to report this new twist to the story - not just in the Wire, but in the print version, please.

And let me add my thanks for keeping up with this. This is a big story – not just the cheating, but the cheating about the cheating.

Posted by: efavorite | September 8, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

This is getting outrageous. We need an independent investigation into this entire matter. Talk about the need for transparency! This is another example of why the mayoral takeover was a huge mistake-- everyone is trying to cover up for one another.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | September 8, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Please, please keep digging. You are not getting the full story, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: smilesmile123 | September 8, 2009 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Bill - Can you do a FOIA request to get the RFP for the studies commissioned? That would tell you if a written report was part of the deal. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a study that did not involve a written report. How about getting the record of payment for services rendered?

You can always ask the research firms what product they submitted. They can’t give you the report or reveal the findings without permission from their client, but they can tell you whether or not they wrote a report. And my understanding is that taxpayer-paid studies can’t be withheld from the public.

Maybe you could add the strange case of the missing teacher-parent survey mentioned in the GAO report to this investigation:, page 33.

For a Chancellor who is so "data-driven," it’s odd that so much data is unavailable. Maybe she’s driven to hide data.

Posted by: efavorite | September 8, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Go Efavorite! Leave no stone unturned. It's just amazing that Rhee can't explain it. It was referred to the mayor's office and he can't explain it. But Uncle Pete can give a dismissive mumble and that is supposed to suffice.

Posted by: candycane1 | September 8, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Such liars!! I, too, do not believe a study was commissioned and that important, pertinent information was exchanged only verbally. D.C. residents/voters should take a cue from Rhee . . . buy a broom and collectively sweep the "Deflect, Delay, Deny" crew right out of office!

Turque, you rock!

Posted by: schooletal | September 8, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Apostle Pete is at it again. When will he ever stop thinking the people in this city are stupid? Conversation huh? Ok!

The stench in Juniors diaper is so foul, AP really should be tired of attending to it. Now he has to speak for little Rhee-Rhee.

Posted by: shank2sb | September 9, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

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