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2009 test scores for one elementary class tossed

When D.C. State Superintendent Kerri Briggs announced in November that she had asked 12 public and public charter schools with irregularities on their 2009 DC CAS results to conduct internal investigations, her office would not name the schools under suspicion. But a spokesman said the agency would name names if the inquiries produced any significant findings.

That never happened. When I asked about it a couple of weeks ago, it turned out that two schools, Burrville Elementary and the Congress Heights campus of Center City Public Charter Schools, were cited in March for problems with test security. The more serious situation was at Burrville in Ward 7, one of 8 DCPS schools flagged by OSSE for suspicious patterns of erasure on answer sheets and at least one of two other criteria: high annual score growth (the school spiked nearly 18 points in math proficiency and 13 in reading) or excessive similarities in answers on multiple choice questions.

DCPS hired Caveon Test Security, a Utah firm that specializes in forensic analysis of answer sheets, to handle the investigation. At least one Burrville proctor reported cleaning up stray pencil marks on student answer sheets. The rules prohibit any fiddling around with answer sheets, except to remove items such as staples, pins or paper clips that might impede electronic scoring. As a result, Briggs invalidated reading and math results for students in one classroom (her letter to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee does not specify which one). It didn't impact the school's AYP status (it still made it).

At Center City's Congress Heights campus, there were allegations that students "inappropriately looked ahead to other sections [of the exams] or that the teacher asked students to write down questions for review later," according to Briggs' letter to Center City board chairman John F. Griffin. The first-year school's scores were low: 36 percent proficiency in reading and 23 in math. Briggs said while there was no "conclusive proof" of the charges, "the allegations combined with data anomalies in this particular classroom are extremely troubling." Briggs did not specify. But she wrote that because the school was new, and the teachers in question were gone, she would not take any action.

The new test security procedures went into place after Briggs' predecessor, Deborah Gist, commissioned an investigation into the 2008 DC-CAS results at 26 public and public charter schools where reading and math proficiency increased markedly.

CTB-McGraw-Hill, the firm that published the test and also conducted the erasure analysis, characterized the results of the analysis as "inconclusive." Gist nevertheless asked the schools in question to conduct their own investigations. Some did, but DCPS, despite two requests from Gist's office, did not. When Briggs took over in April 2009, she informed DCPS that the probe wasn't necessary because the erasure analysis was inconclusive.

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By Bill Turque  |  August 6, 2010; 9:40 AM ET
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Throughout her horrific tenure as the Chancellor of DCPS, Michelle Rhee has been propped up by the Washington Post for the sake of its major stockholder Kaplan and their for-profit colleges scheme.

The beginning of the end is now in sight for Rhee and Kaplan. This from Bloomberg:

"[Shares of] Washington Post Co. fell the most in more than a year after saying proposed U.S. Department of Education rules could “have a material adverse effect” on its Kaplan unit, which makes up more than 60 percent of earnings.

The Washington-based company plunged $28, or 6.9 percent, to $380.61 at 10:59 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, after earlier touching $375 for the largest intraday decline since May 1, 2009.

The company said it could lose out on revenue if the Department of Education tightens restrictions on federal education grant and loan programs. President Barack Obama’s administration is considering increased regulation because of concern that recruiters working for for-profit colleges are signing up unqualified students and leaving them with loans they may be unable to repay.

The rules could cause Post Co. to lose some Kaplan admissions and financial aid advisers and may limit financial aid for some students, the company said in a statement today as it reported second-quarter financial results.

Post Co. reported an 11 percent increase in revenue to $1.2 billion as net income rose to $92.1 million from $12.5 million a year earlier, in part because of the Kaplan education business."

Posted by: natturner | August 6, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Kaplan had revenue last year of $2.6 billion. How many graduates do DCPS high schools produce every year? 2500? If each of these graduates spends $3000 on Kaplan test prep, counseling, and other services, that would add up to $7.5 million.

Yeah, like that's going to turn things around for Washington Post Co.

The blog posting was about another reported scandal--concerted doctoring of standardized tests--which turned out to be mostly anticipation with a tiny little puff of eraser dust at the end. But Caveon Test Security was probably bought off to hide the damning evidence. That's right, of course that's right. Everything is a conspiracy. Everything is scripted. You're in someone else's dream, and your spinning top is starting to wobble.

Posted by: gardyloo | August 6, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Gee, wonder why the Post isn't covering this story like the NY Times is?

Kaplan Suspends Enrollment at 2 Campuses

The Washington Post Company’s Kaplan Inc. unit suspended enrollment on Friday at its campuses in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Riverside, Calif., where undercover investigators for the Government Accountability Office found deceptive practices by admissions officials.

At a Senate hearing on Wednesday on recruitment at for-profit colleges, a G.A.O. report, accompanied by videos, described deceptive or fraudulent practices at each of 15 campuses visited, two of which were Kaplan campuses. At Kaplan College in Pembroke Pines, for example, an admissions officer told investigators posing as applicants that the college had the same accreditation as Harvard.

Washington Post stock fell $31.05, or 7.6 percent, to close at $377.56 on Friday, its largest drop in more than a year, after the company said in its quarterly report that proposed United States Department of Education rules could have a “material adverse effect” on Kaplan’s higher-education operations. The higher-education unit’s $212 million operating income for the first half of the year made up almost 80 percent of the company’s overall operating income for the period.

The Education Department’s proposed rules would tighten regulation of for-profit colleges’ recruiters and rein in programs whose graduates end up with more debt than they can repay.

Melissa Mack, a Kaplan spokeswoman, said the company suspended enrollment at the two campuses pending an investigation of the G.A.O. findings, and meanwhile was working “to ensure that such incidents are not repeated anywhere at our 75 campuses or among our 16,000 higher-education employees.”

Kaplan’s higher-education programs enrolled more than 112,000 students as of June 30.

Posted by: natturner | August 7, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

The erasure analysis showed a great deal more erasures at schools that showed the highest gains in scores. I'm sure that was just a coincidence, and certainly there is not any reason to investigate...

Posted by: Wyrm1 | August 8, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Composition of new teacher corps a mystery
By: Leah Fabel
Examiner Staff Writer
August 9, 2010
D.C. Public Schools officials have been short on details about their new hires -- their average age, where they're coming from, how many years they've spent in the classroom -- except to say that the district has had no shortage of applicants.

About 800 people reportedly applied for the 31 "master educator" positions open last year, vying for the chance to coach and evaluate classroom instructors.

Hundreds of teaching positions that opened in the spring attracted thousands of applicants, many of whom are "excited about Chancellor Rhee's reforms," officials were quick to point out.

Only the human resources staff knows for sure what kind of teachers are coming, and they're not talking.

But two new hires offered by DCPS to be interviewed for this article shed light on what likely will prove to be an incoming corps of experienced, but younger-than-average, teachers who hail from all over the country.

Teresa Danskey, 26, felt a "magnetic" pull to DCPS upon her return from the Peace Corps in South Africa last month.

"Over the past few years, my passion for teaching in underserved areas has grown," she said.

Danskey majored in Spanish and secondary education, and taught high school Spanish in Indiana before training teachers in South Africa. Not coincidentally, her eagerness to collaborate with other language teachers at Phelps High School is one of the hallmarks of Rhee's new evaluation tool.

Daniel Zielaski, 26, just finished up a 15-month teacher training program at George Washington University, through which he spent a year student teaching at one of DCPS's top magnet institutions, School Without Walls.

Before that, the chemistry major designed and wrote test prep curricula for a Los Angeles-based company.

"When I came back to D.C., I was excited to get into DCPS because I felt I could be part of a movement based on student needs, and driven by a desire for change and the need for change."

The rhetoric may as well be taken straight from Rhee's talking points. But it remains to be seen whether her new hires can affect the oft-touted change, or if they'll become frustrated and stymied by the reality they find in their classrooms.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 9, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

These may be the two best new teachers they have. two 26 year-olds - one just returned to the US, so she's only heard the good news stories about Rhee, and a brand-new teacher who at least has student teaching under his belt -- which the Teach-for-America recruits do not have.

Posted by: efavorite | August 9, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

When the stakes on tests are raised, the incentive to cheat increases. There will be more of this, but don't expect DCPS to investigate. Rhee has no interest in the truth, nor in learning. On a similar note, I have recently learned that Rhee has instructed DCPS nurses that students will be allowed in school even if they have not obtained their required immunizations (clearly an attempt to maintain the student population numbers), despite the fact that DC law requires those immunizations for school attendance, and the presence of students without immunizations is a threat to communmity health within the schools.

As far as the investigation of the Kaplan "colleges;" no surprise there. Having worked briefly at a Kaplan college. I can tell you first hand, they are nothing but diploma mills. They are, however, the model for the DCPS and the IMPACT evaluation system.

Posted by: mcstowy | August 10, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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