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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