Sixty D.C. Public Schools classrooms are being investigated for possible cheating on 2011 standardized tests -- up from just 18 classrooms in 2010 -- as city officials are now allowing D.C. Public Schools as well as the state schools agency to flag suspected teachers.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education identified 24 classrooms with unusual numbers of incorrect answers erased and changed to the correct ones, or with unusually high test score gains on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests. DCPS flagged 36 classrooms using different formulas. The 60 DCPS classrooms to be investigated are spread across 30 schools, and represent 5 percent of all classrooms the DC CAS was administered to in 2011.
In 2010, OSSE asked Caveon Test Security to investigate 18 classrooms. Three of those DCPS classrooms saw their scores thrown out for suspected or confirmed cheating. One teacher was fired, while two left the school system.
"Even one example of impropriety poses a threat to the hard, demanding work that each and every one of our employees puts in on a daily basis," said Cate Swinburn, DCPS chief of data and accountability. "But we in no way should jump to conclusions -- an investigator's presence in a particular school or in [a] particular classroom over the next few months is not an indictment. ..."
A new firm will replace Caveon as the auditor of whether testing irregularities add up to cheating.
Global firm Alvarez & Marsal, selected by OSSE, will investigate the classrooms and report back on any confirmed instances of cheating.
OSSE spokesman Marc Caposino said he could not comment on why OSSE recommended a new firm. "I believe it has something to do with the process of vendors that weren't selected, that's why we can't comment," he said.
DCPS officials said they supported OSSE's recommendation.
John Fremer, president of Caveon, said he was unsure why D.C. was moving in a different direction. Fremer said he had been misquoted in reports claiming that DCPS only let Caveon do a shallow probe; rather, he said, his firm had done everything possible.
Local political analyst Chuck Thies said the city was replacing Caveon because the public still believes cheating in D.C. schools hasn't been investigated thoroughly enough.
"This is politics and this is public relations, and sacrificial lambs are a part of the business," Thies said. "If [Caveon is] getting thrown under the bus and losing business from the District, well, they're a casualty of this war."