Local: Education

D.C. rolls out new security measures for standardized tests

Local,DC,Education,Rachel Baye

D.C. teachers will not supervise standardized testing in their own classrooms during this year's testing period in an effort to reduce their chances of tampering with students' answers, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Thursday.

The tests will be sealed, and teachers will have contact with the tests for less time, Henderson told the D.C. Council's Education Committee.

Education Committee Chairman David Catania has introduced a bill that would force teachers or administrators caught cheating to lose their teaching credentials and pay up to a $10,000 fine.

The measures are among new efforts that city and schools officials are making to stop teachers from cheating or helping students cheat on standardized tests. Cheating has been a persistent problem in the city since at least 2009, shortly after the city's school system began using students' performance on the tests to rate teachers' effectiveness and determine whether they get to keep their jobs.

Last week, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education announced that cheating likely occurred in 18 testing groups -- classrooms or groups of classrooms -- in 11 schools and that those classes would have their 2012 DC Comprehensive Assessment System test scores invalidated. Because the cheating was apparent in less than 1 percent of the testing groups and at 4.5 percent of the District's traditional public and charter schools, DC Public Schools pointed to the data as evidence that cheating is not a widespread problem.

That announcement closely followed the release of a 2009 memo from a DCPS-hired consultantsuggesting that cheating may have occurred at more schools than the city has let on.

On the heels of these two seemingly conflicting reports, D.C. Council members on Thursday told Henderson, Inspector General Charles Willoughby and the OSSE to do more to find out if cheating is happening and, if it is, put a stop to it.

Both of last week's reports are just the latest in a series of cheating scandals in major cities, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. In August, Willoughby's office announced evidence of cheating at Noyes Education Campus in 2010.

On Thursday, Catania criticized DCPS and the IG's office for making past investigations too narrow to accurately detect the scope of the problem. He suggested the school system test classrooms at random for signs of cheating.

"We narrow ourselves into the conclusion that we don't have a problem," he said. "There is a weakness in this system that must be ferreted out and strengthened."

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