Local: Education

Inspector general confirms cheating at D.C. elementary school

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Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

The D.C. inspector general confirmed cheating by teachers on the 2010 standardized tests at Noyes Education Campus, but found no evidence of widespread cheating across the school system, according to a report released Wednesday.

The question remains exactly how widespread cheating was in the Ward 5 school. Teachers offered investigators conflicting accounts of how high up the decision was made to help students improve their scores; monitors say former Principal Wayne Ryan prohibited them from entering classrooms to observe testing, which Ryan denies.

While investigators confirmed cheating at Noyes, they found no evidence to warrant a larger probe of D.C. schools, whose results are reviewed annually by independent firms hired by the city.

"I expect that this study will put to rest claims about widespread wrongdoing," said D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

A March 2011 article in USA Today questioned the large gains made by Noyes students on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams. On the 2009 reading test, seventh-graders in one classroom changed 12.7 wrong answers on average to the correct ones, according to erasure analyses. Statisticians told the newspaper the "odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize."

Henderson asked the inspector general to investigate the article's findings in a March 29 letter.

That May, the school system's firm confirmed cheating at Noyes and "possible irregularities" at C.W. Harris and Leckie elementary schools during the 2010 testing.

According to the inspector general's report, investigators discussed concerns with Stanton and Burrville elementaries with Henderson, but the chancellor said situations at those schools had been resolved. As for J.O. Wilson Elementary, which showed a high number of erasures in 80 percent of its classrooms, "the chancellor said that she does not consider a high number of erasures to be a problem and she feels that the rising scores at that school are indicative of the quality teachers there."

The investigators said they did not have enough evidence to expand the probe beyond Noyes.

At Noyes, "Teacher 1" said a test coordinator asked teachers to create strategic seating charts, placing students who could reach the "proficiency" level with assistance in the back of the classrooms. Teacher 1 silently pointed at wrong answers until the students changed them. The test coordinator denies the claim.

Teacher 1 also said another teacher shared copies of the exam with her "to do what you need to do." According to Teacher 1, they both doctored the test questions to provide sample questions for their preparing students.

A third teacher told investigators the test monitor gave copies of the exam to all teachers, who went over the exams with students ahead of time.

Two testing monitors dispatched by DC Public Schools said they were forbidden from entering certain classrooms with closed doors. The principal and test coordinator both deny these claims.

Ryan, who was promoted to an instructional superintendent position in 2010, resigned from DCPS in June 2011.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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