A D.C. inspector general's report that found cheating at a Northeast school but ruled out widespread cheating in DC Public Schools was slammed by local and national teachers unions as too limited in its scope.
Instead of rooting out cheating across the school system, "This incomplete and inadequate report cheats kids and parents in the District of Columbia," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby's office began investigating cheating in DCPS after receiving a letter from Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson in March 2011. The office was asked to investigate allegations of cheating made in a USA Today article questioning large year-to-year gains made at certain schools on the 2009 and 2010 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
On the 2009 reading test, seventh-graders in one classroom at Noyes Education Campus 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," raising concerns that teachers had artificially enhanced their students' answer sheets.
In the report, Willoughby's office explained that his office took its charge at face value and investigated the focus of the USA Today article: Noyes. While the inspector general confirmed cheating at Noyes, he said he found no evidence to expand the probe -- drawing the ire of Weingarten and Washington Teachers' Union President Nathan Saunders.
"We are disappointed by the methodology, results and limited scope of the inspector general's investigation, that only examines testing irregularities at one school, fails to interview students, and essentially ignores systemic indicators of cheating at other schools in the District of Columbia," Saunders said.
Both Weingarten and Saunders said that the District's current teacher evaluations -- which link students' exam scores to teachers' evaluations, job security and salaries -- create a flawed environment in which teachers across the system may have felt compelled to boost their students' scores through cheating.
"The OIG stands by its report," said Blanche Bruce, the deputy inspector general and a spokeswoman for the office.
Bruce declined to answer specific questions about the decision to not investigate further at J.O. Wilson Elementary School, which had a high number of incorrect answers erased and corrected in 80 percent of its classrooms but where an independent test security firm had found no evidence of cheating. In the report, the inspector general cited Henderson vouching for J.O. Wilson as one of his reasons for not following up.
Melissa Salmanowitz, a spokeswoman for Henderson, declined to comment.
In releasing the inspector general's report, Henderson said she was disappointed in the employees who had cheated at Noyes, but glad the report had put to rest rumors of widespread cheating in DCPS.
"This is consistent with all previous studies of DCPS results and confirms what I have long held to be true," Henderson said.