Posts Tagged ‘test cheating’

CPS test cheating – focus on “bubble” kids

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

From a parent who received this message from a teacher:bubblesheetcrop

This kind of thing is happening all over, and it’s awful. This idea of concentrating on kids “on the bubble” is terrible educational practice (or malpractice…)

Begin forwarded message:

From: (teacher wishes to remain anonymous)
Date: February 12, 2014 at 9:39:42 AM CST
To: ******
Subject: NWEA

Today we had a grade level meeting about the NWEA scores for the fourth grade students at my school. We teachers were all given printouts of our students’ most recent scores: RIT bands, percentiles, the whole shebang.

Then we were instructed to highlight the students in our classes who had scored between the 37th and 50th percentile. These students, the admin informed us, are the most important students in the class; they are the ones most likely to reach the 51st percentile when students take the NWEA again in May.

Making the 51st percentile is VERY important to CPS, and thus to principals, literacy coordinators, test specialists and teachers-who-don’t-want-to-lose-their-jobs.

It might not be important to individual students, their parents or anyone else, but it is life or death in Chicago Public Schools.

We nodded, wide-eyed.  These students, our guide continued, should be your primary focus.  Make sure they get whatever they need to bring them up to that percentile. Sign them up for any and all academic programs, meet with them daily in small groups, give them extra homework, have them work with available tutors…whatever it takes.

What about the kids at the very bottom, one teacher wondered, the kids under the 20th percentile…shouldn’t they be offered more support too?  The admin squirmed a bit. Well, they don’t really have any chance of hitting the goal, so for right now, no.  There was silence.

Left unsaid was what might, could, will happen to any school that does NOT have enough students meet that magic number. No one really needs to say it. We all saw the 50 schools that got closed down last year.  We see the charters multiplying around us.  We’ve also seen the steady stream of displaced teachers come through our school doors as substitutes.  We know that we could be next.

School rankings -> data manipulation

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Some call it accountability.

But public ranking of schools based on specific data points will always result in some lying, cheating and manipulation, especially if there’s a monetary incentive.

The latest scandal is that of the now former dean of admissions the University of Illinois law school, Paul Pless, who attempted to scam the U. S. News and World Report annual law school rankings by including a group of early-admissions students without using their LSAT (law school entrance exam) scores in the report.

As the Chicago Tribune reports,

By admitting high-achieving students in their junior years, without a law school entrance exam, the students’ high GPAs would be included in the class profile but no test scores could potentially drag down the class.”That way, I can trap about 20 of the little bastards with high GPA’s that count and no LSAT score to count against my median. It is quite ingenious,” Pless boasted in a 2008 e-mail exchange…

The college’s strategic plans and annual reports focused on that ranking. Pless’ salary increases were tied to it.

We have just gone through the annual school report card media orgy. Who’s on first? What’s the worst? Yet these media rankings are based on state standardized tests, the ISATs, which have long been exposed as “dumbed-down.” The state designed these tests to yield falsely inflated results to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act’s ridiculous adequate yearly progress targets.

Recently, Illinois identified 33 schools where there was significant test cheating.

So, why is it that so many civic and political leaders are so determined to make public school student data central to teacher and principal job evaluation?


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.