Sunday, March 25, 2012

Atlanta paper's data suggest cheating on test scores at rural, urban schools; offers searchable database

Three years ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed cheating on test scores in the city's schools. Today the paper reported, "Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history. . . . Big-to-medium-sized cities and rural districts harbored the highest concentrations of suspect tests."

The newspaper's analysis identified unusual changes in student cohorts, those groups of students that move together from grade to grade. "While the analysis doesn't prove cheating, it found troubling patterns" in hundreds of school districts," the newspaper reports. "A typical (non-cheating) district might expect to have about 5 percent of its classes flagged for unusually high or low performance relative to their performances in the previous year. Districts which consistently have 10 percent or more of their classes flagged or which have an extremely high flag rate in a particular year certainly deserve further examination." The map below shows in yellow the districts in the former category; the districts in the latter category are in red.
Nebraska and Louisiana are not included in the data due to special circumstances. 
The paper has an online, searchable database here. The story was reported by Heather Vogell, John Perry, Alan Judd and M.B. Pell. They will be on a live, online chat at 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

UPDATE, March 27: Education Week reports on reactions and criticism of the reporting and says, "Test-cheating investigations typically take into account the number of wrong-to-right erasures on the tests themselves. Even though this one did not, the number of districts flagged for potential problems was small—just 1.3 percent of the total number investigated." (Read more)

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