Monday, December 05, 2011

Test Fraud in New Orleans Schools—Nothing to See Here

[Postscript, 9/2/12: Tonight, Peter Brimelow just published my VDARE Katrina update, “Revising Katrina for the Age of Obama.”]



Recovery School District to put cheating protections into place

Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 9:45 p.m.

By Andrew
The Times-Picayune


The state-run Recovery School District said Thursday it will take new steps to prevent cheating on the high-stakes standardized exams Louisiana students take each year. The district, which is responsible for a majority of New Orleans pupils, plans to pilot a set of procedures that will shorten the amount of time test booklets for the state's LEAP and Graduation Exit Exams sit at schools, down from as much as three weeks in some cases to just two days.



View full sizeRusty Costanza, The Times-Picayune archive Students cheer during a LEAP test pep rally at William Fischer Charter School in Algiers in April.


Along with random, unannounced visits by district staff and stepped-up training for school administrators on how to conduct testing, the RSD hopes the new policy will strengthen its firewall against the type of cheating scandals that have erupted in school systems from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., and that have threatened to discredit gains made by school reform efforts.


"This is a common-sense step that adds another layer of security to ensure adult error does not get in the way of student achievement," said RSD Superintendent John White.


So far, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread, systemic cheating in New Orleans. But in a politically charged atmosphere over school reform, plenty of critics are on the lookout for signs of impropriety.


And the length of time test booklets sit at schools emerged as a potential problem during a recent dustup over cheating allegations at Miller-McCoy Academy in eastern New Orleans.


In that case, a group of teachers charged that school administrators handed out math equations or essay topics days before testing that bore a suspicious resemblance to questions that popped up on the actual exams. Miller-McCoy officials characterized the episode as an attack by a disgruntled former teacher with ulterior motives, but the RSD eventually concluded that some kind of cheating probably had taken place.


[N.S. First off, whether a whistleblower is "a disgruntled former teacher" is not a proper response to charges of cheating. The charges are either true or false, not "disgruntled" or "content." Second, it wasn't one teacher, it was a group. Perhaps the Miller-McCoy officials once had a workshop training them in how to deflect charges of corruption, and were taught to respond to all such charges, "That was just a disgruntled former teacher." It didn't occur to them to change their boilerplate to the plural in the current case.]


The RSD plans to try its new testing procedure next month, when high school students who have failed the GEE will retake the test. If it goes smoothly, the same process will go citywide in the spring.


Under the existing procedure, schools get test booklets with enough time before exam week to take an inventory of what they've received from the state and order additional materials if needed. Now, school administrators will do their inventories at a central location under district supervision. Test answer sheets - but not the question booklets - will arrive at schools five days before testing to allow time for filling in names and Social Security numbers and noting any special accommodation a student needs. [E.g., "This student needs the test answers!"] The booklets will arrive two days before testing.


Also for the first time, the district will be providing training on the proper test procedures to all school personnel, rather than just school test administrators.


Cheating on standardized tests has become a national issue, with critics blaming the federal No Child Left Behind Act for attaching draconian penalties to failing scores. In Louisiana, schools that can't boost tests results above a certain bar face the possibility of a state takeover. {That would just require that state officials do all the cheating.]


Andrew Vanacore can be reached at or 504.826.3304.

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