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Sumner shows up in national school ‘cheating’ report, defends record

Post by Matt Misterek / The News Tribune on April 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm with 4 Comments »
April 2, 2012 6:37 pm

Sumner is one of four Washington state school districts identified in a recent national investigation by the Atlanta Journal Constitution for showing improvements in student test scores that appear to defy the numerical odds.

The investigation, also the subject of a story in Sunday’s Seattle Times, says the Sumner, Tahoma, Mukilteo and Kennewick school districts showed suspicious swings in year-to-year standardized test results.

Sumner officials strongly defended the security of their testing regimen on Monday. In a statement to The News Tribune, they said staff has done exemplary work the last few years to rise to meet federal standards, and that any suggestion “teachers or principals are cheating to improve school performance is defamatory at best.”

The AJC investigation, called “Cheating our Children,” was prompted by a scandal last year in which state investigators found high-level cheating on high-stakes tests in half of Atlanta’s elementary and middle schools. To see how widespread the problem might be, a team of reporters and database specialists from the AJC obtained scores from 2008-2011 from every state and separated the scores into “classes” made up of all students in a given grade at a given school.

They then used a mathematical formula to predict what each class’s average test score should have been each year. If a class’s actual scores were far off from the prediction, the class was “flagged.”

Having 5 percent of classes flagged was normal, the newspaper said. In each of the 200 identified districts across the country, more than 10 percent of classes were flagged. In each case, the newspaper reported, the odds of that happening “by chance alone” were less than 1 in 1,000.

Sumner had 9 percent flagged in 2008, 6.8 percent in 2009, 15.9 percent in 2010 and 13.6 percent in 2011.

The AJC report has come under fire for its methodology. Some critics have noted that the analysis did not account for aberrations caused by students moving in or out of the district, or in or out of individual schools, in the middle of a school year or between school years.

Sumner Superintendent Craig Spencer said Monday:

We stand by our testing security and the systems we have in place to ensure student assessment data is both protected and secure. The gains that we are seeing are a being made classroom by classroom, where high performing teachers deliver quality instruction.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. KooKooKitty says:

    I say we’ve been “Cheating Our Children” for YEARS with the touchy-feely everybody is a winner and can accomplish the same goal mentality.
    This just shows how adept teachers are becoming at teaching to the test.

  2. Naslund19 says:

    After nearly 15 years of doing this job I might debate whether we fully teach to the test, but I couldn’t to it that vehemently. When I taught in Washington and now in California the message has been very clear, “The only results that count are 4-6 days in May.” Even the dimmest bulb in the package understands that if the sum total of your judgement is going to be based on one test then you had better do what you can to see that your charges do the best that they can. As a parent and a teacher, it is easy to see the evil’s of one high stakes test to measure a students growth over a time period. As a special education teacher this is even more of a concern. And if you think teaching to a test is going away, it isn’t especially now that many states and districts are going to value added evaluations. Those tests scores now become a part of how you are evaluated. More motivation than ever to see that those kids are good test takers at the detriment of other skills they surely need to survive in a depressed global economy.

  3. commoncents says:

    Can anyone provide me a reason for a top 5% elementary aged student to even bother with the MSP other than to provide the school/district the ability to tout their scores to the press and public? Surely it’s not so that the student can see how they are doing in comparison to others…and the scores come in too late to add value to the teacher. Obviously a kid like this is not going to need remedial support so what’s the point?

  4. rawdibob says:

    Come on now! Somehow Sumner, Tahoma, Mukilteo and Kennewick school districts have to show the Feds that they have improve student learning to qualify for all the goodies the Feds want to send them. It makes very little difference if the students learn or not.

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