The cheating will continue until morale improves

Atlanta wasn’t an isolated incident. Neither was El Paso, or Washington, DC, or Columbus. A new General Accounting Office report demonstrates that cheating by school officials on standardized tests has become commonplace despite the use of security measures the report recommends. The only solution is one that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has so far refused—removing the high stakes attached to standardized testing.

The latest embarrassment is in Columbus, where this month Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost seized records at 20 high schools. This is part of a two-year-old investigation into “scrubbing” 2.8 million attendance records of students who failed tests. Yost has recently widened his investigation to look into whether school administrators also changed grades to boost graduation rates.

A GOA reportreleased May 16 recommends adopting “leading practices to prevent test irregularities.” However, the report reveals that while all states and the District of Columbia use at least some of the recommended best practices, 33 states had confirmed instances of test cheating in the last two school years. And states where the worst offenses are occurring already have adopted most of the practices identified in the report, making it unlikely that greater security will improve test integrity.

Ohio employs five of the nine security plans recommended by the GOA report. Atlanta, where the superintendent and 34 other educators were recently indicted for changing test answers, has adopted eight of nine security practices, as has Texas, where the former El Paso superintendant is now in federal prison for a scheme to encourage low-performing students to drop out. And Washington, D.C., where 191 teachers at 70 schools were implicated in a rash of wrong-to-right erasure marks on tests, uses every single security measure.

The Department of Education responded to the GAO’s findings by holding a symposium on test integrity and issuing a follow-up report on best practices and policies. But the federal government convening a meeting and issuing yet another report might be even less effective at stopping cheating than increased security.

The report also noted that linking awards and recognition to improving test scores and threatening the jobs of principals for low test scores “could provide incentives to cheat.” But at a conference of education writers in April, Sec. Arne Duncan denied that linking test scores to career outcomes could drive educators to criminally manipulate the system.

“I reject the idea that the system forces people to cheat,” he said.

Maybe so, but cheating now seems inherent in the system, and our Education Secretary seems incurious as to why. It’s even hard to get him to admit there is an epidemic of test cheating. Asked about the Ohio investigation, Duncan said, “I almost don’t know of another situation like this.”

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How "top charters" screen students

It's no secret that the vast majority of Ohio charter schools are rated F, but what of some of the "high performing" schools? It is with those in mind, we read with interest the article "The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment" .

This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.
Yet little attention has been paid to the mechanisms that generate these differences. One exception is an article in February of 2013, written by reporter Stephanie Simon of Reuters, which described a variety of ways that charter schools “get the students they want” (Simon, 2013):
  • Applications that are made available just a few hours a year.
  • Lengthy application forms, often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.
  • Requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs. The U.S. Department of Education considers this practice illegal on the college level but has not addressed the issue for K-12 schools.

We thought we would pick one charter school and test this hypothesis. We picked DAYTON EARLY COLLEGE ACADEMY, INC. (DECA), as they were elevated by they Fordham Foundation and recently testified on the budget as part of a "coalition of high performing charters".

Following introductions from Fordham’s Terry Ryan, Dayton Early College Academy’s Superintendent Judy Hennessey began to speak in front of the Subcommittee only to be interrupted by Committee Chair Senator Randy Gardner, “Senator [Peggy] Lehner has just commented you lead one of the best schools in the country.”

Jokingly Judy Hennessey nodded and said, “Now we are striving for world class.”

The application process.

Here's DECA's application, which can also be downloaded here.

High School Application 2013-14

The first thing you will note is the application form is 23 pages long, requiring hundreds of pieces of information to be entered including report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records. In fact, all mechanisms mentioned in the reuters article commonly used to screen prospective students. This is a significant barrier that only the most determined parent is likely to scale.

The page where the applications can be downloaded clearly states, in bold, "Incomplete applications will not be considered."

A parent who is likely to complete such a detailed, lengthy application is likely a parent who is going to be engaged in their child's education to a greater degree than a parent who is unlikely to apply.

Furthermore, as is pointed out in the 12 approaches charters use to screen for students, this application is in English only. No second language form is available on the application webpage- making English as a second language applications far less likely.

You will also see that on page 5 of the application

Documents needed for a complete application
 Student birth certificate
 Student social security card

"Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even though such documents cannot be required under federal law." is one of the tell-take screening mechanisms charters use.

The DECA application form also requests that applicants document any disabilities or special needs, another potential barrier spelled out in the article.

So we can plainly see then, that while DECA may produce above average results for a charter school, it can do so because it has a highly selective application process that is likely to screen out lower performing students.

The performance results

We were expecting a charter school whose leader professed to be aiming for "world class standards" to be rated Excellent with Distinction. DECA is not, indeed it is not even rated Excellent, instead it rates as "Effective" according to the latest data available from ODE.

Building IRN 009283
Building Name Dayton Early College Academy, Inc
District IRN 043844
District Name Dayton City
County Montgomery
Principal Judy Hennessey
Grade Span 7-12
Open/Closed Status (as of 9/18/2012) Open
Designation Effective
Number of standards met 14
Number of standards possible 17
Enrollment 411
Performance Index Score 2011-12 99.1
Performance Index Score 2010-11 100.5
Performance Index Score 2009-10 96.2
2012 Attendance AYP N/A
2012 Graduation AYP Not Met
2012 Reading AYP Met
2012 Math AYP Met
2012 Overall AYP Not Met
Four-Year "On-Time" Graduation Rate Numerator 2010-11 35

These aren't bad results, indeed compared to the majority of F rated charter schools they are positively giddy. But, given the arduous application screening process, and the "effective" rating, it's a far cry from being world beating, and a very far cry from the world of traditional public schools which have to accept every student from the district that walks through the door.

Education News for 03-06-2013

State Education News

  • Ohio school superintendent finalists have questions in past (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Richard A. Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s education adviser and former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools, pleaded guilty to a operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless operation, speeding, and driving without a seatbelt after being pulled over in Powell, Ohio...Read more...

  • State no longer flags school-worker probes (Columbus Dispatch)
  • We used to be able to tell you whether the state was investigating local educators for misconduct. Those days, apparently, are over…Read more...

  • Officials concerned about looming cuts (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Schools could see a loss in shared service programs and staff positions if proposed funding cuts are implemented, according to area officials…Read more...

  • Panel warns Yo. BOE: Keep Hathorn or we’ll take over (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Youngstown schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn is staying put in the district, and the board of education has been warned to keep it that way, or lose control of the schools altogether…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Jobs, busing may feel ax as Columbus schools face $25 million shortfall (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Eliminating more than 300 jobs, shortening the school day, dropping middle-school sports and ending all high-school transportation — including for charter and private schools…Read more...

  • Fairfield schools to increase security (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Fairfield City Schools plans to increase security following a review of its buildings in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting…Read more...

  • Group of Strongsville High School students say they 'will not be silenced' from talking about (Sun Newspapers)
  • About 20 students at Strongsville High School held a silent rally outside the Board of Education office March 5…Read more...

  • All sides in Strongsville teachers strike say they want deal, but no talks are scheduled (Sun Newspapers)
  • It's official - all sides involved in the ongoing Strongsville teachers strike have said they are ready to continue negotiating…Read more...

  • Austintown teachers break off without a vote on a new contract (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Austintown teachers met Tuesday but broke off without a vote on a new contract with the school board…Read more...

Education News for 02-15-2013

Local Education News

  • James tackles Akron, state issues in ‘State of the Schools’ speech (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James gave his fifth annual “State of the Schools” address Thursday, detailing challenges stemming…Read more...

  • Normal school security routine returns Monday (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • The atmosphere at Chillicothe Middle and High School is expected to regain a sense of normalcy on Monday after a week of boosted police presence at the campus…Read more...

  • Findlay evaluations will look for gifted students (Findlay Courier)
  • Findlay City Schools Gifted Services is arranging evaluations of students in kindergarten through 12th grade to determine if they are gifted in the visual and performing arts areas of dance, drama, music and visual arts…Read more...

  • New internal assessments elicit cautious optimism for Toledo Public Schools (Toledo Blade)
  • As Toledo Public Schools found itself mired in public turmoil in recent months, with a search for a new superintendent, a state investigation that criticized attendance…Read more...

  • McDonald officials reject arming teachers (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • McDonald schools have hired local off-duty police officers who will rotate for an eight-hour shift daily to provide additional security at the schools…Read more...


  • Question of adequacy (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • For more than 20 years two concepts have dominated the school-funding debate in Ohio: adequacy and equity. Equity points to a distribution issue…Read more...

Education News for 01-22-2013

State Education News

  • Ohio now restricts school’s use of seclusion rooms, physical restraint (Athens Messenger)
  • For the first time, Ohio has a policy that limits a school’s use of seclusion and restraint for difficult students. Schools must now adopt positive behavior interventions and support…Read more…

  • School rules guide whistle-blowers (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Amid a statewide investigation into data manipulation in schools, districts are creating rules to guide employees if they want to report workers who violate laws or ethics.…Read more…

  • Schools await Kasich’s funding model (Lima News)
  • They want more money and a school-funding system that is fair. But area school officials also just hope for a little honesty.…Read more…

  • Turning the page (Mason HS Chronicle)
  • More third graders than ever before could be held back next year. Due to recent legislation that alters current reading level standards for the 2013-14 school year.…Read more…

  • Ranking brings school funding model under scrutiny (Middletown Journal)
  • Ohio recently was ranked 17th in the nation for its school finance, despite the fact that Ohio’s school funding model has been declared unconstitutional three times since 1997.…Read more…

Local Education News

  • Could shared services save Ohio districts $1B a year? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • State leaders are urging school districts, like other local government agencies, to share services and costs, operate more efficiently and reserve more tax dollars for core purposes.…Read more…

  • Board, referee clash over teacher firing (Findlay Courier)
  • A Liberty-Benton veteran teacher, fired this week by the school board, should not have been terminated because the board failed to provide documented evidence for its claim that he had a history of classroom management problems…Read more…

  • School patrols increase (Lisbon Morning Journal)
  • Ever since last month's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., sheriff's deputies have been performing security checks during the school day at five school districts.…Read more…

  • Safer schools start with information (New Philadelphia Times)
  • School districts in Tuscarawas, Carroll, Harrison and Belmont counties are being offered free technology that would assist first responders dealing with emergencies at area schools.…Read more…

  • Kiwanis takes stand against bullying (Portsmouth Daily Times)
  • The Kiwanis Club of Portsmouth has taken a stand against bullying and did so with a recent presentation by club president John Johnson.…Read more…

  • Deputies could be added to help with Clark schools (Springfield News-Sun)
  • New Clark County sheriff’s deputies could be hired as part of a program to boost security in schools, a local response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings.…Read more…

  • Boosters, PTO slate reception for new superintendent (This Week News)
  • The Northridge Academic Boosters and Northridge PTO invite the community to a "Welcome to Northridge" for new Superintendent Dr. Chris Briggs.…Read more…

  • Chardon Schools' installation of security cameras now almost complete (Willoughby News Herald)
  • Chardon School District’s goal of installing technologically advanced security cameras in and around all of its buildings is nearing completion.…Read more…

  • Liberty schools expecting another audit (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Liberty schools are awaiting another report from Ohio Auditor David Yost, after a 2011 financial audit was released earlier this week, schools Superintendent Stan Watson said.…Read more…


  • Alert to danger (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Last week, at the first of five regional training sessions, educators and law enforcement officers received graphic and sometimes emotional lessons about how to respond to the kind of shooting incidents that have gripped the nation’s attention.…Read more…

  • Alone in school (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Think of isolation rooms and physical restraints, and the mind goes not to schools but to prison cells for violent criminals or to efforts to prevent mentally unstable patients from hurting themselves or others.…Read more…

  • Right direction (Columbus Dispatch)
  • With a new State Board of Education policy limiting the use of “seclusion rooms” for students whose behavior is out of control, Ohio schools and students will be better off than they were before.…Read more…

  • Good start (Findlay Courier)
  • Limiting access to Findlay's elementary buildings won't stop all unwelcome visitors. But it should help. …Read more…

Education News for 01-18-2013

State Education News

  • Big changes could be coming to transfer rule (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • The word "transfer" appears 58 times in the Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaw covering eligibility…Read more...

  • Teachers get training on how to cope with shooter (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Like tornado and fire drills, lockdowns have become common practice in schools…Read more...

  • Yost seeks periodic head count of students (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Conducting official head counts of schoolchildren several times a year would discourage the “ scrubbing” of student data, the state auditor says…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Southeastern, Piketon schools honored for clean audit reports (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • State Auditor Dave Yost has announced a pair of local school governmental bodies have been presented the Auditor of State Award for clean audit reports…Read more...

  • Local teachers train to handle active shooters (Dayton Daily News)
  • The first group of 200 Ohio teachers were trained on Thursday about how to handle an active shooter situation in a school and hundreds more have signed up for upcoming classes…Read more...

  • Local schools wrestle with cost of security (WKYC)
  • Schools across the country are developing plans to avoid tragedies like Sandy Hook but increased security comes with increased costs…Read more...

  • City schools facing $48 million deficit (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • The city school district is facing a $48 million deficit by 2017 without reductions or additional revenue, according to its five-year forecast…Read more...


  • Ohio searches for that elusive set of tests that does it all (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • The controversy over how and when to test Ohio students has been going on for 20 years, and rather than being settled, it is entering yet another iteration…Read more...