Paper: Massive Cheating in L.A., Other Schools Districts Across America

MARCH 26, 2012


Yesterday the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a series on massive cheating on school tests across America, “Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation.” It specifically looked at nine districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District. Here’s what it found about the LAUSD:

“Enrollment: 664,233

“Eligible for free or reduced-price meals: 79 percent

“AJC analysis: In 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011, 740 classes showed unusual  changes, compared to an expected 572. Odds: 1 in 1 trillion.

“History: In 2010, Los Angeles shut down six charter schools accused of  cheating on state tests. Last year, the district accused teachers of giving questions to students in advance of testing, improperly coaching students and changing answers.

“High stakes: N/A”

“High stakes” means such things a rewarding teachers for student improvement, which in this case is “Non Applicable” because performance bonuses basically are barred in California because the unions protect poorly performing teachers.

Note that the statistical odds of the numbers turning out the way the LAUSD reported are 1 in 1 trillion — that is, impossible. Something similar was found in the rest of the nine districts that were looked at closely: Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, East St. Louis, Gary, Houston and Mobile County.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a liberal newspaper, so we can’t say this is carping by a conservative think tank. According to the paper:

“Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that  entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an  investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

“The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high  concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from  coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the  integrity of school testing.

“The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in  hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating  in multiple schools.

“A tainted and largely unpoliced universe of untrustworthy test results  underlies bold changes in education policy, the findings show. The tougher  teacher evaluations many states are rolling out, for instance, place more  weight than ever on tests.”

Atlanta Cheating Scandal

The Atlanta cheating scandal has been going on for three years now. According to Wikipedia:

The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal refers to the accusation that teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) district cheated on state-administered standardized tests and the subsequent fallout. The scandal began in 2009 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published analyses of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results which showed statistically unlikely test scores, including extraordinary gains or losses in a single year.[1] An investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) released in July 2011 found that 44 out of 56 schools cheated on the 2009 CRCT.[2] 178 teachers and principals were found to have fixed incorrect answers entered by students.[3] The size of the scandal has been described as one of the largest in United States history.[3][4][5]

The scandal has thrust the debate over using high-stakes testing to hold educators accountable, mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, into the national spotlight.[6] Teachers who confessed to cheating blamed “inordinate pressure” to meet targets set by the district and said they faced severe consequences such as a negative evaluation or termination if they didn’t.[6]

Prior to the scandal, the APS had been lauded for making significant gains in standardized test scores. Between 2002 and 2009, eight-graders’ (the grade level at which the CRCT is taken) scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test jumped 14 points, the highest of any urban area.[5] Superintendent Beverly Hall, who served from 1999 to 2010, was named Superintendent of the Year in 2009.[7] The GBI’s report said Hall “knew or should have known” about the scandal.[2] Hall’s lawyer has denied she had any knowledge of cheating practices.[5]

Of course, President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act is itself a centralizing abomination. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants just 18 powers to the federal government, none concerning education.

Federal Control

Test scores started plummeting across America right after the feds started getting deeply involved in local schools following the Sputnik scare in 1957. The federal government panicked, fearing that capitalist America was falling behind the Soviets’ socialist system in producing scientists and engineers. So they imposed a new, crash program to fund science and math education in the K-12 schools, as well as at universities.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, despite sending up into space Sputnik, the first satellite, and Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, quickly fell behind in the “Space Race.” It was Neil Armstrong, not a Soviet cosmonaut, who in 1969 was the first man to step foot on the moon. Twenty years after that, the Berlin Wall fell, the Cold War ended, and socialism was proved a total failure, although it remains the operating principle behind America’s K-12 schools and universities.

Predictably, federal control destroyed the salutary local autonomy that had been the hallmark of America’s education system. Since then, every president pushes his “education program.” The first President Bush (1989-92) had his Goals 2000 socialized education scheme. President Obama has his Race to the Top program.

Lance Izumi is an education analyst with the Pacific Research Foundation,’s parent think tank. He wrote recently:

“Waivers recently granted by President Obama to 10 states allowing them to escape the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act are themselves filled with prescriptive dictates from the administration.

“Obama offers seeming flexibility with one hand, while increasing control by Washington with the other. Nowhere, however, has his Washington-knows-best strategy been more evident than in his effort to force states to adopt national education standards.”

Yet nothing is working. The only results of the federal meddling have low test scores and scandals. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out:

“Perhaps more important, the analysis suggests a broad betrayal of  schoolchildren across the nation….

“The newspaper’s analysis suggests that tens of thousands of children may have  been harmed by inflated scores that could have precluded tutoring or more  drastic administrative actions.”

Meanwhile, back in Calfiornia, both Gov. Jerry Brown and legal activist Molly Munger are pushing tax increases that supposedly would increase education funding (although most of the money likely would go to pension payments). Yet the money, assuming it even reaches classrooms, only would keep the funding flowing to these schools for scandal.

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