18 schools' scores suspicious

Monday, July 13, 2009 5:26 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 9:44 PM
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Eighteen schools in Georgia – none in the Augusta area – made such drastic gains on state testing last year that their improvements were suspicious and warranted investigation, according to information released to The Augusta Chronicle today.

“I want to stress that this does NOT mean that all of these schools cheated,” Kathleen Mathers, executive director of Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, wrote in an e-mail.

Her office conducted an investigation of fifth-grade math scores on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The investigation – the office’s first investigation into cheating – focused on only the six most extreme improvements, those improvements of 3.5 standard deviations or more.

Ms. Mathers, however, told the State Board of Education last week that about 20 schools would have been scrutinized had 2 standard deviations, the more common statistical approach, been used as the threshold.

“Summer school is unusual in that considerably smaller numbers of kids are tested, which makes it easier to post bigger score gains than what we’d see with larger groups of students,” Ms. Mathers said in her e-mail to The Chronicle. “I don’t want readers to get the impression that the schools that were not investigated cheated simply because they posted impressive gains.”

Improvement of just one deviation would be significant and a great success, said Gordon Eisenman, dean of the College of Education at Augusta State University.

“Two is quite a bit as well, but three is almost out of the realm of possibility, especially in that time frame,” Dr. Eisenman said.

For one student to improve by three deviations is statistically similar to winning the lottery, he said. For an entire class to make such an improvement is like someone winning the lottery multiple times.

A school making a two-deviation improvement is so significant that it’s worth looking into, he said.

“I think every educator in America would like to know what they are doing so it can be duplicated,” Dr. Eisenman said.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement contracted with the Georgia Center for Assessment at the University of Georgia to further investigate the six most suspicious schools by analyzing the number of erasure marks and how often wrong answers were changed to right answers.

Through that process, insufficient evidence was found to continue investigations into Fair Street Elementary School in Gainesville and Adamsville Elementary in Atlanta. But such strong evidence was found that the State Board of Education tossed out the test scores of the other four schools last week. Those schools were Deerwood Academy of Atlanta Public Schools, Atherton Elementary of DeKalb County, Parklane Elementary of Fulton County and Burroughs-Molette Elementary of Glynn County.

Walter Jones of Morris News Service contributed to this story.


The following schools scored improvements of 2 standard deviations or more last year on math portion of the fifth-grade Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests:

School system - School

DeKalb County - Atherton Elementary

Glynn County - Burroughs Molette Elementary

Gainesville - Fair Street Elementary

Atlanta - Adamsville Elementary

Fulton County - Parklane Elementary

Atlanta - Deerwood Academy

Jefferson County - Louisville Academy

Oconee County - Oconee County Elementary

Brantley County - Waynesville Elementary

Savannah-Chatham County - Gould Elementary

Savannah-Chatham County - Ellis Elementary

Savannah-Chatham County - Georgetown Elementary

Dougherty County Lamar - Reese School of the Arts

Atlanta - Slater Elementary

Lowndes County - Clyattville Elementary

Lowndes County - Hahira Elementary

Oconee County Colham - Ferry Elementary

Floyd County - Alto Park Elementary

Source: Governor’s Office of Student Achievement

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corgimom 07/13/09 - 07:02 pm
Too bad the cheaters never

Too bad the cheaters never took statistics, they'd know that too much improvement is not realistic.

Taylor B
Taylor B 07/13/09 - 07:04 pm
cheater cheater pumpkin

cheater cheater pumpkin eaters!!!

FallingLeaves 07/13/09 - 07:28 pm
Oh my. It would be nice if

Oh my. It would be nice if they all had improved that much. Is it at all possible?

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 07/13/09 - 10:11 pm
Only 18.

Only 18.

Joeschlowe 07/13/09 - 10:32 pm
I would guess that funding

I would guess that funding must be involved. What else could it be. The almighty dollar strikes again!

class1 07/13/09 - 11:55 pm
Hopefully, they aren't done

Hopefully, they aren't done investigating. I can't believe there are only 18 schools being investigated. They need to look at the schools where the percentages of passing scores change a lot from one year to another. I guess the only fair way is for someone else to test the students instead of the teachers who taught the students. They just have too much a stake.

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 07/14/09 - 12:37 am
With so much money, so many

With so much money, so many professional careers and so many student futures at stake, why isn't each school system required to hire impartial testing monitors to observe testing sessions or testing administrators to give CRCTs, GHSGTs et al.?

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