NATIONAL OPINION: Denver schools’ leadership moves against cheating

By The Denver Post

The potential that there was cheating on standardized tests at two Denver elementary schools is disappointing and demoralizing news for a school district that has positioned itself at the vanguard of school reform.
There’s no getting around that.
But the way in which the statistical aberrations were uncovered at Beach Court Elementary and Hallett Fundamental Academy, and the vigor with which Denver Public Schools pursued them, says a lot about the administration’s commitment to accountability.
And even if the allegations are true, that is not by itself indicative that standardized testing or reform efforts have corrupted education.
Tom Boasberg, the district’s superintendent, told us he undertook a districtwide analysis of test scores last fall after several cheating scandals made headlines around the country.
There were no whispers of problems in Denver. No suspicions. No doubts that the great improvements at some DPS schools were the product of anything other than hard work.
They looked at it several ways: Did children do much better on multiple-choice questions than written responses? Did students do equally well on easy and hard questions? When kids changed schools, did their scores go up or down?
They found “statistically improbable results,” and went to the state Department of Education for further analysis, particularly on answer sheet erasures, which also charted high. The investigation is ongoing.
To be sure, standardized testing has increased in the last decade to measure student progress and hold districts accountable for the education they deliver. Some parents have bridled at the trend, saying it has forced schools to teach to the test.
And yet, such testing has shined a new light on how well – or poorly – children of different racial groups and income levels are being served by the system. It’s a valuable tool.
Any suggestion that the potential transgressions of what may be a small group of educators is an indictment of standardized testing is like saying college term papers ought to be abolished because a couple of students were caught plagiarizing.
It doesn’t track.
It likely will be some weeks before the investigation of the DPS elementaries is concluded. And if cheating is confirmed, there then will be a detailed picture of what happened and how to prevent repeat episodes.
The Denver Post