Campbell’s Law And Student Test Scores

No one could have possibly foreseen this (boldface mine):

Thirty years ago, the public schools in Prince George’s County, Md., were hailed as symbols of success. Their students ranked in the 70th percentile nationally in reading and math. Prince George’s seemed to be powerful evidence against the idea that a mostly black school district with a high concentration of children from low- to moderate-income families could not thrive. In the ensuing years, achieving success came to be more of a challenge. The schools began to see ever-larger concentrations of poor children, with nearly two-thirds of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

Even so, the numbers continued to look good for a few years. There was a simple reason for that, says Daniel Koretz, an education professor at Harvard University who has studied the county’s school system. In Koretz’ blunt words, the numbers were “juiced.” Test preparation was prioritized over genuine instruction. Children spent much of their time being trained to navigate the ever-more frequent exams and were tipped off on the actual test questions. The school district started test preparation in kindergarten for exams that students wouldn’t take until third grade.

The first danger signal came when Maryland changed its state exams in the 1990s. The district’s scores plummeted.

But it’s not just for test scores any more! As we’ve seen in D.C. (which also had test score cheating under Chancellor and bunkum artist Michele Rhee), the graduation rates are being fudged too:

In 2010, Rushern Baker was elected Prince George’s county executive. …Baker devised a reform plan. Copying aspects of school turnaround efforts in Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., Baker leveraged his connections in the state Capitol to convince lawmakers to hand him control of the district. It would be Baker, and not the school board, who picked the school chief. Baker tapped Kevin Maxwell, a former principal, to run the district in 2013, and in 2017 he renewed Maxwell’s contract. The plan seemed to be working. After losing 13,000 students in fewer than 10 years, county schools saw an increase that brought them near their peak enrollment of 137,000 students in the early 2000s. With the increased enrollment, the district had the funds to offer more courses. Perhaps most important, graduation rates began to rise as well, increasing from 73 percent to 81 in four years.

With a seemingly successful turnaround under his belt, Baker launched a run for governor. But the turnaround, and specifically the higher graduation rate, were illusions. An audit conducted in 2017 by the management consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal revealed that nearly 30 percent of the students who graduated from Prince George’s public high schools in 2016 and 2017 were granted diplomas after questionable grade changes. The audit revealed that 5,496 students received late grade alterations submitted after the grading deadline. When the auditors examined transcripts of 1,200 of those students, they could not verify that 297 of them had completed their graduation requirements.

The auditors went on to allege that the cheating was extensive and involved not only teachers, but guidance counselors and school administrators as well. Students, according to the audit, were passed through a credit recovery program that teachers said watered down graduation requirements. Administrators graded makeup assignments. A handful of teachers said they could be punished for not passing enough students. A significant number of 2016 and 2017 graduates had more than 10 unauthorized absences, indicating that grading policies related to attendance were not being followed by some schools.

At the center of the controversy was DuVal High School, which recorded a 92 percent graduation rate even though fewer than 1 in 4 students scored proficiently in reading and writing.

The article describes all of the other places this happened: they all share the common features of fraudulent test scores and graduation rates. And this all stemmed from Little Lord Pontchartrain’s education policies (so can desperate Democrats stop talking about how classy he was? He was a fucking catastrophe in so many areas). Again, at the time these policies were implemented (and thereafter), it was obvious that any metric used for hiring and firing would become corrupted and that massive changes would be illusory. Had these schools instituted real instructional and curricular reform that addresses the problem of students who are years behind where they should be, maybe these changes could have been real, but flogging teachers and prinicipals without those changes would only lead to the obvious conclusion–and kids paid the price.

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One Response to Campbell’s Law And Student Test Scores

  1. Evil Overwench says:

    Not only does this short change the students in these schools, who needed to have a whole lot of remediation for reading, writing, math and science (history and civics would be nice too, but I don’t want to ask for the moon here), this kind of thing also devalues a high school degree for kids who actually earned one. It’s probably part of the reason you have to go to college in order to land a job that should only require a high-school level education.

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