Do statistically improbable gains in standardized testing scores indicate that a school is cheating in some way?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution turned the spotlight on Wheaton’s this weekend in a story about National Blue Ribbon Schools, “Cheating our children: Suspect scores put award’s integrity in question.”
Highland Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2009, the government’s highest educational honor. But just four years earlier, the state of Maryland had threatened to take away county control of the school because of poor scores. Although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article never directly accused Highland of tampering with results, it cast doubt on whether the school honestly earned the award.
"There's no evidence of cheating that we've seen," Maryland State Department of Education spokesperson Bill Reinhard told Patch.
Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr called the article “irresponsible” in a statement released Monday morning. He defended the school’s dramatic improvements:
Let me be clear: The turnaround that occurred at Highland Elementary School was the result of having a great school leader and a motivated staff that had the training, support and resources it needed to serve its students. There has never been an allegation of cheating at Highland Elementary School since the school’s turnaround began and the school continues to get tremendous results even as its resources have been cut significantly over the past four years.
In his response, Starr focused on what he says the AJC reporter left out of the story:
The article suggests that the fact that Highland didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2011 is a further indication of questionable results in the past. Yet, the authors fail to mention that in 2011, Highland missed AYP by four students in just one subgroup—special education—in mathematics during a year that the Academic Measurable Objective increased. This data tells us nothing about Highland, but rather speaks to the absurdity of the AYP formula.