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Starr Defends Highland Elementary School's Turnaround

The Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent repudiated an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that investigated cheating at National Blue Ribbon Schools.

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.

Read Starr’s full statement on the MCPS website, and the full news story on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

Theresa Defino May 01, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Upon closer reading of the AJC story, I am deleting my comments. I was wrong; it's more than an accusation. It seems to be a foregone conclusion. My apologies.
Commentous May 01, 2012 at 03:18 PM
No need to apologize. I appreciate it. I've done the same myself on a couple of occasions.
Theresa Defino May 01, 2012 at 03:29 PM
But it is distressing that Highland's achievements have not been sustained.
Commentous May 01, 2012 at 05:11 PM
It's not a positive, but the percentage at "proficient" or "advanced" in grades 3-5 is still very high. For reading, 3rd-5th, the total percentage for each of these grades is about 85/95/95 respectively. For math, it's 83/91/90. These figures compare very well against schools outside of the very affluent areas. For example, Higland View has reading scores for these grades at 87/98/95 and math at 93/87/79. Pine Crest (PC) and Oak View (OV) hold the magnet programs for 4th and 5th graders and these schools have figures of 87/89/92 (PC reading) and 77/87/83 (PC math) and 89/93/89 (OV reading) and 89/93/83 (OV math). I wouldn't want Highland to continue its downward trend, but right now the numbers are still very good.
mina May 16, 2012 at 10:24 AM
I find it very offensive to down grade a school because of the dynamic view point of the financial status, I am a mother who volunteers at the school and participates daily in assisting the staff. It's majority Hispanic culture and a mixture of African American and some Caucasians, so because its Not dominated by the Caucasian it race its considered low/middle class, poor unintelligent children...My son is in first grade and I am amazed at what these little youngsters are learning. It behooves me that this County is still stuck on racism a white superiority that the mind of young Hispanic, and Blacks are not at all advanced as there counter partners...that just makes me laugh...

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