Goodloe-Johnson Protege Stumbles in Test Achievement Quest

This article appeared in the October 31, 2008 NY Times. It details questions about a principal-hero at an elementary school in Charleston, S.C. (Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's previous city of employment) and the school's sharply rising test scores. From a story in the Charleston Post and Courier dated June 12, 2008 that details Ms. Moore's decision to move to another district in North Carolina:

"Moore has earned respect and recognition for her dramatic transformation of Sanders-Clyde, which once was one of the academically weakest schools in the district. The school now outscores district and state averages.

Former schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was so impressed with Moore's leadership that she asked her to guide a second school through a similar transformation. This year was Moore's first to lead Sanders-Clyde and Fraser simultaneously, and preliminary test scores from Fraser showed strong gains. Moore is the only county principal who was responsible for two schools this year."

(Indeed, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson got in spot of trouble for naming Ms. Moore to be a dual-school principal without talking to her School Board.)

Apparently, Ms. Moore bend over backward for her community. From the Times article:

"MiShawna Moore has been a hero in the worn neighborhoods behind this city’s venerable mansions, a school principal who fed her underprivileged students, clothed them, found presents for them at Christmas and sometimes roused neglectful parents out of bed in the nearby housing projects."

Apparently, since she became principal at her school in 2003, test scores skyrocketed.

"By 2007, 96 percent of third graders taking a South Carolina test at Sanders-Clyde met the state standard in English, compared with an average of 78.3 percent at other city schools."

"After testing in 2007, the state noticed an unusually high number of erasure marks — as many as seven per child — with the erasures becoming correct answers. “That became a concern, because the likelihood of that happening is very small,” said Ms. Rose, the district official, noting that the average was around one such mark.

This year, after the tests were closely monitored, the scores plummeted. Suddenly, 44.4 percent of third graders taking the state science test met the state standard, compared with 84.6 percent in 2007. Many teachers said afterward that the presence of the auditors themselves — “cold and very distant,” as one put it — negatively influenced the scores."

The community is hurt:

“They say we cheated — that’s kind of disrespecting us,” said Syllia Davis, 16, who was one of Ms. Moore’s students."

The district is confused:
"Sanders-Clyde Elementary under Ms. Moore “became a symbol of what can be achieved with the proper attention,” said the schools superintendent, Nancy J. McGinley. “That’s why this situation is so distressing. It really, I think, has been hurtful to the entire community.”

Ms. Moore says:

"She denied any wrongdoing in a recent interview on local television and said the affair was a “nightmare” for her. Through her lawyer here, she declined to comment."

I bring this up not find fault but as a cautionary tale of what the need (and pressure) for good test scores can do to administrators and teachers alike.

I was lucky to have lunch today with fellow blogger over at the PI, Denise Gonzalez-Walker, and author Sandra Tsing Loh, who has a new book on her adventures on being a parent in the LA district (hilarious and terrifying). She related to us that even when you parents who distain testing worry if their schools' scores go down. It's just a benchmark for all of us but the professional pressures must be huge.


dan dempsey said…
Here is the posting that appeared on Charleston's Newless Courier Blog:

Sunday, November 02, 2008
Why Tell Districts About Cheating on Tests?
Half a brain, that's all we ask. Do we get that? Not from Jim Rex's SC Department of Education.

The Education Department did set up a watchdog committee (the "test police") over testing results used to answer the requirements of NCLB. Thus, to our list of unsung heroes we must add the name of Joe Saunders, one who figured out how to catch cheaters, an aspect needed given the stakes involved:

"Joe Saunders spurred the state's exploration into this aspect of testing. He's a number-crunching expert for the state who wrote a computer program that analyzes eraser marks.

"The state's testing company provides individual students' answers to every test question, including whether tests contained answer switches. A computer can tell when an answer has been erased.

"Saunders' program flags districts, schools and classes that have high numbers of answer changes, and it shows whether correct or incorrect answers ultimately were chosen.

Now Saunders clearly has a whole brain, but his program has been used by brainless wonders. Here's what the Liz Jones, the state's director of assessment, has to say about what has been done with the results of the computer analysis in the past:

"State officials plan to continue analyzing eraser reports, but Jones, the state's assessment director, said the attention on Sanders-Clyde and The Post and Courier's interest in the state's eraser analysis have prompted conversations about expanding the state's efforts to identify cheaters.

"Officials are considering the possibility of letting districts know when schools have higher than normal numbers of eraser marks in an effort to share the load in catching potential educator misconduct, Jones said.

"This case has caused a lot of discussion in the office," she said.

Ya think? We should be grateful, I suppose, that they took Sanders-Clyde seriously.

Golly, why tell districts about patterns of cheating? Shouldn't that be a secret? Someone's reputation might be at stake.
dan dempsey said…
All together now let us all repeat the refrain:

Data Driven decision making.

Just be sure and either forge, fake, or cherry-pick the data so it will support the previously made decision.

The SPS is a district that refuses to follow their own policies with a board that supports such negligence. Do we expect our children to become honest citizens, when we neglect to hold the leaders responsible for continued fakery?

Transparency and Honesty would be a refreshing change
Jet City mom said…
Data Driven decision making


No Surprise To Anyone Who Is a Fan of "The Wire"
One of the recurring themes in HBO's fabulous series "the Wire" was how well-intentioned government officials could be led astray by perverse incentives, and, tied to this, the overwhelming pressure that can build up in government to fix the metrics rather than the problem.

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