Monday, August 15, 2011

Easton and Bethlehem Schools Under Scrutiny for Anomalies in Standardized Test Scores

Posted by: Noël Jones

Sara Satullo reports for the Express-Times that Shawnee Middle School, Paxinosa Elementary School, and Freedom High School in Bethlehem are being investigated by the PA Dept. of Education for possible cheating on PSSA exams, due to anomalies in the results-
-large jumps in test scores over the previous year, especially among minorities--and many erasure marks where answers were changed from the wrong answer to the right answer.

Satullo's article also includes a poll asking readers if they think there is too much pressure on schools to improve standardized test scores. 82% of readers have responded YES.

While I understand the possibility that school administrators under pressure might cheat and change the answers, isn't it possible that the teachers have been working really hard to engage the students and that the kids are learning more? Isn't it good news that our youth's test scores have gone up? Am I being naive?

It seems like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. We've been criticizing the schools for performance on these tests, the schools have been showing signs of improvement, and Paxinosa even got won an award last year. Now we're going to get mad at them because the students are scoring better?

Imagine the trouble Jaime Escalante would have gotten into!


LVCI said...

A lot of this might be the result of the well intended Obama program called "Race To The Top"

I posted this back on April 3, 2010 "Easton Teachers Lose Funding.."

"Race to the Top"- A competition to get states to implement school reforms that produce real results. The $4.35 billion fund will reward eligible states for their accomplishments, and create incentives for future improvements.

Perhaps the temptation for federal funding money became too great and a few short cuts were taken?

LVCI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LVCI said...

"Race To The Top" -

LVCI said...

Even if it weren't the "race to the top" monies called into question, there are also these Title 1 grants

Title 1 Grants?
Also Known As: Education for the Disadvantaged–Grants to Local Education Agencies, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged,

In 2010 Easton School District received $1,550,507 under Title I Grants which are also performance based.

Bethlehem received $3,502,354

noel jones said...

LVCI--thanks for the links. Easton didn't opt for Race to the Top--I don't know whether Bethlehem did or not--but at least in Easton this is still the result of George Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Noel, for your insight that JUST MAYBE the teachers, kids and administrators in these buildings worked hard to obtain these scores!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Seriously bad reporting going on at the Express-Times. Paxinosa was not flagged for possible cheating. I would imagine the district isn't rushing to correct that perception that it was, because the principle is suing the district for racial dicrimination. The flagging occurred because of the "re-districting" the year previous to this test. It has to do with the number of sub-groups increasing at an unusual rate. That is flgged as an anomally. Translated, there were suddenly more minorities and IE students in the population and it threw the numbers off. Paxinosa was not flagged for cheating. Please make an effort to correct this misperception. The teachers and students at Pax work hard and don't deserve to have this continue to hang over their heads.
All I had to do was Google newspaper articles from other areas to find this information out. It wasn't difficult. What a shame you couldn't do before writing this.

noel jones said...

It was interesting, at the school board meeting the other night, one of the interview questions that Board President, Kerry Myers asked each candidate for the appointment to Jen Holzberger's seat was:

We are getting hammered on PSSA scores because our population in Easton is so transient. Any ideas about how to deal with that?