After unearthing a massive cheating scandal in Atlanta public schools, a team of reporters from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper set out to see if testing in other cities and towns across the country might have been compromised as well. The result: An analysis of 69,000 schools in 49 states, and a new series of stories describing big swings in test scores at some schools that pointed toward the possibility that overly eager or nervous educators were gaming the system.
The Georgia newspaper also made all of its data available to other journalists, and The Scoop has taken the Connecticut numbers and reformatted them to allow tracking a group of students over as many as five years. Clicking the spreadsheet image at the bottom of this post (or simply clicking here) will launch a spreadsheet with about 22,000 Connecticut Mastery Test results for 768 Connecticut elementary and middle schools.
The Atlanta analysis followed groups of students as they progressed through grade levels. So rather than, for example, comparing sixth-grade math scores at a school from one year to the next, the reporters compared sixth grade math scores in one year with seventh grade math scores the next year, as those two tests would have been taken by the same group of students (with slight variations as pupils left or joined the school).
The Atlanta paper deemed exceptionally large jumps in test scores from one year to the next as suspect, particularly if scores then fell back down the following year. (“After gaining skills one year, students don’t suddenly become incompetent,” the reporters explain.)
In its nationwide analysis, the paper flagged 196 districts where unusual test-score swings were found in a large percentage of the student groups that were tracked. Among the districts are Bridgeport and Torrington. In Bridgeport, nearly 10 percent of student groups in 2008 had average test scores well outside the predicted range, based on their performance the year before. In Torrington, the figure was 20 percent. Those numbers do not establish any wrongdoing, the paper said, but in total, the 196 districts represent “troubling patterns that experts say merit further examination.”
The Connecticut data includes test scores from 2006 to 2010. As a result, they do not include the fraudulent scores discovered in 2011 at Hopeville Elementary School in Waterbury, where Republican-American reporter Michael Puffer revealed widespread cheating that led to disciplinary action against a dozen educators, including the school’s principal.
The data are arranged alphabetically by district and school. Scroll down to find your school, then read across the sheet to see how groups of students performed through the years. The figures in red represent average scale scores on the CMT for each cohort of students. So in the single example below, from the Bolton Center School, third-grade students in 2006 had an average score of 241 on the CMT reading test. Those same students, with slight variations, then achieved average scores of 256 in 2007 (as fourth graders); 257 in 2008; 266 in 2009; and 262 in 2010.
As noted above, click the spreadsheet image, or click here, to launch the full spreadsheet. (And don’t worry: the type in the full spreadsheet is larger and easier to read.)
Find something amiss at your school, or know of problems with testing in your community? Let us know, by contacting The Scoop here.
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