View Full Version : When test scores seem too good to believe

03-08-2011, 09:02 AM
This from USATODAY (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-06-school-testing_N.htm) by Greg Toppo, Denise Amos, Jack Gillum and Jodi Upton:
Scott Mueller seemed to have an uncanny sense about what his students should study to prepare for upcoming state skills tests.

By 2010, the teacher had spent his 16-year career entirely at Charles Seipelt Elementary School. Like other Seipelt teachers, Mueller regularly wrote study guides for his classes ahead of state tests.

On test day last April, several fifth-graders immediately recognized some of the questions on their math tests. The questions were the same as those on the study guide Mueller had given out the day before. Some numbers on the actual tests were identical to those in the study guide and the questions were in the same order, the kids told other Seipelt teachers.

The report of possible cheating quickly reached district officials, who put Mueller on paid leave. He initially denied any wrongdoing. Ultimately, investigators concluded that Mueller had looked at questions for both fifth-grade math and science tests in advance a violation of testing rules and then copied them, sometimes word for word, into a school computer to develop his study guides.

The 50-year-old teacher resigned. He signed a consent agreement with the Ohio State Board of Education admitting that, by looking at the 2010 tests in advance to prepare study guides, he had "engaged in conduct unbecoming a licensed educator." His teaching license was suspended for three months.

At Seipelt, as in other schools nationwide, young students tipped off officials that something was amiss. Yet if anyone had taken a closer look at the past few years' scores, they might have noticed other testing irregularities at Seipelt.

In several grades, standardized test scores at Seipelt fluctuated year to year, sometimes rising sharply, then falling, according to data USA TODAY obtained from the Ohio Department of Education.

In 2005, for example, the school's third-graders tested in the 67th percentile statewide in math. As fourth-graders a year later, when Mueller was one of their teachers, their scores jumped to the 97th percentile, among the best in the state. As fifth-graders in 2007, the scores plunged to the 49th percentile. Then, in 2008, when they were in sixth grade, their scores climbed again to the 90th percentile.

Seipelt's gains and losses are typical of a pattern uncovered by a USA TODAY investigation of the standardized tests of millions of students in six states and the District of Columbia. The newspaper identified 1,610 examples of anomalies in which public school classes a school's entire fifth grade, for example boasted what analysts regard as statistically rare, perhaps suspect, gains on state tests.

Such anomalies surfaced in Washington, D.C., and each of the states Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Ohio where USA TODAY analyzed test scores. For each state, the newspaper obtained three to seven years' worth of scores. There were another 317 examples of equally large, year-to-year declines in an entire grade's scores.

read more>> (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-06-school-testing_N.htm)