Beware Their Cheating Hearts
In 1998, the first year of SOL testing, only 2 percent of Virginia’s schools received full accreditation. This year, the State is bragging that 98 percent of Virginia’s schools are accredited. What they don’t tell you is that both the State and the schools cheated to get those scores.
This article is the first of a multi-part examination of the cheating that underlies this “progress.”
Part I: Stealing Scores from the Governor’s Schools
Earlier this year, Carol learned that SOL scores of the students at the Maggie L. Walker Governor's School are not reported at Maggie Walker; the scores are reported at the high schools in the students' home districts. The same thing happens at the Appomattox Governor's School.
In short: VDOE is manipulating the data (and the AYP and accreditation processes) by giving the SOL scores of full time students at Governor's Schools to schools those students don’t attend. As Carol put it, the State is "rewarding the Superintendents for letting some of their smart kids get a decent education."
In Fact, They Write Down the Procedures.
Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, VDOE produced an undated document titled "Maggie L Walker Governor’s School; Administration and Reporting of Standards of Learning End-of-Course Scores." VDOE said the document is part of the Maggie Walker Administrative Manual. This document says that Maggie Walker personnel administer the SOL tests and then sort the answer sheets for pickup by the divisions (implicitly the "home" divisions) of their students. Then, "[t]he individual division testing coordinators place the Maggie L. Walker students’ answer sheets among their division’s answer sheets and send them to be scored . . . ." After the scoring, Maggie Walker calls the home divisions to ask about the scores.
Did you get that: The individual divisions hand carry the answer sheets back from Maggie Walker so they can claim the SOL scores of the Maggie Walker students. When Maggie Walker wants to know how their kids did, they have to call the high schools those students are not attending to request the scores.
Happy Superintendents Are More Important than Truth
So what could be the actual reason for this institutional mendacity? Perhaps, as Carol suggests, it is to obtain a free boost to the scores in order to improve the schools' chances to avoid Adequate Yearly Progress problems under the No Child Left Behind Act. For sure, this misrepresentation of the scores will have that effect.
The paper trail at VDOE admits as much. The minutes of the August 31, 1990 Planning Committee (planning to create the Governor's School that now is Maggie Walker) mention the concern of the Assistant Superintendent at Colonial Heights about "test scores." Mind you, this was nine years before the SOL's; the scores in question were predominantly from the SAT. The Committee noted:
As far as the concern with the test scores being lowered, the Committee also stated that they could make the decision that the students' SATs could be counted at the home schools.
Nowadays, of course, it's SOL's even more than SAT's but there you have the bald admission that Carol had it right: They are "rewarding the Superintendents for letting some of their smart kids get a decent education." As if those kids somehow belonged to those Superintendents. So we have a corrupt system for corrupt reasons. Welcome to Virginia!
Violating the Law to Manipulate the Data
In the process of deceiving the public and the federal government VDOE also is violating Virginia law.
The Virginia regulation at 8 VAC 20-131-300.C.1.b says that "a school will be rated Fully Accredited when its eligible students meet the pass rate [specified]." The regulation at 8 VAC 20-131-5 defines "eligible students":
"Eligible students" means the total number of students of school age enrolled in the school at a grade or course for which a Standards of Learning test is required unless excluded under the provisions of 8VAC20-131-30 F and 8VAC20-131-280 D relative to limited English proficient (LEP) students. (Emphasis supplied.)
Unless the State uses a different kind of English than the rest of us, "enrolled in the school" means enrolled in that high school, not off at the Governor's School. Thus, using scores of students not "enrolled in the school" to boost the high schools' scores is flatly unlawful.
Not to mention that it also is a bald lie.
We are left to wonder whether the federal government knows that Virginia is sending it falsified data.
Next Month: Handicaps that disappear after the eighth grade.