End the Test-Driven Culture of D.C. Public Schools
We care deeply about the education of our children.
We want to see improvements in public education, and are concerned about where test-driven reforms have taken us. We want better, deeper reforms that will improve supports for high quality teaching and learning.
The recent revelations about testing fraud in Washington, D.C. Public Schools, disclosed in USA Today on March 28 were upsetting, but not surprising. As educators and parents, we know that an obsessive emphasis on testing has taken over many school systems across the country -- including ours. The multiple high stakes now attached to these tests invite misuse and set the stage for scandal. Students just below proficiency are pulled from content classes for weeks of test-prep. Students in testing grades lose weeks of instructional time.
Teacher and principal bonuses and threats of firing raise the stakes, creating the wrong motivations for educators.
We are calling for the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General, and/or the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a thorough investigation of testing irregularities in the District of Columbia over the past two years. This investigation should include sworn, public testimony from principals, administrators and the former and current District and state leadership, as well as forensic analysis of student scores compared to other measures of what students know. It must address all specific allegations of erasure and falsification of answer sheets, as well as any district actions that might have encouraged cheating, or that were taken to cover it up.
We further demand that the District of Columbia Public Schools impose a moratorium on practices that focus on the test and test prep rather than on teaching and learning. These include the following immediate steps:
• a moratorium on all high stakes attached to standardized student test scores;
• a moratorium on test-prep and student pull-out from their regular classes;
• suspension of all plans to expand standardized testing to additional grade levels and subjects;
• an end to cash bonuses and awards based on test scores;
• mid-course corrections to the District’s new, punitive teacher evaluation system (IMPACT);
• a new focus on support and accountability for great teaching and deep learning.
It is time that the misguided test-driven reform adopted by DCPS be examined and corrected.
Take action today to demand a thorough investigation of the extent of cheating in DCPS over the past three years, the causes and the consequences, and needed corrections in school system culture.
- U.S. Department of Education Inspector General
- U.S. Government Accountability Office
- Interim Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools
The recent exposure of test score irregularities in Washington D.C. public schools raises questions about where the relentless pursuit of higher test scores has taken our school system. A systematic effort to ignore and cover up these irregularities has caused DC residents and the nation to lose faith in DCPS’s ability to conduct an internal investigation. Since DC is a federal district and receives federal grants and support, the federal government must now step in to ensure that a proper investigation is conducted.
We are calling on you to conduct a thorough investigation of testing irregularities in the District of Columbia. This investigation must include sworn, public testimony from principals, administrators and the former and current district and state leadership, as well as forensic analysis of student scores compared to other measures of what they know. This should not, however, be a witch-hunt against teachers and principals. Instead, the investigation must explore and expose the many ways in which our test-obsessed culture –and the leaders who promote it—fails to provide a challenging, equitable and rigorous educational experience for our students, and creates the conditions where misuse and scandal are inevitable.
A thorough investigation of the extent of cheating in DCPS over the past three years, the causes and the consequences, and needed corrections in school system culture are absolutely essential for our city and for the nation.
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