Last Thursday, it was reported that a professor from the University of Chicago had been hired to analyze the fluctuating test scores from Illinois's School District 189. This district encompasses poverty-stricken East St. Louis, and the professor, one Dr. Steven Levitt, has developed statistical methods that uncover cheating behavior.
It was Dr. Levitt's methods that were used to uncover a rash of teachers who were cheating in Chicago last year (lucky for Dr. Levitt that all these rich datasets were available, eh?). State panel member Richard Mark is sure that something fishy is happening with Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) scores in East St. Louis as well. Dr. Levitt is not charging for his services, which involves the assessment of large spikes in test scores followed by a leveling off, or even a decline, in scores after the effect of cheating disappears.
And what do you know? Today, we read that Younge Middle School in East St. Louis, which posted a big jump in test scores last year, tested only 69% of the school's eligible students that year (NCLB requires that 95% of each subgroup be tested). Those excluded were, apparently, primarily Younge's special education students:
Younge Middle School students posted some of District 189's highest standardized test scores last spring after dozens of special education students were kept from taking the test.
Superintendent Nate Anderson acknowledged Principal Terrence Curry was wrong to exclude the special education students from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. It also is a breach of federal law...
Interviews with Younge students and their parents...indicate nearly 100 Younge special education students failed to take the ISAT in April. Meanwhile, a similar number of special education students in grades six through eight were barred from taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills last week.
Principal Curry earns over $70,000 a year, and it's not yet been decided what, if any, punishment he will recieve. Dr. Levitt is still scheduled to examine the rest of the scores in the area, but it doesn't take a U of Chicago egghead to figure out where the problem lies at Younge Middle School.