No Texas Investigation Following Cheating Report

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Texas Education Agencyhas no plans to investigate suspicious test scores in Houston, Dallas and other state school districts that point to the possibility of cheating and is questioning the methodology of a new report that indicated the suspect scores.

Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said Monday that authorities take allegations of cheating seriously and had contacted districts that were implicated to ensure leaders there are analyzing necessary data and talking to school principals. But she said that uncovering any actual wrongdoing is up to individual districts.

On Sunday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an analysis of test results for 70,000 public schools and found that standardized test scores in hundreds of systems nationwide exhibited suspicious patterns. The investigation didn't prove cheating but revealed scores followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, had indicated cheating in multiple schools.

Houston and Dallas Independent School Districts were among those with suspiciously high test scores. Some school districts along the Texas-Mexico border were also implicated.

Ratcliffe said, "the story raises questions, but we do have a concern about their methodology." She said the newspaper tracked test scores by school, not by student, which her agency has found can "have up to a 20 percent variance."

"In urban areas with lots of poor children, a lot of families follow apartment rental specials that give the first month's rent free and schools have high turnover rates," she said. "Tracking at the campus level, rather than by each student, is not as accurate."

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