Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Montgomery County Public Schools' Fudge Factor: Record SAT scores

Fudging data is now the culture of schools across the United States.   It is not a conspiracy theory.  It is the way that districts and the principals within those districts that "honor" the data, attempt to make themselves look great.   And as a general rule of thumb, the better the"fudger," the greater the reputation that accompanies it.  Let's just take former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, Jerry Weast, for example, the man Jay Matthews once called one of the top ten superintendents in the country.  In 2010, the year he retired, he claimed as one of his top ten achievements as a superintendent, record SAT scores.   Of course, these SAT scores were accompanied by record drops in SAT participation.   Think this was just  an accident?   Or could this be a similar but more sophisticated version of what occurred in 2003, when a Montgomery County Public School's newspaper, Blair High School's SilverChips, reported that principals were actually told by Weast to contrive their SAT scores through participation rates:

At an Oct 2 meeting with high school principals, Weast suggested, according to Principal Phillip Gainous,that students who could not help out SAT scores [for MCPS] and were not ready to take the SATs should be discouraged from taking them," said Gainous.  
Both Principal Daniel Shea of Quince Orchard High School and Principal Michael Durso of Springbrook High School corroborated this statement. According to Shea, Weast wanted schools to *examine the level of students taking the SATs to appropriately limit exposure." The superintendent*s message was clear, said Gainous: *We were told to do it. And the expectation was that we would all go back and do it. 
Elimination of low-scoring students from the general test-taking pool will automatically boost average SAT scores, explained Durso. If we have a certain number of students not take the SATs, then we*ll be on Sixty Minutes because of our [high] scores," he claimed.  
"It's morally wrong. It's illegal," said Blair PTSA President Valerie Ervin, who works for the County Council, regarding Weast*s suggestion.
In 2010, the media picked up the the story and touted  Montgomery County's record, just the way Jerry Weast knew they would. But perhaps the record was not quite what it appeared to be on first glance.   Perhaps we were closer to what Valerie Ervin concluded- something morally wrong.

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