Sunday, July 12, 2009

Georgia's cheating schools: Test scandal more widespread than first reported

A 3.5 SD criterion was indeed VERY lenient

Nearly 20 elementary schools across Georgia would be scrambling to cope with a cheating scandal had the state used a more common standard for spotting problems, according to the head of the investigation. Kathleen Mathers, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement told members of the State Board of Education today that her office only looked at the most extreme instances of scores that were outside the range of statewide averages for improvement, a statistical tool called 3.5 points of standard deviation. Since this was the first cheating investigation, she said she decided to only look at cases where the evidence was overwhelming and that next time her staff would use 2 points of standard deviation.

Had she used the stricter standard in the current investigation, she said about 20 of the state’s 600-plus elementary schools offering the retest would have come under suspicion. As it was, only four did. “In subsequent investigations, I don’t anticipate that our starting point will be as generous,” she said.

State Board member Larry Winter, a forensic accountant by profession, said he often uses such statistical tools in rooting out fraud. “The evidence is extremely compelling,” he said.

Four Georgia elementary schools caught cheating on a 2008 standardized math test will be punished as the result of a decision today by the State Board of Education. The scores will be invalidated, parents will get letters detailing the incident, and educators will tailor a math-instruction plan for each of the students.


Report: 'White flight' causes growing school segregation in Britain

White parents are pulling their children out of schools where they are outnumbered by ethnic-minority pupils, according to a report that shows increasing segregation in Britain. The Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) studied 13 areas, including Bristol, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn, and questioned parents. Middle-class parents — who are usually white — were removing children from schools with growing populations of ethnic minorities because they didn’t want them to stand out, the authors of the report said. “We heard strong evidence of ‘white flight’ in some areas,” the report said.

It concluded: “Despite the fact that most people we spoke to in focus groups wanted their children to have a mixed education, parental choice tended to push people to what they saw as the safe option, where children with similar backgrounds went.” The report also found that in areas where schools were monocultural, parents sent their child to the school dominated by pupils from their own ethnic background.

Nick Johnston, one of the authors and a policy director at the iCoCo, said that parents did not want their child to be odd ones out. “People don’t mind a diverse school but what they do mind is their kid being in a visible minority. This trend has increased in the last few years,” he said.In one school in Blackburn, once the number of non-white pupils rose above 60 per cent, white parents started saying that they did not want their children to feel different.

At another unnamed school, 85 per cent of the pupils were white British at the end of 2005. During the next two terms pupils from 15 to 20 Somali families joined.

Johnston suggested that councils should consider using lotteries to increase school diversity. [i.e. the bastard wants to thwart attempts by the parents to keep their kids safe]


The dumbing down of British education never stops

Academics condemn the maths A-level made easy

A 'dumbed down' maths A-level which includes questions on personal finance and allows advanced calculators has been criticised by more than 60 leading academics. The new A-level in 'use of maths' could be introduced in schools from 2011 alongside traditional maths courses. Draft papers reveal that pupils will be allowed to use graphical calculators for the first time and have to answer questions about converting pounds to euros while on holiday.

Dozens of top mathematicians fear the exam will 'cannibalise' the existing qualification and end up replacing it in many schools. They are concerned that pupils will be steered towards the 'easier' qualification to help schools meet exam targets, only to find many universities do not accept it. The academics are calling for the Government's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to abandon the exam. Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove has also attacked it as a 'bluffer's guide' to A-level maths.

In a letter to the QCA, the group Educators for Reform warns that the compulsory units covering topics such as algebra and calculus are 'considerably less demanding' than the traditional exam. The optional units are a 'hotch potch' which will not give pupils a solid foundation in the subject, they say. Instead of sketching graphs, pupils will be able to copy them from the screen of a graphical calculator.

Academics say the course also provides pupils with data sheets that lead to a 'sat nav' approach to examining, rather than letting them think for themselves. There is also a greater emphasis on practical activities and personal finance, including, in draft papers, a question on the cost of hiring a car in France. Professor Nick Shepherd-Barron, of Cambridge University, said there was a danger that British youngsters would be less well educated than competitors abroad.

But Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: 'We cannot continue teaching an outdated 19th century curriculum. This is simply turning many children off education because it is completely not relevant to them at all.'


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