Goddard elementary school MCAS scores invalidated (updated)

Updated and moved up

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Two weeks after our article on the catch-22 situation some schools are finding themselves in because of unreachable Advanced Yearly Progress targets, Worcester’s Goddard Elementary School won’t even receive AYP scores for 2010.

This morning the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced via press release that instances of “inappropriate coaching” occurred during the 2010 test, taken last spring. From the release:

“The department found through investigatory interviews with school personnel that staff who administered the 2010 MCAS tests reviewed student work on the test, coached students to add to their responses, and scribed answers or portions of answers that were not worded by student [sic].”

What counts as “coaching?” An additional letter to WPS superintendent Melinda Boone lists examples of coaching would be providing answers, changing student answers, “providing synonyms for unknown words or “influencing a student’s responses by offering hints, clues, cues, facial expressions, nods, [or] voice inflections.” The school was also cited for providing scrap paper to students.

The statement quotes Mitchell Chester, the state’s education commissioner, announcing what this means for the school.

“As a result, MCAS student performance and growth results are not valid and the students and parents at Goddard School are denied important information on which to identify individual strengths and areas in need of improvement.”

The state will not hold on to the school’s test scores from this year, and Advanced Yearly Progress — or whether or not the school reached its targeted test scores — will be used comparing 2011 scores to 2009’s. Additionally, the school won’t have any AYP results for 2010.

The school showed progress between 2008 and 2009. Their 2009 AYP labels were “on target” for English/Language Arts and “no change” for math. In 2008 they were “declined” and “on target.” But both years’ performance ratings were all “low” or “very low.”

The department thanked Boone for her cooperation and support during the investigation, and is asking that in 2011 her office conduct MCAS testing at Goddard Elementary and that all WPS principals and central office administrators go through a state MCAS Administration Security Procedures Training Session before this year’s test.

The Telegram has Boone’s initial reaction online:

“I take this sanction very seriously,” Superintendent Melinda Boone said in a statement. “I have pledged to the commissioner that the district will continue to work cooperatively with the Department to ensure that all educators in Worcester are trained in proper MCAS testing procedures and will follow those procedures explicitly at all times. Despite the irregularities during last year’s testing, I am confident that the instructional practices at Goddard are sound and represent best practices nationally to raise student achievement.”

But back in September when the issue first arose Boone didn’t seem too worried. A Telegram article has her defending the school’s high scores and she did not alert the school’s principal, Marion Guerra, that DESE employees were on their way to the school because “I had no questions about this school’s integrity,” she was quoted as saying.

That article also reported that “a high number of erasures on the 3rd grade math test” triggered the investigation.

I’ve emailed some questions to a spokesman at the DESE regarding the protocols for teachers who administer these tests and what the downside is for a school to have a year gap in their AYP scores. More information to come later.

Update: A spokesman from the DESE didn’t expand much beyond what was already reported, but did add, “We will be forced to compare 2011 to 2009, which is a highly unusual step.”

In today’s Telegram article it’s pointed out that this probably won’t affect students in any tangible way, but it’s worth noting that even two years of not making AYP can lead to drastic changes at the school (for drastic changes see Union Hill and Chandler Elementary).

Over on school committee member Tracy Novick’s blog she provides a little bit on what guidelines are given for test proctors and how the school committee functions differently than the council when bringing up “top news.”


1 Comment

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One response to “Goddard elementary school MCAS scores invalidated (updated)

  1. Boots

    The education system is broken and isn’t being fixed with all the excessive testing of students from K thru 12. The stress for constant testing is enormous on both teachers and students. This fiasco is a perfect example.

    The Goddard Elementary school teachers were implementing the strategy of adapt, innovate & overcome. The question is: does it help the students or just put them behind the eightball if they are advanced?

    Here is a link and transcript from a DemocracyNow! program from 2010 about how the education system has failed but is still being used. The guest is Diane Ravitch, who was Assistant Secretary of Education and counselor to Education Secretary Lamar Alexander under President George H.W. Bush and appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board under President Clinton. She is the author of over twenty books, is research professor of education at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her latest book is The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

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