The New York charter school that had the highest jump in ELA test scores is also the charter school that decided to score their own tests.
English scores at the Teaching Firms of America Charter School (a school that is under the gun to show the state that it shouldn't be closed) jumped from 20% proficiency to 40% proficiency. And according to NY Chalkbeat, the principal doesn't find anything odd about it.
Founding principal Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II said he was confident that
the English gains are an accurate reflection of how far his students
“The growth is the result of authentic instruction,” he said. “That’s what happens when you don’t do test prep.”
In NY, charter schools aren't part of the test-grading consortium that scores exams for public schools, but they have a similar system set up which most reportedly use, so that nothing looks, you know, suspicious. Like a doubling in test scores after you score them yourself.
Id-Din said he decided to allow his staff to score students’ answer
sheets because he wanted teachers to better understand the state’s
test-development and grading process and because it saved money for the
Does it really matter who runs score sheets through a scantron machine? Well, no (and we should note that the school saw no such leap in its math scores). But the ELA test of course includes writing elements, and if your students respond to a prompt just the way you taught them to (in your totally authentic non-test-preppy way) well, wouldn't that constitute a bit of an advantage.
Should anyone be worried about going to jail, Atlanta style? Of course not, silly. This is a charter school in New York, and everything they did is perfectly legal and okay. A reporter from a NY news outlet indicated on twitter that the NYDoE had told him they had no intention of investigating.
And the story is clear-- nobody anywhere is accusing these guys of tampering. But all I can think of is how subjective writing scoring is, and how much better my students would do if I were grading them based on the same assumptions and techniques involved when I taught them.
Maybe the school didn't cheat, even a little. Maybe scoring your own writing samples from your own pupils written according to your own teaching standards doesn't result in an inside track to scoring excellence. But we will never know any of those things because what the school did IS PERFECTLY LEGAL AND OKAY BY NY RULES!
In other words, maybe this school did not cheat. But now we understand a little more clearly just how easily they could, if they wanted to.