To report our second story into standardized testing problems, The Lens cross-referenced five data sets from the Louisiana Department of Education:
The 2011 state test security report, which the Department of Education compiled for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
School district investigations into testing irregularities for 2011, which were submitted to the state. These investigations may have been sparked by cheating allegations or by state education department monitoring. If state testing monitors find major infractions during their visits, districts are required to investigate and report back.
Documents provided by the state outlining how many schools were visited during testing in 2011, and whether major or minor infractions were cited at each school:
The state’s description of what constitutes a major and minor infraction of testing rules
Documents outlining how many districts self-reported violations and requested that the state void tests.
Limitations to the data
We did not count the two private schools that were cited for issues in 2011.
This data is limited to instances occurring in 2011. More recent data does exist, although The Lens has not yet received it in its entirety. State education officials have indicated they will provide us with that data.
In our analysis, we counted each school once, regardless of how many problems it had. We felt it was vital to count schools in this way, so that we could compare charters to other public schools and New Orleans to other places. When we analyzed each of the separate categories, we only counted schools once.
We consider an “instance” to be a finding of a certain type of irregularity, whether erasures, plagiarism, infractions cited during state monitoring visits, or district-reported problems. Schools are cited for having instances of irregularities no matter how many tests were voided as a result. Essentially, a school with 20 tests voided for high erasures would be listed in our analysis alongside a school with two tests voided for high erasures.
We focused on plagiarism and excessive erasures when making our comparisons because nearly all tests in the state undergo checks for excessive erasures and for similarly constructed answers. Had we included all the ways that the department discovers testing problems in our analysis, it would have skewed our results: district-reported instances rely on a district’s reporting diligence, and state education monitors visited only about 340 of the 1,400 schools administering tests that year.
Who checked our methods
Three researchers concurred that our methods for comparing New Orleans and charter schools to their counterparts around the state were sound practice. They are listed below:
Heather Koons, director of consulting and development for MetaMetrics, Inc.
Brad Thiessen, statistician, associate professor and mathematics department chair at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa
Priscilla Wohlstetter, senior research fellow at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education and distinguished professor at Teachers College, Columbia University
Know more? Tell us
Please contact Jessica Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know about testing problems that aren’t included in our story or the documents.