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Leslie Jacobs ‘encouraged’ by Lens investigation into standardized test cheating


Have there been incidents of cheating in New Orleans schools? Probably yes.

Do we have large-scale cheating on our hands? Definitely not.

Can we trust the gains we have seen in student performance? Absolutely.

The debate about whether we should test, how much we should test, and what we should test will no doubt continue, but it is highly unlikely that the gains New Orleans students have achieved on state tests are due to cheating. There is no evidence of systematic cheating.

The Lens is hosting a live chat at 12:30 p.m. to discuss its story.

According to people who are familiar with investigations of test-score irregularities here and elsewhere, including Atlanta, sometimes students are allowed to take make-up tests when they weren’t actually absent on the day of testing. Often the make-up tests are conducted in the library with less-stringent proctoring. Or students can be directed to the make-up room after someone viewed their test booklets in violation of procedure and found that they did not complete one or more sections.

“One of the difficult things about having a charter school co-located on a district public school campus is that . . . the two schools end up competing for those things that are necessary to provide a quality education for the students,” says Robin Potash, an elementary school teacher and chair of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Proposition 39 Committee. “That includes competing for the same students.”


Land Use

Criminal Justice

I know something about solitary confinement, because I’ve been there. I spent a total of 12 years in various solitary confinement cells. And I can tell you that isolating a human being for years in a barren cell the size of a small bathroom is the cruelest thing you can do to a person.

Deprived of all human contact, you lose your feeling of connectedness to the world. You lose your ability to make small talk, even with the guard who shoves your meal through the slot in the door. You live entirely in your head, for there is nothing else. You talk to yourself, answer yourself. You become paranoid, depressed, sleepless. To ward off madness, you must give your mind something to do. In 1970, I counted the 358 rivets that held my steel cell together, over and over. Every time the walls seemed to be closing in on me, I counted them again, to give my mind something to fasten on to.

Government & Politics

“I suspected that was a hoax,” Andrew Salinas, reference archivist for the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, said Wednesday.

A former civil rights worker who insists the test was given offered another explanation. Jeff Schwartz said Louisiana might have been reluctant to preserve an embarrassing chapter in its history.

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About Steve Myers

Steve Myers is managing editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter, he wrote about emerging media practices such as citizen journalism, nonprofit news sites, real-time reporting via social media, data-oriented news apps, iPhoneography, and the fact-checking movement. Six of his 10 years in newspapers were spent as a local government reporter in Mobile, Ala., where he focused on local government accountability, from jail management to hurricane preparation and response. He can be reached at (504) 298-9750.