Secretly, I always wanted to start a post that way. This is my chance.
In reply to my last post, Mike linked to a fantastic quote from David Simon about the relationship between accountability, statistics, and cheating. It reminds me of how The Wire portrayed crime stats. I miss that show.
It also reminded me of this recent USA Today article about possible evidence of cheating in some D.C. public schools. The top is all about statistics, probabilities, and erasure rates. The interesting stuff comes at the bottom, when a parent worries that his suddenly-proficient-in-mathematics daughter still can’t do basic addition and subtraction:
A former Noyes parent, Marvin Tucker, says he suspected something was wrong in 2003, when the test scores his daughter, Marlana, brought home from school showed she was proficient in math.
Tucker says he was skeptical because the third-grader was getting daily instruction from a private tutor yet struggled with addition and subtraction. “She was nowhere near where they said she was on the test,” he says. “I thought something was wrong with the test.”
He questioned Ryan, the principal, and teachers about his daughter’s scores but no one could explain how she had scored so high, Tucker recalls. Ultimately, Ryan barred him from the school for a year, saying he had threatened staff members, Tucker says. Tucker denies that.
Tucker also points out that if his daughter was proficient as a third-grader, that didn’t last. When Marlana moved on to middle school elsewhere in D.C., her test scores fell and she no longer was considered proficient in math, he says.
Former D.C. Schools’ chancellor Michelle Rhee refused to comment for the story before it ran, but her response the following day is telling. “It isn’t surprising,” she commented, “that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved…unless someone cheated.”
The enemies of school reform…you mean like the Dad who pays for a tutor to help his daughter get better in math? With enemies like that, who needs friends?