The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Unprecedented Investigation Finds Questionable Standardized Test Results Nationwide

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ATLANTA – March 24, 2012 – This Sunday The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reveals the results of an unprecedented investigation exposing more questionable test results in schools across America. Questioning whether the 2011 cheating scandal was unique to Atlanta Public Schools, the AJC found drastic swings in test scores that were considered virtually impossible in Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Suspect test score changes were also identified in many other cities, which will appear in the report.

This story is set to spark a national debate over the policy and integrity of standardized testing.

Evidence that suggests possible cheating – the same kind that led AJC reporters and state investigators to uncover widespread and systematic test score manipulation in Georgia – exists across America. In an unprecedented effort, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spent months gathering and analyzing data and conducting dozens of interviews.

“The implications of our findings are profound, and it’s hard to find a more important story to tell,” AJC Editor Kevin Riley said. “This is about America’s future, and the integrity of standardized testing is central to the policy direction of American schools. Policies require states to test all students in grades 3 through 8 to measure performance in reading and math. Success in America’s schools is now defined by showing improvement in test scores. These results raise troubling questions about the reliability of these tests.”

To reach this conclusion, the AJC’s investigative team gathered data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The AJC analyzed test scores in more than 14,000 school districts — and verified the information through four separate independent academic experts. No one else has done such an exhaustive analysis.

A sample of the results:

  • In addition to Atlanta, the AJC found drastic swings in test scores that were considered virtually impossible in Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
  • More than 100 school districts with highly improbable swings in test scores, a finding that strongly points to tampering.
  • Changes in test scores that were statistically improbable in nearly 20 cities, with swings in scores that were virtually impossible in about a half dozen. According to experts consulted by the AJC, human intervention is the most likely explanation.
  • In some cities, the AJC found so many dramatic shifts in scores that the odds of that happening by chance are virtually zero.
  • In cities such as Houston, the results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year. The next year, when children moved to a new grade, their scores plummeted.
  • Suspect scores were found in a few districts that have been hailed as cutting edge reformers.

The first part of the findings will be published Sunday, March 25, exclusively in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The story, which also includes a database detailing information from each school district, can be found online at ajc.com.

About The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the leading source – both in print and online – of news, information and advertising for metropolitan Atlanta, reaching a total print and online audience of nearly 2 million people each week. Every month, nearly 3.8 million unique visitors access the newspaper’s websites, including ajc.com and accessAtlanta.com. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is part of Cox Media Group, a publishing, digital media and broadcasting subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises.

About Cox Media Group
Cox Media Group  is an integrated broadcasting, publishing, direct marketing and digital media company that includes the national advertising rep firms of Cox Reps. Additionally, CMG owns and operates Valpak, one of North America’s leading direct marketing companies.   With $1.7 billion in revenue, the company operations include 15 broadcast television stations and one local cable channel, 86 radio stations, eight daily newspapers and more than a dozen non-daily publications, and more than 100 digital services.   CMG operates in more than 30 media markets and reaches approximately 52 million Americans weekly, including 30 million TV viewers, more than 4 million print and online newspaper readers, and 18 million radio listeners.  For more information about Cox Media Group, please check us out online at www.coxmediagroup.com