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APS releases GSU study on impact of cheating scandal on students. Finds 'moderate' impact.


For the first time, we have some data on the fate of children whose CRCT answer sheets were likely altered – wrong answers changed to right -- in the APS cheating scandal.

Up to this point, there's only been speculation on whether test tampering on the 2009 CRCT undermined student learning and, if so, to what extent.

Tonight Atlanta Public Schools released a report by Georgia State University that concludes “negative effects of the 2009 Atlanta Public Schools cheating are moderate and not uniform across students in classrooms identified as having irregular wrong-to-right test item changes in the spring of 2009.”

The study, "The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Cheating on Student Outcomes," was completed by Dr. Tim R. Sass from GSU's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. and two doctoral students Jarod Apperson and Carycruz Bueno.  (Apperson writes the Grading Atlanta blog .)

Looking at the erasure data on wrong to right answers, the study found 7,064 students likely had answers doctored. More than half still attend APS schools.

The eight-page report cites a negative impact in mathematics learning for children who were in first and second grade in 2008-2009. In layman’s terms, the report says those children lost about the same amount of ground that comes from “having a rookie teacher rather than one with five years of experience.”

For other grades, the study found smaller effects on math performance. It is a different story for reading and English Language Arts.

The study states:

In contrast to math, in reading and ELA the researcher found that “being cheated had negative consequences for later student performance… The estimated impacts are in the range of one‐fourth to one‐half of the average annual achievement gain for a middle school student. This is equivalent to one to two times the difference between having a rookie teacher and one with 5 or more years of experience in a single year... There is little evidence that teacher cheating had any deleterious effects on subsequent student attendance or student behavior. Any impacts that may have occurred were very small.

The GSU researchers conclude:

The study clearly shows that the cheating disproportionately impacted black students. For example, while 75% of APS students are black, 98% of the students identified as having the largest number of erasures on their answer documents (10 or more) are black. The data also shows that the performance of students in this group is lower than the district as a whole and the student group with less erasures (5-9). In general, only small differences were found between the student group less impacted by the cheating (5-9 erasures) and the district as a whole.

However, it should be noted that it is difficult from these data to assign causes for the differences. For example, this summary did not attempt to control for other important variables such as teacher experience, teacher quality, and other school climate and culture variables that may well have impacted students in these schools.

To read what Atlanta is doing for these students, go here.

Here is the official statement on the study from APS:

Atlanta Public Schools today released an independent study on the effects of cheating on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test. APS commissioned the study before the start of the 2014-2015 school year after then incoming-superintendent, Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, asked about students affected by teacher cheating.

The study, “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Cheating on Student Outcomes,” was completed by Distinguished Professor Dr. Tim R. Sass from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and provided to APS on May 5, 2015.

“When I joined Atlanta Public Schools last summer, I was committed to knowing exactly what APS was doing for those students still in the district and, if possible, even those who had left APS,” said Dr. Carstarphen. “We did not know which students may have been impacted – until now.”

The study will provide the baseline data needed to track each of these students through graduation.

According to APS records, during the 2009-2010 school year, the District implemented a 12-week accelerated academic recovery program for students scoring below proficient on the spring 2010 CRCT at the 58 schools identified by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The program served 5,423 students.

In an attempt to restore credibility to the District’s student achievement data and provide reliable information that better serves students, APS, in spring 2011 implemented an online, nationally normed computer adaptive assessment system to provide independent validation of state and local test results.

After 2010, APS instituted additional programs and interventions to meet the needs of students who may have been impacted by teacher cheating. This included adoption of an Accelerated Intervention Plan (AIP) that comprises a mandatory school day component, afterschool enrichment, a Saturday academy and parent workshops.

Over the past school year, APS launched district-wide intervention programs in reading and mathematics, unit recovery programs for all students in grades 6 through 12, and flexible scheduling options. While these programs are designed for students who are not succeeding academically, or who are already out of school or are at risk of dropping out, they should also assist those students who may have been impacted by teacher cheating.

APS will make certain that the students directly impacted by the cheating are being served. Using the Georgia State University study, the District is identifying the students to track their progress, evaluate the services they have received, and to consider any other remediation program they need to keep them on the path to graduation.

“We continue to address the impacted students’ needs and ensure they are supported through graduation,” Carstarphen said. “This administration, from Day One, has supported a student-centered agenda and is focused on our mission to create a caring culture of trust and collaboration, where every student will graduate ready for college and career.”

The complete study, The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Cheating on Student Outcomes, is available online, as well as the District’s CRCT Erasure Analysis and Ongoing Remediation Update


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.