Newspaper: Ohio has suspicious school test scores

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A newspaper review determined suspicious test scores from hundreds of Ohio school districts and charter schools point to the possibility that there was cheating, though the analysis doesn't prove that.

The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/H2B7Mn ) found steep spikes and drops on standardized test scores since 2005. The review, in partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was part of a larger national analysis revealing that scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.

Using a statistical model looking at reading and math tests, it found more than 500 Ohio districts and charter schools had at least one school with an improbably large score change from year to year over the analyzed time period. It looked for unlikely score changes, calculated the likelihood that a district would have such improbable scores in a year, and found some of those probabilities were nearly zero.

The Ohio Department of Education and a teachers union, the Ohio Education Association, questioned how the analysis was done and whether any valid conclusions could be drawn.

"We are not Atlanta," said Jim Herrholtz, ODE associate superintendent for learning, who has served as superintendent in three Ohio districts.

OEA spokesman Mike Mahoney discouraged the newspaper from publishing the analysis. "We feel that there is a grave chance that this data and this study are totally flawed," he said.

The newspaper did not identify the individual districts but said it's unlikely that the total number of large spikes and drops -- 2,600 in Ohio schools -- could all be explained by factors such as the quality of instruction, class size, demographics or the movement of individuals in and out of schools during a year.

The Department of Education said it takes steps to identify any cheating. It extensively trains educators on test protocols and encourages districts to report problems, and its testing contractor analyzes how frequently test-takers erase and change their answers, which can be a sign of cheating.

Those safeguards have prompted disciplinary action against 60 educators in the past five years, with some cases reported by the test vendor and others reported by schools, department officials said.

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com