I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheating At Chris Christie's Fav Charter School?

Three officials from a Newark charter school under investigation for possible cheating on state tests were found to have breached the security of sixth grade students' tests, according to a report released today by the State Department of Education.
The school, Robert Treat Academy, is among the state's oldest and most celebrated charter schools. Founded by Newark political boss Steve Adubato, the school has been praised by members of the state legislature and the Christie Administration for helping impoverished students succeed academically.
The report, written by the state Department of Education's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance, faults Principal Michael Pallante, Vice Principal Theresa Adubato and Vice Principal Sarag Buttino for "failing to physically secure the test documents when they were not in use."
State investigators flagged this school and 14 others for further inquiry because some tests had unusually high rates of wrong-to-right erasure marks. Robert Treat's sixth grade tests had rates of wrong-to right erasure more than three times greater than the state average for sixth graders.
School officials, according to the report, told state investigators the anomaly can be attributed to a test strategy where students make two selections on the answer sheet they believe are correct and subsequently erase one answer. Two students interviewed by state officials, however, said they were not taught this strategy. [emphasis mine]
Well, that just shows how awesome the school is - the students are so motivated they teach themselves...

Here's the funny thing - in a way, RTA was already "cheating" on tests - because they don't serve the same student population as the public schools in Newark. Bruce Baker first pointed this out back in 2009:
First, as I noted on a previous post, Robert Treat’s student body is only 3.8% special education in a district with an average of 18.1%.  This is from the special education classification data from NJDOE. In the enrollment files, Treat reports 0%. At 100% additional average expenditure per special education pupil, matching district demographics would raise Treat’s expected spending to $14,868 (1.18 x 12,600 in 2007).
Second, while Robert Treat does show about 62.4% students qualifying for free (130% poverty level) and reduced (185% poverty level) lunch, the free lunch share is about 42.9%. That is, Treat’s free or reduced share is boosted by the share of children who are more well off among the less well off. Note that the model I used above used Free & Reduced shares, not Free alone or the ratio between them.
By contrast, Newark Public Schools in total has 82% free or reduced and 71% free lunch alone.
Treat also reports less than 1% limited English proficient students while Newark City schools report 8.7%. [emphasis mine]
Fewer special ed students; fewer students who are LEP; fewer students in extreme poverty. Now, it wouldn't be "cheating" so much if all the charter cheerleaders would admit this accounts for at least some of RTA's success. Alas, when Chris Christie paid a visit to the school, he neglected to mention the differences in the students:
During a visit to the Robert Treat Academy Charter School in Newark, Gov. Chris Christie announce the state’s approval of 23 new charter schools — an increase by nearly a third of all the charter schools in the state. Christie praised high performing charter schools in urban and disadvantaged areas as providing a model for fixing chronically failing school districts and urged the creation of new kinds of charter schools. He also suggested the charter school movement had been stymied in the past by politicians beholden to special interests, including the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, or NJEA.
No, the real reason the charter "movement" has been stymied is because charters are not replicable. Christie loves photo-ops at charters, but he only goes to the ones that serve student populations differing greatly from neighboring public schools (click to enlarge):

RTA is the fourth Christie head from the left (I can't believe I just typed that sentence). Again, they've already rigged the game: their students are less likely to qualify for free lunches, to be Limited English Proficient, or to be classified as special education students than their neighboring public schools.

So why cheat in a game you already know you're going to win? Nothing's been proved yet; keep watching.

1 comment:

The Perimeter Primate said...

The investigators wrote in multiple instances that the odds of some of the wrong-to-right erasure rates occurring by chance were at probabilities such as less than one out of one million, less than four out of eight million, etc.

The NJDOE Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance Investigative Report is at http://www.njspotlight.com/assets/12/1113/2158 (235 KB pdf)