A School in a Quandary

By RICHARD WEIZEL, The New York Times

Published: September 01, 1996

Going to Stratfield, it was thought by many, was a way to prepare one’s child for the Ivy League.

That was all before a cheating scandal at Stratfield was revealed in April by the school superintendent, Carol Harrington.

On both exams there were significantly higher erasure rates than at other schools, and on both tests 89 percent of erasures at Stratfield had been changed to correct answers.

“At first nobody at the school, actually no one in the school system, wanted to believe that this had happened, particularly at such a wonderful and prestigious school that has received so much positive attention in recent years,” said Ms. Harrington, who was harshly criticized at the time by Stratfield School parents for revealing the news to the media before the school year’s ending, and before they had been informed.

“There was a lot of denial and people wanted to blame the messenger, but now I think most people accept that there was tampering and want to get to the bottom of it,” said Ms. Harrington.

(A)fter carefully reviewing the test results, which had up to five times the number of erasures of the other schools’ exams, officials at Houghlin-Miflin, the parent company of the Iowa Test, concluded otherwise, saying their review “clearly and conclusively indicate tampering.”

And when Stratfield’s third graders were retested in March, as requested by the school board, they fell below two other town schools. On the first test, the school’s third graders scored higher than 89 percent of students nationwide on vocabulary and reading comprehension. But on the monitored retests, their scores dropped to 80 percent on vocabulary and 79 percent for reading.

The school’s 512 pupils, 22 teachers and its long-beloved but now beleaguered principal started a new school year last week amid several investigations, in addition to one already completed by the forensic expert Dr. Henry C. Lee, who most recently gained prominence for his work on the O. J. Simpson case.

Dr. Lee’s findings, which were released in early July, did not resolve the mystery. He concluded only that there was no evidence of chemical erasures and that the erasures were made by one or more persons. He also concluded that some of the tests had different patterns of pencil strokes and others had more consistent style patterns.

What was in fact happening you see is that teachers and administrators go through test sheets to ‘clean up erroneous marks that might effect proper scoring’.

And at Stratfield Elementary School in Fairfield Connecticut, one of the highest rated and most prestigeous in the United States, at the behest of and under the direction of their Principal- Roger Previs, these people were changing student answers so the school would itself test higher.

Now in my Connecticut School District we called cribbing answers from a cheat sheet, well…


So what do you call what Fenty, Duncan, Obama, Third Way “Democrat”, Charter School loving Michelle Rhee did?

Test Gains at Michelle Rhee’s Favorite School Possibly Fabricated

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday March 28, 2011 8:00 am

This doesn’t fully prove a case of fraud at the Noyes School: as Kevin Drum noted, perhaps students at Noyes were taught to look over their answers before completing the test. But he adds, “the pattern here sure seems to follow a pattern we’ve seen in other school districts that have reported startling test gains and later had to recant them for one reason or another.”

I think it’s important that this is part of Michelle Rhee’s legacy, while I’m not necessarily holding her responsible. She put a premium on success at DC schools, and that pressure can lead to some dastardly things. Moreover, if the Noyes School is found to have cheated on standardized tests, it invalidates a lot of the results Rhee held up as a model in how to best teach students.

And I will point out that this is exactly the excuse offered by Roger Previs and proven false by Dr. Henry Lee.

Correcting your own answers as a test strategy doesn’t result in conclusive findings by forensic handwriting analysts that erasures and new answers were made by two different people.  Has something changed since I took the SAT and you’re now allowed to pass your paper to your neighbor because you have writer’s cramp and carpal tunnel?


  1. Third Graders.  Third Graders are about 8 or 9 years old.  And they (the kids) are carrying the kind of stress that used to be reserved for competitive college kids.  Tis a pity.  Can we give these kids back their childhoods?

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