By now, residents of the District are aware of the allegations involving cheating on standardized tests within D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) dating from 2008. These allegations have been the subject of news reports and investigations by the District's Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Education and DCPS.
Upon becoming Chair of the Council's Committee on Education in January, I began working on legislation to strengthen and improve the integrity of the District's academic assessments. In February, I introduced the Testing Integrity Act of 2013, which is scheduled for hearing on April 18th.
The recent discovery of an internal DCPS memo from 2009 discussing abnormalities in erasure rates in 2008 has raised the question of whether additional investigations into those allegations are in order. The 2009 memo indicates that classrooms in as many as 70 schools were potentially involved in testing irregularities. Given that this memo was in the possession of the District's Inspector General at the time of the Office's investigation, I am bewildered by the narrow scope of the Inspector General's investigation and report, which focused on one school.
In light of the 2009 memo, some have suggested that the Council initiate an investigation into these 2008 allegations. Given that five years has transpired since these alleged activities occurred, I believe that a full Council investigation would be impractical and would yield little in terms of accountability. Among other things, simply identifying and interviewing the hundreds of witnesses would overwhelm the Council's limited staff and resources.
Going forward, I believe the best use of the Committee's time and limited resources is to focus on improving the integrity of the current and future academic assessments. This includes developing protocols that make cheating less likely; strengthening measures to identify instances of potential cheating; proposing guidelines to investigate them; and imposing serious consequences when cheating is uncovered. The Testing Integrity Act is an important component of this strategy.
While I have no plans to initiate a full investigation into the 2008 allegations at this time, I do intend to seek answers regarding the narrow scope of the Inspector General's investigation in light of the recently released 2009 memo discussed above. I also intend to question DCPC officials about the contents of the 2009 memo.