Scrubbing Standardized Test Scores Dirty: A Primer

Most only talk and joke of doing truly stupid things, but a rare few go beyond mere talk and put incredibly dumb ideas into action.

That rare few includes certain folks working for the Lakeland (Ohio) School District.

Anyone who has worked at a public school since No Child Left Behind came around has joked and/or heard jokes about “taking Johnny out of school just prior to testing” because Johnny is, uh, amazingly bad on these tests.  Let’s just leave it at that.

And yes, the next part of the joke is that we’ll “round up all the Johnnys” and disenroll them just prior to testing, thus dramatically improving our overall school performance.  It’s sad, cynical and twisted to joke about, but such joking happens.

At Lakeland Schools, however, the sadness, cynicism and twistedness have, evidently, jumped several levels.  To wit:

The probe determined that attendance data for 36 students was falsified in the 2010-11 school year, “leading to artificially higher state testing results.” The district reported those students had moved and then came back, when actually they had never left. The apparent break in enrollment meant the district could drop – or scrub – their test scores from the official calculations.

The Education Department’s analysis revealed that no other district added the students to its roster after they supposedly left Lockland. The district’s attorney conceded that there were no records to back up the claim they had moved.


Let’s roll around a few of the practical considerations one must undertake to properly “scrub”…

  • First, you gotta take a look around the school to find the, uh, least good at answering standardized test questions kids
  • Perhaps this analysis would take into consideration Special Education/ethnic/school lunch status, if the number of SpEd/minority/free and reduced lunch kids at the school was close to the numerical minimums for statistical purposes.  I’ve covered the AYP minimums in previous posts, such as here.
  • Then, you’d disenroll the “proper” kids
  • The kids would, supposedly, keep showing up for class, but teachers wouldn’t see them on the rolls.  Therefore, their teachers would have to know something is up the whole time.
  • When testing came around, these 36 or so kids would, strangely, be the only 36 not taking the tests.  Mapping logistics of who is taking the test where is a big, big deal, so someone would have to be in charge of putting “okay, these 36 kids will go to Room X” on a document and everybody who is handed the logistical planning document (i.e. 100% of the staff) would see this, presumably couched in vague terms like “alternative assessment exercises.”
  • Or maybe the kids would just be told to stay at home during testing, which, of course, means the parents would know all about this “no testing for Johnny” thing, which they probably knew about anyway, because Johnny would tell them “hey, I just sat in a room today and played Parcheesi while everyone else got tested, it was so cool!”
  • And then the 36 or so kids would be re-enrolled, most probably at the beginning of the next school year, as that is a crazy time and large clumps of re-enrolled students wouldn’t be easily noticed.

To sum up…this “scrubbing” is some sad, sick twisted stuff.  Proof, once again, that ANYTHING is possible with increasing reliance on standardized testing.  It is not fair to assert that standardized testing and associated policies (e.g., basing teacher evaluations on test scores) should go away, just because humans have a proclivity toward sad, cynical and twisted behaviors when stakes are raised.  But it will surely be “entertaining” to uncover all the various cheats as things unfold, in that watching plane crashes on YouTube sort of way.

And with that happy thought, have a great weekend.

P.S.:  Readers will note from the Cleveland Plain Dealer link above that widespread “scrubbing” has been noted and reported in Ohio.  And one might rightly guess that Ohio is probably not the source of all sick/twisted behavior when it comes to this stuff.  Who knows how many have gone beyond merely joking about “Johnny?”  (cue “The Shadow” laugh) 


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