Let SLED grade this test
Last month, the Charleston County School District asked the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate whether students at Sanders-Clyde Elementary were given illegal assistance in annual state testing near the end of the 2006-07 school year. Educators, and everybody else, should refrain from jumping to conclusions about what that investigation will reveal.
Sanders-Clyde's scores on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT) scores had risen by remarkable amounts for several years through 2006-07. Such dramatic increases drew appropriate scrutiny from the district. After district officials saw an unusually high number of erasure marks on the 2006-07 tests, they decided to strengthen the monitoring process for the 2007-08 tests given last spring at Sanders-Clyde.
Then the 2008 scores fell precipitously from the previous year's results, raising suspicions of impropriety. Rigging the results of such tests is against the law in our state, so Superintendent Nancy McGinley prudently requested the SLED investigation.
Sunday's Post and Courier reported that some teachers at Sanders-Clyde, along with former principal MiShawna Moore, have blamed that test-score dive on the strengthened monitoring. They compiled a 16-page packet that complained that the monitors didn't allow the students enough snacks and breaks, creating a "hostile" testing atmosphere. The district disputes that contention, countering that snacks and breaks were given in an orderly manner.
The Sanders-Clyde packet even asked this leading, absurd and insulting question:
"Is it possible that individuals had personal agendas that included proving that the poor African-American child on Charleston's East Side could not have possibly produced the improvements documented over the past five years?"
It's merely far-fetched to suggest that the steep reduction in scores was caused by a reduction in snacks and breaks.
It's blatantly ridiculous to suggest that district officials plotted to destroy an academic success story at Sanders-Clyde.
As Janet Rose, the district's executive director of assessment and accountability, told our reporter:
"I don't want to make the school look bad. I'm with the school district. I wanted the scores to look good."
Indeed, district officials had celebrated Sanders-Clyde's seeming success in recent years. Like other administrators and educators, they feel strong pressure to produce better academic results.
Standardized testing is essential to determine how schools are meeting their academic goals. That's why annual testing was mandated in the first place. The public correctly demands educational accountability, which requires accurate, regular testing on both the individual and collective levels.
Depriving students and their parents of honest measurements of academic performance would be a major failure of accountability — and again, in this state, potentially a crime.
SLED should be allowed to get to the truth before any grades are issued on the Sanders-Clyde testing case. Common sense should easily dispel any ridiculous notions that district officials are conspiring against that school.