This morning the Washington, D.C. Board of Education announced it would launch an investigation into widespread standardized testing irregularities in the city's public schools during the reign of Michelle Rhee. One-hundred-and-three of the district's 168 public schools submitted multiple choice answer sheets with abnormally high erasure rates, with many of those schools displaying a consistent pattern of incorrect answers being replaced by correct ones.
Statisticians told USA Today, which broke the story, that the number of erasures at some D.C. schools were so high that "the odds of winning the Powerball grand prize were better than the erasures occurring by chance."
Check out my column at The Daily Beast about the education policy lessons we can learn from this discouraging–but ultimately, not all that suprising–news:
In the social sciences, there is an oft-repeated maxim called Campbell’s Law, named after Donald Campbell, a psychologist who studied human creativity. Campbell’s Law states that incentives corrupt. In other words, the more punishments and rewards—such as merit pay—are associated with the results of any given test, the more likely it is that the test’s results will be rendered meaningless, either through outright cheating or through teaching to the test in a way that narrows the curriculum and renders real learning obsolete.