Montgomery County Issues Fake Algebra Scores And Altered Report Cards

A story in Sunday’s Washington Post alleges that Montgomery County school officials added 15 percentage points to high school Algebra 1 math scores. Why? Because the vast majority of students failed the final exam, that’s why.

School officials provided a variety of excuses for the abysmal test results, and then simply tacked on an extra 15 percentage points to raise the failure rate from 82 percent to only 68 percent, according to the Post story  by Donna St. George. Based on the new, improved, fake scores, 623 additional students in MoCo high schools suddenly passed the test.

To celebrate, the schools printed new, improved report cards, which were mailed out three days late. (I’m not making this up. You can read the story in hard copy in the Metro section, page C3, June 29, 2014.)

Hurray for Montgomery County! Another great accomplishment for our heralded public school system.

The Post story provides additional information, but leaves unanswered a host of important educational questions. Do county test scores  have any integrity? Any validity? Is there any possible way of knowing if test scores reflect student learning or teacher performance? Who shredded the original report cards? Is there any cure for my early onset cynicism?

Taking this dystopian fantasy a step further, are test scores tabulated on the same computers used to count votes in county elections? Or the same computers used to project the traffic impact of high-density development?

Maybe the Post story is in error? Maybe I’ve terribly misrepresented the story? Can anyone provide a believable explanation?

Alternatively, can anyone provide an entertaining fictional explanation? The comment space below is available free to creative minds. No word count limit. The prize for the best entry is a week of substitute teaching in a ninth-grade algebra class.

— John Hayden

College Debt Discussion


See the “Dwindling Jobs, College Debt” post from yesterday for an extended discussion in the comments below the post. The discussion focuses mostly on debt, especially college debt. In blogging, he comments generated by posts can often be more interesting and informative than the post itself.

Dwindling Jobs, College Debt, Clueless Politicians (With Extended Discussion in Comments)

Economic and political difficulties — especially issues of justice — are on my mind, as always. Guess I’ve been reading too many scary books about economics and the jobs outlook.

What is the outlook? In developing countries, manufacturing that’s always on the move, stalking the cheapest labor. In Western countries, an abundance of jobs for machines, robots and computers; for human beings, not so much. Continue reading

Forgiveness of Student Loans Should Be THE Democratic Issue For 2014

Protecting Social Security and Medicare — the strong and fundamental safety net for older Americans — is a core mission of the Democratic Party and Democratic voters.

Equally important — it’s a moral obligation — is making sure we don’t leave younger generations bereft of opportunity and buried in debt. We must preserve hope for everyone from today’s elementary school children to today’s forty- and fifty- somethings.

President Obama’s call for quality early childhood education for all children gets us thinking in that direction. But what about today’s working adults, from age 21 to age 62? Too many will find themselves caught in the middle between the costly (privileged?) senior generation and the expensive (and essential!) younger children.

I’ve long been troubled by the accusation that preserving Social Security for today’s elders will lead directly to the indebtedness and impoverishment of our children and grandchildren. Continue reading

Political Zeitgeist In America

Is there any political reality remaining in America? I’ve been trying to make sense of the political zeitgeist following the election of 2010. Two contradictory perspectives came into focus this week.

Vice President Joe Biden summed up the message from the electorate on “Meet the Press.” Voters want elected officials of both parties to work together and compromise, Mr. Biden said.

MICHELLE RHEE. -- Wikimedia Commons public domain photo

Michelle Rhee, an education reformer who used to be chancellor of D.C. public schools, stated a different position in “Newsweek.”

“I don’t think consensus can  be the goal.” said Ms. Rhee. And: “We can’t shy away from conflict.”

That’s the tension in American democracy — longing for peace and compromise on one hand; and an appetite for political conflict on the other. Voters who are comfortable with the status quo yearn for politics without conflict. They see reformers as troublemakers.

Reformers seeking change are impatient with compromise. They’re willing to tolerate a degree of political unpleasantness to achieve a goal. Compromise usually doesn’t bring them closer to the goal. Compromise simply kicks the problem down the road for a year or three.



It’s human nature to seek the easiest path, to avoid pain and sacrifice. So it’s not surprising that a majority wants compromise. That’s what happened this week, when President Obama crafted an agreement with Senate Republicans to extend current tax cuts for the wealthy, and at the same time extend unemployment compensation for the poor.

The tax-cut compromise is the easy path. It avoids pain all around. But it also adds billions to the national debt. The majority of voters got what they wanted, a minimum of conflict. They are pleased to kick difficult decisions about the national debt and economic austerity down the road.

Americans seem to be dangerously addicted to the easy path. European nations are engaged in national debates (often in the streets) over austerity measures to address their debt problems. America is falling behind on debt, just as we are falling behind in economic competitiveness.

Most troubling of all is that America has fallen way behind other advanced countries in education. Michelle Rhee knows about the public schools:

“The truth is that despite a handful of successful reforms, the state of American education is pitiful, and getting worse.”

If we’re not competitive on education, we won’t have a chance to be competitive economically. And the American electorate complacently ignores the education crisis. In fact, state and local governments are preparing to cut deeply into funding for education, in order to balance government budgets.

Ms. Rhee is quite forthright about the political path to improving education in America. And it’s definitely not the easy path.

“Public school reform is the civil-rights issue of our generation. Well, during the civil-rights movement, they didn’t work everything out by sitting down collaboratively and compromising. Conflict was necessary in order to move the agenda forward. There are some fundamental disagreements that exist right now about what kind of progress is possible and what strategies will be most effective. Right now, what we need to do is fight.”

Any questions? Yes, political conflict is necessary for problem-solving and progress. In some other countries, they resolve political differences through violent conflict. In America, we resolve political differences through elections. Settling our conflicts through civil debate, rather than violence, is the great achievement of democracy in America.

We need to start addressing our political conflicts, not avoiding them. The sooner the better.

— John Hayden