The Virginia Department of Data Suppression Strikes Again

data_suppressionIf you suspect that the Virginia Department of Education and local school districts are manipulating student-achievement numbers to portray themselves in the best possible light, John Butcher, a retired attorney who authors Cranky’s Blog, has presented more data to bolster your case.

Virginia has four programs for testing students with special needs. Butcher, a retired attorney, previously documented the abuse of one of them, the Virginia Grade Level Alternative, in which students are classified as handicapped in order to boost pass rates on standardized tests.

In yesterday’s post, Butcher focused on the Virginia Alternative Assessment Program, which offers a testing alternative for students with “significant cognitive disabilities.” His analysis shows that school divisions with lower Standards of Learning (SOL) scores and in most need of better scores, have higher-than-average VAAP scores, raising the question of whether school divisions are using the alternative test as a means of removing marginal performers from SOL testing.

Getting a definitive answer to that question is difficult because VDOE suppresses the data for school districts with fewer than 10 participants “to protect the identity of individual students.” But Butcher observes that VAAP pass rates are expressed in decimal values that could be created only if far more than 10 students were taking the test. “Given VDOE’s interest in high SOL scores,” he asks, “should we suspect that they are hiding something here?

–JAB

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