Erase to the Top

by Robert Pondiscio
March 28th, 2011

“On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on answer sheets; the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than 1. The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.”

A USA Today investigative piece looks at high erasure rates on standardized tests at Washington, DC’s Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which went from a school in need to one of DC’s ‘shining stars.’”  The report notes that three years ago, DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education asked test-maker McGraw-Hill to do “erasure analysis” after some schools showed big gains in in proficiency rates on April 2008 tests.  “Among 96 schools flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where [DC Superintendent Michelle] Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards ‘to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,’ as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these.”


  1. Gotta love USA Today.

    I guess the take-away is that we shouldn’t attempt to “recognize, reward, and retain high-performing educators and support staff.” Without all that pressure to, you know, do your job… we wouldn’t be pressured to cheat.

    Damn Michelle Rhee and those “so-called” TEAM awards.

    Comment by MB — March 28, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  2. That’s one possibility. The other possible takeaway is that reading scores don’t go through the roof overnight through the agency of tighter mangement or magic teachers. Test scores go up–gradually and over time–through patient work in developing students’ knowledge and language skills. Cinderella stories make great copy in the NCAA basketball tournament. Less so in low-performing schools.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — March 28, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  3. “Patient work in developing students’ knowledge and skills…” Oh, yes. No shortcuts.

    It’s all about long-term investment in quality, not looking for a silver bullet. Because there isn’t one.

    Comment by Nancy Flanagan — March 28, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  4. Where I taught for ten years, NCLB came along one year, and before the “race to the top,” the administration latched on to anything they could to raise AYP. At our school we had no erasures as the students couldn’t care less about a so-called “high stakes test” such as the California High School Exit Exam. Teaching staff were expected to “teach to the test” while plastering Standards on the wall.

    Our students were attending our Title I school and 95 per cent of them were on probation. What the DOE seemed to avoid is the idea that it DOES take a village to make things better, to keep kids out of prisons and get them to colleges and vocational training centers.

    It’s like the economy: It’s not the budget, stupid. It’s the increasing inequality between the haves and have nots.

    Tax the rich, stop the wars, and change the suits in offices throughout America. All that has happened in my 30 years as a teacher is a continuation of Kozol’s “Savage Inequalities.” Under pressure, many will cheat. And how does that help our children understand and live in the world?

    Comment by kuhio kane — March 29, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

  5. LA superteacher Rafe Esquith’s biography was entitled “There Are No Shortcuts.”

    I guess it was not on the reading list at DCPS?

    Comment by Matthew — March 29, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  6. What a fabulous title. It says it all.

    Comment by NYC Educator — March 29, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  7. [...] attack on U.S.A. Today’s discovery of it, has been in the news the past few days. Robert Pondiscio has come-up with a catchy phrase to describe it — “Erase To The [...]

    Pingback by The Best Posts & Articles About “Erase To The Top” | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... — March 30, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  8. [...] According to Robert Pondiscio… [...]

    Pingback by It looks like somebody done done some erasin’! (a.k.a.Erase to the Top, a phrase I wish I’d coined.) » Alan Lawrence Sitomer — April 5, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  9. [...] many of these DC test-score gains turn out to be illusory and succumb to what some are calling the “Erase To The Top” scandal, it may spell further trouble for Rhee as a spokesperson for the school reform movement. [...]

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