Category Archives: News

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

Here’s a link to the original story, written by my USA TODAY colleague Jack Gillum and I, that the NY Times column referred to.

WASHINGTON — In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its “shining stars.”

Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-28-1Aschooltesting28_CV_N.htm

Eager for spotlight, but not if it’s on testing controversy

This is an interesting turn of events. The NY Times recaps USA TODAY’s efforts to speak with former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee about the high test score gains she touted during her time leading the public schools. Why won’t Michelle Rhee speak to USA TODAY, asks NYT columnist Mike Winerip.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/education/22winerip.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=rhee&st=cse

And yes we are still waiting.

Alabama town faces its history 50 years after Freedom Rides

ANNISTON, Ala. — Walk through this small industrial town in northeast Alabama and it looks much like it did 50 years ago. The light brick one-story building on Gurnee Avenue that once housed the Greyhound bus depot is on the same corner. So is the police station in the next block.

Yet the tenor of the town where Hank Thomas was almost killed for trying to desegregate buses in the Deep South has changed.

Back then, Thomas was a 19-year-old black college student facing an angry mob of white people who firebombed and slashed the tires of the Greyhound bus in which he and other students, black and white, were riding as part of a protest known as the Freedom Rides. Police did nothing as the choking riders fled the flaming bus.

As events this summer mark the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the iconic image of that bus is a reminder of the nation’s troubled history. For his part, Thomas returned last month to a contrite and welcoming town.

http://www.usatoday.com/video/index.htm?bctid=969696598001#/Freedom+Riders+educate+a+new+generation/969696598001

Freedom Riders educate a new generation

50 years after their famous ride for civil rights, Freedom Riders retrace their route from Nashville, Tenn. to Jackson, Miss. This time with students from Tenn State University.

 

Haitian survivors rebuild their lives after deadly earthquake

The sad, uplifting story of a Haitian father who lost his wife and oldest daughter and works to make life better for himself and his youngest daughter, who lost her arm in the quake.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-05-12-haiti-earthquake-survivor-update_n.htm

Mourners remember Elizabeth Edwards

This was one of the first videos I edited on deadline. A sad farewell to Elizabeth Edwards.

Homeless runners get back on their feet

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change … so begins every run for homeless men in D.C. on the road to recovery.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-07-homeless07_ST_N.htm