School outraged by cheating accusation -- Gazette.Net


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This report was updated at 1:40 p.m. May 1, 2012.

An accusation that Highland Elementary School likely cheated on standardized tests has left Principal Scott Steffan and his staff outraged.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article Sunday that said the Silver Spring school likely cheated on its standardized tests because its scores increased so significantly from 2007 to 2009.

But there is no evidence that students at the school did not earn their test scores, Steffan said.

“I’m disheartened that the teachers and staff that have worked here that have really put their heart and soul into this school — that their efforts are going to be potentially minimized,” said Steffan, who has been principal at Highland for two years and has worked there for nine.

The article points out 23.5 percent of fifth-graders passed reading exams in 2007, and in 2008 that percentage increased to 79.6 percent. In 2009, the scores increased to 93.9 percent. The article quotes experts stating that such a jump in achievement could not have done by students alone, and infers that administration or staff cheated.

Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County schools, said Monday that it was not “miraculous” as the article stated, but the result of the hard work of a great leader and motivated staff.

He released a statement Monday that called the report irresponsible journalism.

“The turnaround that occurred at Highland Elementary School was the result of having a great school leader and a motivated staff that had the training, support and resources it needed to serve its students,” Starr wrote.

Steffan said his staff was upset — some teachers crying — at a meeting Monday morning. He said he and his staff are there for one reason — to help the students succeed — and they won’t lose sight of that.

Dana Tofig, schools spokesman, said the school system is not investigating the claims.

“We really don’t have anything to investigate,” he said.

jbondeson@gazette.net