Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Evidence lacking that fired school principal cheated on tests

Test scores stand

Our new analysis indicates cheating didn’t happen and the firing was a bad mistake for kids

The Herald-Leader reports Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday recently issued a letter (confirmed elsewhere as on February 1, 2010) concerning the official investigation that fired Booker T. Washington Academy Principal Peggy Petrilli cheated on CATS assessments.

Holliday’s letter says there wasn’t enough evidence to establish the charges, and the investigation has been closed.

The letter has been posted by another blogger but the story goes deeper than coverage there or in the paper.

For one thing, the most recent state test results tend to bolster Petrilli’s case that she not only didn’t cheat at Booker T, but rather she actually produced remarkable progress at this very troubled school. Furthermore, she did it within two years of taking over.

(Source: Kentucky Performance Reports and Interim Performance Reports for Booker T. Washington)

Prior to Petrilli’s assignment to Booker T. Washington in the 2005-2006 school year, this elementary school had very low and unsteady performance in the key Kentucky Core Content Test subjects of reading, math, science, social studies, and on-demand writing. The year prior to Petrilli’s arrival at the school, proficiency rates declined in every subject but math, which remained flat from the previous year. By any measure, this was a very troubled school when Petrilli was asked to go in and turn it around.

Once Peggy Petrilli arrived, the school’s performance solidly changed. Proficiency rates rose notably during her two years at the helm.

Even after she was fired, there appears to have been a “Petrilli Halo Effect” in the subjects of writing and math, which continued to show improvement for another year.

This halo effect is significant. It is highly unlikely that halo effect would be present if Petrilli had been cheating. Instead, all scores should have fallen dramatically right after her departure.

Sadly, by 2009, the halo effect ended as all scores in Booker T. Washington declined.

Furthermore, some unfortunate issues are surfacing about the formal investigation.

Petrilli and her lawyer inform us she was never officially notified that this investigation had been initiated at the Kentucky Department of Education. She only received some specific requests for information which never identified why that information was being requested. Also, six weeks after the letter closing the investigation was issued to Fayette County superintendent Silberman, Petrilli has not been informed that this case – which could have damaged her career in education forever – had been closed.

That seems remarkable considering the huge amount of public exposure this investigation generated.

Right now, it looks like the Fayette County School District fired a highly effective principal who was doing exactly what she had been asked to do, and doing it well.

Petrilli has a legal action pending about the firing. Things like the test results above coupled with the recent finding of innocence from the department of education could make it really hard for the district to withstand that suit.

Ultimately, the taxpayer may wind up footing another big bill because too often our education establishment doesn’t know how to identify, manage, lead and support really exceptional educators.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AMEN! Peggy Petrilli is a class act!