USA Today ran a lengthy investigative piece Monday detailing instances of higher-than normal erasures of answers on standardized tests at 103 of Washington, D.C.'s public schools, including many of the city's high schools.
Acting D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson told the paper that "a high erasure rate alone is not evidence of impropriety." Test scores generally went up at schools where the numbers of erasures were higher than normal, and most of the erasures were wrong-to-right corrections.
The paper examined test data from the past few years provided by CTB/McGraw-Hill, the testing company used by the D.C. school system.
While a few erased answers can occur because a student made a mistake or reviewed answers at the end of a test, the chance of that many erasures happening naturally is low. "The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance," the article says.
But D.C. isn't the only place where test erasures are occurring.
Last year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that one fifth of all schools in Georgia had tampered with standardized tests. Administrators and teachers at 58 schools in that state are under criminal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
In 2009, higher-than-normal score increases on Arizona standardized tests were called into question by USA Today and The Arizona Republic. Arizona Department of Education officials asked 10 schools for explanations of "possible inappropriate adult behavior" on state standardized tests.
The Detroit Free Press and USA Today also found higher-than-average erasure rates on tests taken by students at 32 schools in and around Detroit between 2008 and 2009.
In Baltimore, George Washington Elementary was awarded a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2007 after the number of students who passed state reading tests increased from 32 percent to nearly 100 percent in just four years. Last year, the Baltimore Sun reported thousands of erasures on those tests. Then-principal Susan Burgess's professional license was revoked after an investigation by state and city school board officials.
Recent investigations by USA Today and affiliated local papers also discovered suspicious test scores in Ohio, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Florida. The Dallas Morning News reported finding high rates of test erasures in Texas. Six teachers and two principals were fired after cheating was uncovered there.