NEXT UP: ERASING WHOLE CHILDREN  12:36 pm March 28, 2011

Magic ‘Improved’ Schools Just Happen To Have a Lot of Eraser Marks On Their Tests

by Jack Stuef

How do you get out of hot water with Michelle Rhee and ply a bunch of Well-Meaning Treasure from her bonus heap?

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.

This is a series of documents obtained by USA TODAY through public-records requests. It details a back-and-forth between two District of Columbia agencies on test-score investigations.
Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That’s more than half of D.C. schools.

Wow, these schools are doing a really good job teaching their “kids” how to use an eraser! Thanks, Michelle!

It was about time we brought into our schools what makes the private sector work so well. Cheating is Fundamental™ [USA Today]

Related video

Hola wonkerados.

To improve site performance, we did a thing. It could be up to three minutes before your comment appears. DON'T KEEP RETRYING, OKAY?

Also, if you are a new commenter, your comment may never appear. This is probably because we hate you.


PublicLuxury March 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

It is the Magic Eraser created by the pioneering folks at the Magic School Bus.

CalamityJames March 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Did they make the Magic Bullet, too? Cause my ex would really like to thank them.

karen March 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm


SexySmurf March 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm

At least they're learning something useful; cheating the system and Mandarin Chinese are the only skills that children will need to survive in 21st century America.

Mahousu March 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

你说的很对。(I copied that out of the book hidden under my desk.)

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:00 am

Cheating and baldfaced lies will take you a long way in China

PublicLuxury March 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Maybe they'll give the kiddos a certificate of attendance rather than a diploma.

nounverb911 March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Doesn't Texas already do that?

ThankYouJeebus March 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm

"My Child is a Participant at Noyes Elementary School"

Guppy06 March 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

"My Child is Incarcerated at Noyes Elementary School"

Zvi_Bleindmeis March 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

"I'm proud of my honor student at Noyes Elementary School, but indifferent toward her mediocre brother!"

trampndirtdown March 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Who is probably just as smart, but not as much of a kiss ass as his sister.

prommie March 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Its the work of the invisible hand of the market, improving test scores, as predicted by conservative doctrine!

KenLayIsAlive March 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

It's liek schools are not very "good" and this is all a crock

Its the work of the invisible hand of the market, improving test scores, as predicted by conservative doctrine!

Weenus299 March 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Kids are still using pencils and erasers for these fucking things? Get back to me when they find eraser marks on the computer monitors.

mavenmaven March 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Good enough for our expanding military recruitment needs!

nounverb911 March 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

But only if Michelle Obama can un-obese them.

JustPixelz March 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm

She's welcome to un-obese me anytime.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:01 am

Too true, probably

GuyClinch March 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Further investigation reveals that DC teachers had permanent graphite stains on outer side of writing hand and permanent calluses between first and second fingers.

Jim89048 March 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I see big profits in eraser futures–can I grow them in my anti-obesity Freedom Garden?

prommie March 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm

The teachers didn't do anything wrong, everything was perfectly cromulent. Michelle Rhee's genius simply embiggened the students brains.

V572del c:*.* y/n? March 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

What ever happened to the idea of Asians as modest high-achievers, rather than camera-chasing fame whores?

horsedreamer_1 March 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Tiger Woods?

V572del c:/*.* y/n? March 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

"Cablanisian" ≠ Asian. But that's still a good one!

Urban_Achiever March 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I thought this post was going to be about how Magic Johnson was improving the schools….moving on now…..

DaRooster March 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Uh, yeah… that would happen.

V572del c:*.* y/n? March 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

If the only subject were tail-chasing, Zauber would be the dean, that's for sure.

freakishlywrong March 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Our children isn't learning.

Andrew Drinker March 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm

""Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling." -GWB

smokefilledroommate March 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm

How is babby formed?

weejee March 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Silly Michelle. It's much easier to have the smart kids take the test first and put tick marks next to the correct answers in the question books. Then you have the folks in the last lift of dumbos erase the ticks in the test booklet. That's how the Army does it.

ttommyunger March 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

No surprise here. A shitload of Atlanta Public School teachers, administrators and staff are in hot water up to their hairy armpits due to their active role or complicity in changing test papers to reflect a more favorable score. Internal investigations were so clumsily skewed the GBI had to be called in to take over the probe. The big question still unanswered: who is dumber, the dumbass students or the crooked, incompetent dumbass educators?

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:02 am

As if tests prove anything.

ttommyunger March 30, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I believe in practical testing, not so much written. As a former instructor at a Federal Law Enforcement Facility, I know the horror stories by heart.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I completely agree.

OC_Surf_Serf March 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Hey, that's just writing with both ends of the pencil!

DownFist Troll March 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Homeschooling: Now taught at regular school.

DaRooster March 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Good thing they don't use them chad type tests, what a mess that would be.

aqua_buddha March 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Hmm, good point, with the chads, you could end up cheating the smart kid, and rewarding the smirky kid who never read or studied a bit. That would be a real mess.
Surely somebody would eventually catch on to that, though.

lilblacktombo March 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

The "No yes" school was changing wrong answers to right ones? Unbelievable.

elviouslyqueer March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm


Extemporanus March 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm

If any answer on this test deserves to have its score erased and replaced with something higher, it's this one.

Texan_Bulldog March 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I knew Michelle Rhee was selling snake oil…that is all.

TsunamiAli March 29, 2011 at 2:57 am

Really makes the New York article Jack riffed on last week seem a lot more prescient, now.

chascates March 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm

That's what school prayer will do for you!

Pragmatist2 March 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Knowing what marks to erase is an important skill in life. Ask New Gingrich or Mitt Romney.

hagajim March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Except those dumb fuckers keep erasing and the marks won't go away!

nounverb911 March 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Has Mitt gotten the roof of his car clean yet?

Gopherit March 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

This kind of shit was completely predictable when no child left behind tied federal funding for schools directly to test scores. I can't be snarky about this. Administrators and teachers are put in the position of trying to get more money for their schools to maybe help with their abysmal performance, with the extra sweetening of the conflict of financially enriching themselves if they do cheat. In the mean time, we're raising yet another generation of kids who will be challenged by both the jobs they can find in service and fast food industries. We are our own worst enemy.

problemwithcaring March 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

No snark, but Unfortunately, good policymakers like those in the administration are also relying on too heavily on high stakes testing.John Deasy is pleasing the LA Times in pushing for this same type of reliance on testing for teacher performance ratings, minus the infusion of resources the teachers need to get the job done.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:03 am

It always sounded to me as if they were imitating the worst features of Chinese education.

hagajim March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Wait – aren't the schools just there to babysit the kids anyway? Why do we need an educated citizenry? The dumber the better – for the few richies anyway.

ProgressiveInga March 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

So while we were sitting around Waiting for Superman, all we really needed was an eraser?

Mumbletypeg March 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

That, and a fellow con willing to supply the correct answers. Even since the middle of last decade, documented cases in schools (see: Houston public) have uncovered this to include the teachers themselves.
The "anti-hero" has a new meaning as it's taught in school nowadays.

nounverb911 March 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

But the important question is still: Has Laura finally taught George how to read yet?

petehammer March 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Rarely is that question asked.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

Audiobooks. The Bible and Late Great Planet Earth are all he needs, anyway.

Lionel[redacted]Esq March 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Someone is angling for a big Wall Street job.

widestanceroman March 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Dumb kids. The smart ones write the answers on their hands.

Redhead March 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Nah, because that washes off if you have to use the bathroom sometime before the test ends and aren't completely disgusting.

The REALLY smart kids pin a piece of paper (typed in 2 point font, since that's smaller than most people can write) to the bottom of their baseball hat brim, if hats are allowed, or they carefully peel off the label on a clear water bottle, tape the paper with answers on it to the inside, and then tape it back – so you can see the label through the bottle.

And then yell "he's got a teleprompter!!!" to distract the teacher/proctor when s/he walks by.

Andrew Drinker March 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

What's next? Soft Cell in daycare? Pet Shop Boys on Sesame Street? WE MUST LEGISLATE AGAINST HOMOSEXUAL 80s SYNTHPOP! FOR THE CHILDREN!

horsedreamer_1 March 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I fear it was already too late when we let t.A.t.U. on Total Request Live.

It is, in fact, going to get us.

trampndirtdown March 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm

naw Newt told me it was O.K. if its just rubbing lady parts together.

ogradybt March 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

"Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That’s more than half of D.C. schools."

I'm going to guess that about half of all schools fell below the average erasure rate with the same frequency in the same time period. Because THAT'S KIND OF HOW AVERAGES WORK.

WriteyWriterton March 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I think you're thinking of the "median": "Median is a mathematical result that indicates that one half of the group is higher and one half lower. Median price of 101 sold homes would be that price which is lower than 50 of the prices and also higher than 50 of them."

ogradybt March 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Sure–but if there's relatively flat distribution among all the entries, the number above & below the average will be close to half. If you're flagging half your entries as outliers you might need to re-evaluate. Not to say school admins juking the stats isn't an issue. I just think it's poor analysis on the part of the reporter.

BTW, I'm not a statistician. More a glorified data analyst with two English degrees.

horsedreamer_1 March 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Statistics!? How do they work?

WriteyWriterton March 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Number go in, numbers come out. Explain that!

WriteyWriterton March 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I think it would be a bell-shaped distribution that would produce a median close to an average, but who cares? Our children is not gettin' edumacated.

KnaveOfDiamond March 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

Assuming the number of erasures over schools is just a normal random variable, even without any sort of interesting effect like excessive erasures at some schools, half will have a number of erasures greater than the average. This is because in a normal distribution the mean and median are the same since the distribution is symmetric. If we look over two years, then the number of schools that had more than the average number of erasures in one of those years can only go up to more than half of all schools. So, even *in the absence of any statistically significant effect*, we would get that over half of schools have more than the DC average of erasures over when considered over multiple years.

To make this statistic interesting, we would need to know if the distribution is unusual, for example, is it bimodal? Can we split the set of DC schools such that these 103 high erasure schools have a distribution of erasures with a statistically significant difference in mean from the remaining schools? These are not difficult tests to run with the data. Hell, they can be done in Excel.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:06 am

What desperate PhD candidate did the research on *erasure rates*, anyway?

V572del c:*.* y/n? March 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

My dear old sainted mother, who was a public school teacher, always said that standardized testing as a measure of teacher performance would lead to teachers just "teaching the test." Apparently even that was too much trouble.

user-of-owls March 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Au contraire mon frere. That is how medians work. Which is why whatever district Gates or Soros or Les Kochs lives in will have an average income of about eleventy bojillion dollars despite the fact that 99% of the population there does gardening, house cleaning and chauffeuring for said oligarchs.

Oh, and they're all fucking beaners too.

donner_froh March 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

This is truly shocking–basing rewards solely on test scores leads to cheating on tests. No one could have foreseen that!

DonnyKerabotsos March 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Well, Newt Gingrich will see this as a positive development since cheating now will prepare those teachers and students to cravenly criticize other cheaters later when they are shutting down the government or running for president.

And isn't education about preparing for the future?
Or winning the future?

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:07 am

Is that how Newt got his degrees?

GOPCrusher March 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I only wonder which rocket scientist thought it would be a good idea to dole out funds to schools based off of the results of test scores?
And didn't think it would result in cheating?

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 7:07 am

Neal Bush, bro of the Pres, if rumor be true.

JustPixelz March 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Is our children erasing?

Given the levels of cheating college students self-report, it should be no surprise the cut-and-paste approach to learning permeates academics. When I taught training sessions on my job, I'd tell the attendees "There will be a test on this later in your career." Unfortunately that test may be in form or a mushroom-shaped cloud. OOPS! wrong failure of intellect. I mean, the test may be in the form of a medical decision for a loved one.

natoslug March 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I am VERY UPSET that more than half the schools have above-average eraser marks. Next you'll tell me that less than half had below-average eraser marks!!!

BarackMyWorld March 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm

It is the goal of American education for every child to be above average.

aqua_buddha March 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Win of the thread.

Extemporanus March 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm


horsedreamer_1 March 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Don't worry: there's another Madea film coming to theatres.

horsedreamer_1 March 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm
EdFlintstone March 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Somebody needs to erase all copies of Waiting on Superman.

aguacatero March 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I'm thinking "outside the box" here, but wouldn't this work with the deficit too?

lochnessmonster March 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Can't wait to post NCLB RIP. Worst unfunded federal government program/initiative ever.

metamarcisf March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Noyes School: Where Number 2 is more than just a pencil.

BaldarTFlagass March 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I guess we can expect the percentage of "undecideds" in electoral polls to increase dramatically as these children enter the voting rolls.

mumbly_ジョジョ March 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That’s more than half of D.C. schools.

I just want to point out how dumb this sentence actually is if you spend two seconds thinking about it. Wait, really? "More than half" surpassed the average? At least once in two years? Why, next you'll be telling me that "more than" 2/5ths of absences at those schools were on Mondays or Fridays, also. WHEN WILL SOMEONE STOP THE ABUSE.

No, but really, that sentence makes whoever wrote the article sound like they came from a failing school.

wondering where i am March 29, 2011 at 1:35 am

It was USA Today, c'mon. I read that it is geared to a sixth grade reading level. I guess they meant six grade reading level of kids at DC schools.

[redacted]hse March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Is you learning?

CapnFatback March 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Acording to my source, failing is unpossible (Wiggum 205)!

ulTIMum March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

See, all education is only flawed if it doesn't jibe with reality. So, everybody cheats out there? Teach 'em to cheat in here. That's education! It means something like "to lead out," according to Miss Jean Brodie (whose kids never received less than perfect marks).

MinAgain March 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm

When you tie money to good test results, then you get good test results. Thank you for playing.

smokefilledroommate March 28, 2011 at 8:05 pm

They're gonna break these chains of standardized testing.

Troubledog March 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Those kids that thought they were all smart, for a while? Now they aren't achievers any more. Hahahahaha.

MadBrahms March 29, 2011 at 12:52 am

No child left behind! No, seriously, we need them to clear the room so no one will see us altering their exam scores.

TsunamiAli March 29, 2011 at 2:46 am

Don't want to whore on the Wonkett but the Bartleby Project has a funny name but a serious purpose in asking folks to say, "I prefer not to" when it comes to taking NCLB-mandated tests. I don't know how I feel about project's idea but I like the name.

Pres[ $ rm -r * ] March 29, 2011 at 11:21 am

No Eraser Left Behind

Ancient_Hackery March 29, 2011 at 11:40 am

This is old news– I think it was the "Freakonomics" guy that looked into the distribution of right and wrong answers and found all kinds of fishy coincidences.

Also, he also blew the lid off Sumo Wrestling, but I think there's no connection to standardized test scores there.

petehammer March 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Dude, have a little respect.

Dudleydidwrong March 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm

If the goal of some education is high self-esteem, then what's wrong with erasing? Just keep guessing until someone comes and puts a smiley face on your forehead, and go home and let everyone know how you earned it. If the goal of some education is the attainment of knowledge and skills for future learning then get rid of the goddamn standardized tests! I guess we as a country have made our choice…Fucked we are.

zhubajie March 30, 2011 at 8:20 am

I knew of a man in the Navy who passed a promotion exam by filling in the circles so as to spell obscenities! He passed, too.

lalmagor April 10, 2011 at 1:06 am

Um, wait. Are we actually surprised that half of all schools had erasure rates above the district average?

Did we expect all the schools to be below average?

Do we understand about averages?

aqua_buddha March 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm

How'd d'moon get dere ?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: