Seize the Day, or Seize the Tests (to check for cheating)?

by David Safier

The charter school, Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School in Yuma, may be doing a great job seeing as how, "The school posted some of the highest gains in three grades on the AIMS test of any of the 1,337 schools analyzed by The Arizona Republic and USA Today."

But when test scores go up that dramatically, the state should look into it. If the scores are genuine, the ADE should figure out a way to bottle that technique and ship it off to other schools around the state. If the scores have been juiced somehow, the state should put a stop to it.

Carpe Diem was flagged in 2010 because the sophomore reading tests had a high number of erasures. That leads to the suspicion that staff went through the tests after they were turned in and corrected student answers, or students were given some one-on-one coaching while they were being tested.

It's not just the number of erasures that matter. It's the number of times wrong answers are erased and right answers are added.

[The] report said a group of 27 Carpe Diem students who took the AIMS reading test had a total number of wrong-to-right erasure marks seven times as high as the state average.

Wow! Either those students did a great job of checking their work — great job, hell, a phenomenal job — or there is some hanky panky involved here. Either way, it should be checked.

But the state isn't planning to do anything, not even monitor the testing at the school next spring.

Here are two possible reasons why the state is taking such a cavalier attitude toward the questionable results: (1) The ADE loves charter schools and has every reason to make them look successful; (2) Carpe Diem uses more computer-assisted learning and fewer teachers than most schools, which puts it right in the state's cut-ed-funding sweet spot.

And here is a third possible reason. Ed Supe John Huppenthal has been known to cite Carpe Diem as a success story because of its test results. It would be a shame if that success were based on, ahem, cheating.