This week the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story highlighting where it found high concentrations of suspect tests scores after examining testing results for 69,000 schools in 49 states, including in the Weatherford school district.
The paper's "Cheating our Children" examination found that 15.5 percent of Weatherford's classes were flagged as having questionable gains from one grade to the next in 2011, which was the highest percentage in Texas identified in the report. The district had only about 2 percent of its classes flagged in 2009 and 2010, according to that newspaper.
Today Weatherford schools superintendent Jeffrey Hanks took issue with the report, which was also broadcasted on local television news, saying there was "absolutely no truth in what the story was inferring," adding that educators take the state tests and its integrity seriously.
"I take offense to this story and believe it slights the hard work of our students, their teachers and parents, and the school district as a whole," Hanks said in a news release. " From what I have been able to determine, this report should be characterized as reckless and irresponsible at best."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has previously helped uncover cheating schools. The newspaper published a series of analysis in 2008 and 2009 that showed suspicious gains in Atlanta Public schools, which led to a state investigation that found various unethical behaviors there.
This week's report also flagged that about 11.5 percent of Keller and Crowley's class results.
However, Texas officials have concerns about the report's methodology. DeEtta Culbertson, a spokeswoman with the Texas Education Agency, noted that the Atlanta paper's examination flagged classes for large gains and large losses, which wouldn't be associated with cheating. And the report examines scores for groups of students rather than individual students, she said.
"We have such a high mobility rate in our schools, especially in the urban areas, you don't know if you're looking at the same students from year to year to really be able to tell if there's cheating," Culbertson said. "Even their own analysis notes that this is not indicative of actual cheating going on. But this is a good reminder, especially this week as we begin our spring testing, that if anyone knows of any irregularities or cheating on the tests, they need to report that. Any cheating is not only a felony but also sanctionable against certification."