No Surprise To Anyone Who Is a Fan of "The Wire"

One of the recurring themes in HBO's fabulous series "the Wire" was how well-intentioned government officials could be led astray by perverse incentives, and, tied to this, the overwhelming pressure that can build up in government to fix the metrics rather than the problem.

In Charleston, they apparently thought they had a real public school success story on their hands:

Sanders-Clyde is a school in downtown Charleston that serves some of
the poorest students in the county. Most of its children come from the
nearby homeless shelter or public housing apartments. Its test scores
once were the worst in the county, and its future was so bleak that the
county board planned to close it.

Then MiShawna Moore became
the school's principal in 2003. She tailored lessons for students,
helped their parents pay bills, washed students' clothes and opened the
school building on weekends. The school's test scores began to rise.

By
2007, the school outscored state and district averages, far exceeding
the progress of schools with students from similar backgrounds.
Educators hailed Moore as a model for other principals, the community
showered her school with praise, and federal and state awards went to
the school in recognition of its achievement. Moore was so successful
that she was asked to lead a second downtown school, Fraser Elementary,
to duplicate her accomplishments.

But suddenly, the bottom dropped out:

This year, the school's PACT results fell sharply in every subject and at every grade level.

So what changed?  The curriculum?  The students?  No, what changed was who was in charge of compiling the scores.  For the first time, they took the measurement process out of the hands of the person being rewarded for the measure:

This was the first time that the school district monitored the school's
testing. District officials took tests away from the school each night
and put monitors in classrooms daily. Janet Rose, the district's
executive director of assessment and accountability, told The Post and
Courier in May that the extra scrutiny would validate the school's
scores.

Oops.  It seems the former high-flying principal suddenly needs to spend more time with her family

A few weeks after the tests this spring, in a move that surprised
parents and officials, Moore announced that she was leaving Charleston
County.

Hat tip to Andrew Coulson

  • Dr. T

    Across the country school officials cheat on the standardized exams used to assess student learning (and to determine district success and school official's bonuses). Some states enable the school district cheaters so that the statewide scores will look better. MiShawna Moore just cheated more blatantly than others.

  • Frederick Davies

    You know, the really sad thing about this story is not that a School Principal cheated on her student's scores, but that the parents of said students did not spot their children were not being taught to the level their scores said (or worse still, they noticed and did not care!). That a third party does not care if your children are properly taught, is bad; that you do not notice (or care) is depressing.

  • anon in tx

    Three things to remember;
    1) Rewarding firefighters breeds arsonists,
    2) The nightwatchman puts down what he pleases.
    3) The benefits of ignorance accrue to the state.