An Atlanta newspaper’s report on cheating has outraged school officials in Montgomery County.
Virtually all of the students at Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., achieved high scores in standardized reading tests. Highland proudly displays the National Blue Ribbon Award it won in 2009 -- the highest award bestowed by the U.S. Department of Education.
But over the weekend, an investigative report published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "Cheating Our Children: Suspect Scores Put Awards Integrity Into Question" examined thousands of schools and questioned how Highland Elementary test scores could have improved so dramatically in three years with a high proportion of students living in poverty and coming from homes where no English is spoken.
“We do not accept anybody disparaging the hard work of our staff and our kids," Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr said.
Scott Steffan taught at Highland for seven years before becoming principal a couple years ago.
"I am completely appalled by the allegation that the school is cheating,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in what we have done for our students here at Highland Elementary, and there has never been one allegation, one accusation that there has been anything other than fantastic instruction going on here that has led to the results we've achieved."
"We looked at 69,000 schools,” Journal Constitution Editor Kevin Riley said. “Hundreds of school districts have suspicious results, and we also focused on Blue Ribbon schools and we highlighted some of the schools where our experts tell us that the scores look very suspicious."