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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chris Cobitz, Charlotte Schools NCLB Testing "Guru" Resigns After Lying About Student Progress

Cobitz resigns after CMS data error

Chris Cobitz, the administrator in charge of school progress reports at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, has resigned in the wake of erroneous information about students on track to graduate.

"It is better for the children of Mecklenburg County when the public does not have reason to doubt the accuracy of reports made," Cobitz said in an email Tuesday night. "Recent events could cause the public to question future reports from my office. I take responsibility for any inaccurate data that was released."

Cobitz, executive director for federal and state programs, makes $101,839 a year. His resignation is effective Feb. 7.

Last week CMS published school progress reports that showed virtually all students were labeled "anticipated to graduate on time," a new measure based on the percent of students who have never been held back a grade.

Cobitz and Chief Information Officer Scott Muri, who took over the accountability department when Robert Avossa left to head a Georgia school district, originally said the numbers were counterintuitive but correct.

However, after repeated questions from the Observer, Cobitz realized the numbers that had been published were different from the actual calculations. The published numbers showed 98 percent of all CMS high school students on track to graduate on time. The actual calculation was 75 percent, close to the four-year graduation rate of 74 percent. No one has explained where the erroneous numbers came from or what they represent.

On Friday, interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh notified the school board that school progress had been taken off the CMS website because "several issues of data accuracy have come to light." He said the reports will be reposted Feb. 3 after a full audit.

The progress reports, which tally data on student performance, teachers qualifications, parent involvement and other measures, are part of an effort launched by former Superintendent Peter Gorman and the school board to use data to inform families and shape school improvement efforts. When CMS was awarded the 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education, "the district's intense approach to data-based decision-making" was one of the strengths cited.

Cobitz came to CMS in 2007 from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. He earned state and national recognition for his work, but also came under fire from teachers and families for his role in an expanded testing program that debuted last spring.

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Sources: Charlotte-Meck. Schools, McClatchy Newspapers, Zimbio, WCNC, Google Maps

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