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District statement: We never got 2009 report

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The School District issed the following statement on Saturday in response to the Notebook's story on the 2009 state-sponsored study flagging dozens of schools for possible cheating on the PSSA test:

STATEMENT

Unfortunately the District did not receive a copy of the 2009 forensic analysis released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Information from the erasure analysis would have been very useful in supporting the District’s investigations, although we agree with PDE’s spokesperson, Mr. Eller, that in its current format, it is not user-friendly. Given the resources PDE expended in 2009 to conduct the forensic analysis, as well as those used to conduct the 2011 analysis, it would be helpful if PDE had provided additional guidance on how to use the results of these important and useful analyses.

Below is description of the District’s very robust test monitoring protocol.

Approximately 75% of schools, including charters, are visited during PSSA testing. The visits are unannounced and the specific classroom visited at a school is randomly selected. Test monitors are provided a checklist that lays out “what to look for”, including inappropriate assistance to students while the test is being administered. All school Test Coordinators receive mandated training about six weeks before the test window and the training includes information on the type of assistance that is allowed and what is prohibited. Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), staff from the Data Recognition Corporation (PDE’s vendor) and staff from the Office of Assessment, present this information both orally and in writing. Test Coordinators then turn-around this training at their schools.

Reported violations of test security are investigated by staff from the Office of Assessment. In each of the past three years, the Office of Assessment has received about 10-15 allegations of breaches in test security and there have been a few substantiated cases. Allegations may come from parents, teachers, principals, test monitors, community members, PDE or concerned citizens. The allegations are communicated by phone, email, test-monitoring forms and by letter. The District does not use an outside service to investigate these claims. All allegations that are reported to us are investigated, but as it is an investigative process, whenever we are in the midst of an investigation, we have to maintain the fidelity of the process.

Once a test security violation is reported, staff from the Office of Assessment call the school in question and make arrangements to conduct an investigation about the validity of the alleged test violation. If the violation is considered low-level, the school is contacted by the Office of Assessment to correct the offense (e.g., failing to cover materials in the hallway during the testing period).

If the allegation is more serious, arrangements will be made to meet with the school principal and Test Coordinator—and arrangements may also be made to meet with (1) students, teachers, and or other people making the allegation, (2) witnesses to the allegation and (3) other individuals involved in the allegation. Staff members receive written notification of a test security investigation at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled meeting. All staff members are provided the opportunity to have union representation present at the meetings.

Once an investigation is completed, a written report and recommendations are submitted to the Deputy Chief of Accountability and a determination is made as to whether or not further action is required. The Deputy Chief will recommend the next appropriate action that occurs in response to more serious breaches in test security. In these instances, the appropriate administrator (Principal, Assistant Superintendent) will conduct a disciplinary investigation and determine if any disciplinary action is required. Office of Assessment personnel attend the disciplinary investigation as expert witnesses.

The District takes testing security very seriously and works hard to ensure that students are tested using all established protocol in order to ensure accurate results. Investigations determine that most of the alleged security breaches reported to the District annually are unfounded.

We entrust the care of our young people to our principals and teachers and the overwhelming majority of them are hardworking professionals who take on that task with fidelity. Until we have reason to believe otherwise, we stand on the integrity of these individuals who educate our students throughout the year.
 

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Paul Socolar

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Paul is the Notebook's former editor and publisher and also one of its founders in 1994.

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