State investigators found 20 violations of the state testing code on Fayette County Public Schools statewide tests taken in 2014-15, according to records obtained through the Kentucky Open Records Act from the state Department of Education.
In many cases, because of the length of the state investigation, Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk was not notified of the violations by letter until June 29 of this year. Caulk received other notifications in April. Test results from the 2015-16 school year have not yet been released. Schools are rated according to their performance on some of the tests, officially known as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress. Violations of other required tests also are investigated by the state.
State officials changed the grade of a special needs fifth-grade student at Cardinal Valley Elementary School to a zero after investigators found a teacher had asked the student to read a question out loud and think about what it meant. Such prompting is not allowed on the statewide tests, records showed.
The score of one ninth-grade student taking classes at the Family Care Center was invalidated after investigators found the student had been given a 10th-grade test.
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Test scores were lowered for another student at the Family Care Center and one at Bryan Station High School who were either allowed to work ahead or to return to past sections of a test.
State officials did not lower test scores as a result of the violations in most cases because they found that the integrity of the tests were not compromised or that students did not gain an advantage.
But also in most cases, teachers and school staff were required to get extra training. Districtwide, at least 17 school staff members are being required to obtain at least three hours of extra training on testing regulations.
Breckinridge Elementary School Principal Michael Price must obtain three hours of training because investigators found that he required teachers to spend 10 minutes each day covering social studies content in the weeks leading up to the tests and said he would be monitoring the teachers.
Under state regulations, principals cannot require teachers to use instructional time to prepare for statewide tests, according to an April 20 letter that Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent to Caulk.
“Our district is committed to following all guidelines and regulations related to the administration of state tests, and we will ensure our employees receive the additional training required,” Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said.
In addition to Breckinridge Elementary, one violation each was found at Julius Marks, Stonewall, and Deep Springs elementary schools; Tates Creek, Leestown, Bryan Station, Southern and Beaumont middle schools; and Tates Creek High School.
Two violations each were found at the Family Care Center, and Lansdowne Elementary, three violations were found at Bryan Station High and four at Cardinal Valley Elementary.
A few of the violations centered on students having access to the internet during a test. Some violations involved special-needs students either being denied accommodations or being given help that wasn't agreed upon in advance. Other violations involved how teachers monitored students during the tests or where tests were stored.
Student academic records are not affected by the decisions — only the overall scores for the schools, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.
Fayette County school officials self-reported to the state 12 of the confirmed violations. Letters from Pruitt to Caulk do not say who reported the other allegations.
State records show that the number of violations of the testing code in Fayette County dropped over three years.
There were 43 violations in 2013-14 and 31 in 2012-13.