Education

More than 200 violations found in tests given by Kentucky schools

Kentucky education officials changed the test scores of at least 44 students to zero and lowered the scores of 48 others after violations of the testing code were found in 2014-15 required statewide tests.

About 216 educators or school staff statewide were required to have extra training when violations occurred, according to documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

In all, 241 violations were found statewide on tests for 2014-15, the most recent year for which results are available. That compares with 257 in the year before. The tests include the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress used to rate schools and other required exams such as the ACT.

241violations were found statewide for 2014-15, compared with 257 the year before

Because of the time the investigations into allegations took, superintendents across the state have been receiving letters of confirmation in spring and summer of 2016 for the violations that occurred in 2014-15. Some notification letters were dated June 29, 2016.

In the Anchorage Independent Schools district, state officials changed the scores of three fifth-grade students after investigators found they were allowed to use dictionaries. In Anderson County, ACT officials were notified after one 11th-grade student admitted to copying math answers from another student’s ACT test. In Grant County, the scores of five eighth-grade students were lowered to zero after investigators found a teacher let them use protractors, which were not allowed for the tests.

“Most violations involve procedural errors rather than intentional efforts to cheat,” Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.

“While there is always a concern for the integrity of statewide assessments,” Rodriguez said, because of the nature of the violations, the number of allegations relative to other systems across the country, and the diligence of current school and district staff, state officials think that most districts are complying.

The vast majority of testing violations across the state are self-reported. Everyone involved in administering a state assessment must undergo administration code training before the testing session, Rodriguez said.

To prevent violations, state education officials are suggesting that district officials familiarize themselves with the requirements of the regulations, the test administration manuals and the administration code training.

After an allegation has been made, a case file is created by the state testing allegations coordinator. A state investigator then examines all available evidence. The case is brought to the Testing Board of Review. The education commissioner appoints members to the board representing various divisions within the state Department of Education or agencies outside the state education department.

The Testing Board of Review makes a recommendation to the commissioner as to what should be done.

State officials decide which violations result in training for staff, lowering scores or changing scores to zero by deciding whether there was intent and whether the integrity of the test was compromised.

A student’s academic record isn’t affected by the state’s decision. Students retain their scores, but the school receives a zero for that student for accountability purposes, Rodriguez said.

Jefferson County Public Schools, the largest district in the state, had about 66 violations of the state testing code in 2014-15.

In one case, a test score was lowered after a teacher told students to “look at the factors x/y and try it again, try a little harder.”

In Elliott County, a special-needs student’s test score was changed to a zero when investigators found that they were allowed to have a calculator that was not approved in the student’s individual education plan.

In Greenup County, scores for three students were lowered after a teacher touched the right answers on a computer screen and also discovered that a student was using a calculator program that was not allowed.

In Scott County, state officials changed a student’s score to a zero after a teacher marked an X in a yellow portion of a test for a student who could not see yellow.

Statewide, most violations did not affect scores but resulted in more training for educators.

In Jessamine County, a teacher was given extra training for providing students with a motivational note that included strategies, which is prohibited by the state testing code.

In Woodford County, a proctor was given extra training when investigators found that some test booklets were left unattended.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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