Incidents of teachers leaving their classrooms while giving state assessments, not providing students proper testing accommodations and students returning to previous test sections are among the state-documented testing violations in Warren County Public Schools during the 2017-18 school year.
While several reports are still being investigated, records obtained by the Daily News show that in several cases, students’ test scores were zeroed out and that the state’s education commissioner recommended more training for some of the teachers involved.
WCPS Superintendent Rob Clayton responded to the violations in a statement to the Daily News.
“While it is unfortunate to have any (state) testing allegation, I think it speaks volumes about WCPS leadership and our culture of compliance in regard to our ethical approach to assessments across our district,” Clayton’s statement reads in part. “We consistently self report and will always err on the side of caution to ensure the integrity of our state assessment results to our community.”
When a possible violation occurs, school officials are asked to report the incident through their district assessment coordinator, who in return reports it to the state for investigation.
In at least seven cases, testing violations resulted in scores being invalidated for the students involved and there were several recommendations that teachers seek more training in administering state assessments.
Under the state’s Open Records Act, the Daily News requested documentation from the Kentucky Department of Education for any testing violations that occurred in either Warren County Public Schools or the Bowling Green Independent School District during the 2017-18 school year.
John Landon, a staff attorney with the state department, said in an email that he was unable to provide such records for the Bowling Green Independent School District.
“It is my belief that we do not currently possess any final testing violation records from Bowling Green Independent for the 2017-2018 school year, based on my inquiry,” Landon said.
The records obtained by the Daily News are available online at bgdailynews.com with this story.
Responding to the Daily News’ request, Landon said that “there are several reports that are still in the draft stages” that may become available in the future.
Violation allegations were investigated and confirmed by the department at Drakes Creek Middle, GEO International High, Henry F. Moss Middle, Lost River Elementary, Rich Pond Elementary, Richardsville Elementary, Warren Elementary and South Warren High schools.
In one case, a teacher at Lost River Elementary School asked a fifth grade student if the student meant to stop before answering the questions on a page or misunderstood the instructions on a state reading assessment. While being given the state’s social studies assessment, another fifth grade student was asked if the student meant to leave a question blank.
State regulations prohibit any behavior that would assist students in understanding or responding to any test item, including that “no one shall coach, edit, point out errors or missing answers in student work on any item of the test to improve student scores.” As a result, both students had their scores for those assessments invalidated.
In another case, a teacher at Rich Pond Elementary allowed a visiting teacher to help a student on a test for English-learner students, despite that teacher not having the correct training.
While the visiting teacher observed the student, the Rich Pond teacher made a phone call to a parent while the students were testing, despite a rule against using electronic devices for personal reasons while giving a test. In that case, the student’s score was not invalidated, but additional training was recommended for the teachers involved.
Patsy Kenner, the state’s testing allegations coordinator, said the errors are “pretty typical” of the violation allegations the department receives. More serious kinds of violations, she said, would be teachers teaching to the test, using exact test items in their lessons, changing a student’s answers or pointing out incorrect and correct answers.
Clayton also deemed the errors as minor violations.
“I would be more concerned if we didn’t have these minor reports knowing how easy it is to make a simple mistake throughout the multiple day assessment of 16,000 students,” Clayton’s statement continued.
“I am grateful that former Commissioner of Education Dr. Pruitt and current Commissioner Dr. Lewis have always thanked us for self reporting and addressing these situations in a timely manner. Our principals and school/district level assessment staff do an outstanding job administering the state assessment each year and I am proud of their ethical approach to validating these results,” Clayton wrote.