Posted on May 19, 2011

D.C. Schools Investigate Security Breaches in 2011 Tests

Lisa Gartner, Examiner (Washington), May 18, 2011

D.C. school officials are investigating 14 security breaches by students and teachers during last month’s standardized testing, after throwing out last year’s scores from three classrooms with “evidence or a strong suspicion of a test security violation.”

Amid heightened scrutiny of the chronically troubled school system’s large testing gains, the Office of the State Superintendent ordered an investigation into 18 classrooms with a suspicious number of incorrect answers erased and corrected in the 2010 testing.

While eight schools were charters, 10 belonged to D.C. Public Schools–as did all three of the tossed-out testing rooms.


Two teachers were forbidden from participating in the 2011 administration of the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams, while a third left the school system before the investigation was completed.


Investigators found evidence of cheating at Noyes Elementary and “possible irregularities” at C.W. Harris and Leckie elementary schools.

Throwing out those classrooms’ scores, OSSE will recalculate whether the three elementary schools made “annual yearly progress,” federal benchmarks schools must meet to show improvements in student learning.


Safiya Simmons, a spokeswoman for Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson, said the school system “will continue to move aggressively to take appropriate action, up to and including termination, in cases where any cheating has been confirmed and a teacher acted inappropriately.”

A USA Today investigation put a microscope on Noyes, where in just two years, the number of students passing math on the standardized tests increased from 10 percent to 58 percent.

The school’s dramatic improvement earned it a National Blue Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education. It’s an honor that was given to only 264 public schools nationwide.


On the 2009 reading test, seventh-grade students in one classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures–odds better than winning the Powerball, USA Today reported.


Schools reported 31 incidents between April 4 and April 11 as nearly 40,000 students in 3,800 classrooms took the tests. District officials “deemed adequate” the manner in which 17 incidents were handled by schools.

Reports describe an “inappropriate level of support given to students” during testing, “possible assistance to student,” and a test administrator who “mixed up answer documents of two students.”

When one student finished his exam in just 20 minutes, he explained that he was “familiar” with the reading passage and questions.