State Strips 23 Schools of API Rankings for Cheating

Howard Blume, New York Times, October 28, 2012

The third-grader had good news: She was doing great on her standardized tests, she proudly told a teacher at the school.

How did she know? the instructor asked.

“My teacher points out the answers that I need to correct,” she said.

With that, the fate of Westside Elementary in Thermal was sealed.

State officials have stripped Westside and 22 other schools of a key state ranking for cheating, other misconduct or mistakes in administering the standardized tests given last spring. The offenses ranged from failing to cover bulletin boards to more overt improprieties, including helping students correct mistakes or preparing them with actual test questions. The details were included in school district reports obtained by the Times through a public records request filed with the California Department of Education.

The state defines such episodes as “adult irregularities,” and if they affect at least 5% of students tested at a school, the campus loses its annual rating on California’s Academic Performance Index, which was released this month.

The API is a scale by which schools are officially measured in California. Top rankings are celebrated and contribute to high property values. Low scores can label schools as failures and trigger penalties.

The number of schools with invalidated test scores remains relatively small: about two dozen each of the last three years in a state with more than 10,000 schools.

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