Thursday, October 16, 2014

Updates on Beacon Hill Testing Situation


Info from the district:

- Title One and LAP money for Beacon Hill will not be affected by any outcome from this investigation.

- Numbers of students affected (The final state test data has been erased by OSPI.) Grade 3: 72, Grade 4:70, Grade 5:78 for a total of 220 students (this would include Director Blanford's child who was a 5th grader last year).

- Test scores are part of four items in the principals' contract for a bonus of up to $7500; test scores factor into discussions around teacher growth/improvement but are not used in "summative evaluation."

- The last test date was May 8. The tests were returned May 22.

- During that time, the testing booklets stored were stored in the extra custodian’s closet. That location was locked. Those with access were Principal, Assistant Principal, Family Support Worker and Custodians. (per my source, that is not accurate; more people than that had access to that storage area.)

- The district’s independent investigator is Curman Sebree. (My comment here is that apparently this investigator is not well-thought of by numerous district employees.)

- Re: chain of custody

The test materials arrive in sealed boxes at the school. The school’s designated Test Coordinator is responsible for storing them in a secure locked location with limited access by staff. The storage location and the names of any individuals with access to this location must be documented and submitted to the District Assessment Coordinator.

On the day of the test, the tests are distributed to the classrooms with an accounting of the number of tests that go to each teacher.

Following the test, at the end of test period (typically no more than 3 hours) the tests are returned to the secure location and checked-in by the School Test Coordinator. Tests are required to remain secure in the locked location until all tests have been administered, including make-up tests.

Once all tests have been completed and accounted for, the tests are hand delivered to the central warehouse by the School Test Coordinator. This is done by appointment with the District Assessment Coordinator who goes through a detailed process with the School Test Coordinator to ensure proper coding has been completed for all tests and all materials are sorted and processed properly for delivery to the test scoring company. The boxes are then sealed and labeled for shipping by the District Assessment Coordinator.

Going forward:

State testing is transitioning to a new computer based process in 2015 that will be much more secure. For the few remaining paper-based state tests (e.g., MSP science, Algebra EOC, Biology EOC), the District plans to institute the following changes:

Provide each school with portable locked storage unit that can be located in a secure room with limited access.  Only one key for the portable locker would be available to the School Test Coordinator.  No other staff would have access. (This proposal has not gone through a budget approval process.)

Institute a new audit checklist that can be used by District administrators to spot check schools before, during and after testing to ensure all tests are secure and the test protocol is followed during test administration.

Shorten the appointment window for returning tests to within 1-2 days after the completion of testing. This will be accomplished by hiring one additional full time staff member plus seasonal part-time help to support a significantly faster process for checking in completed tests.

End of update

Andrew Medina, the Internal Auditor, gave a report last night that included the information about schools hanging onto test booklets for weeks. He said this audit finding had not been triggered by any event (i.e. Beacon Hill). Unfortunately, Mr. Medina did not say nor did any Directors ask what the window of time is to send back test booklets to OSPI (given the test window is about a month.)

I have a query to OSPI about this issue. They could only tell me that they have guidelines given to the districts but they are not anything beyond guidelines and districts make their own rules about where test booklets reside and how long schools should keep booklets. OSPI is also sending me dates for when test booklets have to be sent back to them.

I also learned that there were probably many more people who possibly had keys at Beacon Hill including staff other than teachers/administrators and employees of the on-site child care facility.

The custodian at the building was relatively new. When he found out that multiple people had keys and, he had the building rekeyed (at least parts including that storage closet which did not hold janitorial supplies). He told the principal that the Board policy was that he was to oversee key distribution and had to follow that policy.

I also learned that the principal at Beacon Hill is being considered for a new position at South Shore prek-8.

Will this turn out as the Garfield field trip incident? Nothing happened and no one at fault? Seems hard to believe but that may be the case.


Po3 said...

Didn't this happen in DC under Rhee, but they could never prove the erasures were linked to staff messing with the tests. Yet I believe a new principal came to that school and the scores dropped, back to the levels prior to the test year that was questioned?

I recall this from the Frontline show that aired several years ago.

Po3 said...

It was the USA Today investigation of DC schools erasure rates in one school under Rhees:


Eerily similar.

mirmac1 said...

Look to Atlanta under Beverly hall.

Charlie Mas said...

The District is going to determine that they can't come to a definitive conclusion about what happened and, therefore, nothing happened. No harm, no foul. Nothing to see here, folks, move along. The principal's move to Southshore is now more likely. Once the principal is gone they will see even less reason to take any action.

Anonymous said...

Let's just be careful to say "alleged test fraud" instead of "test fraud."

Chris S.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did ask the district if OSPI scrubbed all these scores, did it affect placement of any of the 5th graders in middle school classes?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, MSP scores can't affect middle school course placement. They aren't known prior to registration in classes. You must be thinking of MAP scores, which in theory are used by some schools but not as an absolute by all.

MS Parent

Anonymous said...

Good question, Melissa -- because whoever did this -- it wasn't the kids, and it shouldn't be their problem. I would think there are few enough kids involved (total of 200+ -- but not all of those will be seeking placement decisions based on tests, I suspect) that they should be able to come up with some alternate methods of assessing placement decisions. (Frankly, I think tests are a pretty blunt instrument for that anyway -- so maybe this will actually work out better for the kids.

Chris -- I couldn't tell if you were being sincere or ironic -- but assuming sincere, I am curious as to what you think --
my understanding of erasure analysis (which is not extensive) is that it is (or can be, in egregious cases) pretty cut and dried. Not only are there lots of erasures -- but huge majorities of them go to changing wrong answers to right ones -- and there is a statistical norm for comparison that shows when you are way outside the norm -- i.e., when it can't have just been chance. If all that is true -- then don't we pretty much have a clear case of fraud -- and the only issue is -- we have no idea who committed it, and maybe will never know, if the numbers of keys, and the investigations of those holding them, leads to no clear answer? In that case, don't we clearly have test fraud -- and the "alleged" goes only to who did it?


Po3 said...

I think it is fair to say:

"testing irregularities"

Which is how USA Today handled it in their story.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, MSP scores can't affect middle school course placement

There used to be a matrix for middle school math placement that used a combination of MAP and MSP scores (from 4th grade). I can no longer find a link. Seems to change every year...


apparent said...

"Melissa, MSP scores can't affect middle school [math] placement . . ."


I've been wondering the same thing too, and can't find the answer for our current fifth grader.

What will be the 2015-16 standards for middle school math placement at JAMS, Hamilton and Washington next year? Will they be the same at each school? And also, what are those standards this year?

Can anybody help?

Inside as well said...

The reason the investigator is "not well thought of" is that she has no "independence". Few who MGJ brought here did.

She invariably does sham "investigations" which parrott the District's party line, doesn't bother to interview parties to events, refuses to ask critical questions and "loses" her notes. If an employee asks for a representative to accompany them to an interview, she simply writes up her version of events without interviewing the employee.

JUST how the District likes it.....

Thats how its done in a culture of lawlessness.

Anonymous said...

4th grade MSP scores are used for 6th grade math placement in schools that use the grid.


Anonymous said...

There is no accountability at SPS. Blame the custodian, or at least muddy the waters and delay long enough and everyone will just move on.
Nobody will even dare ask for one of the master keys back that have been given out inappropriately.

Anonymous said...

Who benefits? Isn't that the question? I think it is deplorable to offer $7500 extra to already well-paid principals. When I see my principal actually stop and teach a student anything, maybe I'll be a convert.

As a teacher, I would never put myself at risk like that even given the good intentions of those who did falsify tests to actually help children in the NY Times article.

I think they'll find a scapegoat for this. Time will tell.

so tired of it all

Anonymous said...

Found the matrix posted, though it states the info is only for this year and will be updated for next school year:

6th grade math placement info


Anonymous said...

Correction, it says multiple times, for "2013-2014," so the matrix was for last year? Who knows what they did this year.


Ed said...

The hole cadre brought in by MGJ is (and has been) corrupt. The lawless culture Charlie so aptly describes has been allowed to flourish and its impolite to remind anyone about it.

Keep shining a light on it and it may at least pull back (like head lice) but it will take a full dose of the shampoo to really get it out.

Hunter said...

Oh, and remember, the PR folks that feed the information to the Times (and us) aren't even District employees. They work for "Strategies" (Ron Dotzauer)and were hired by the Alliance.

Who wants scandal at Seattle Schools?

Anonymous said...

I have a photo of the 2014-15 math placement matrix. It uses a combo of 5th grade MAP (highest of winter or fall) and 4th grade MSP scores. It essentially breaks down as follows, from highest placement to lowest:

Algebra 1: MSP 525+, MAP 250+
CMP 3: MSP 476+, MAP 240+
CMP 2: MSP 426+, MAP 231+
CMP 1: not meeting above


Anonymous said...

Times finally chimed in

Janitor: 9 staffers had access to suspicious Beacon Hill tests


See how we got here? said...

After they get special funding for the boxes, then there will be an increased need for even more "spokespersons" to tell the public how secure the boxes are and then another Manager of Spokespersons, and then an Executive Director of All things spoken and then we will have....pretty much status quo.

apparent said...

Thanks HIMSmom, parent and sleeper.

But since the MSP has been discontinued this year, what will the math matrix be for 2015-16?

Will it rely only on the MAP scores, or will it now include some number from that new test that sounds like a diet breakfast cereal, is it Smarter Balanced or something like that?