Beacon Hill Investigation Closed

Basically, the district can't figure out who did it but someone did tamper with tests. The press release mentions security measures taken since then which is great except that now they don't do paper and pencil testing.

And naturally, there is no mention of the principal. This is a key issue because the principal is the head of any school building. The investigation had revealed some comings and goings at the school that seemed odd; isn't the principal responsible to answer for those?

It's understandable if there simply was not enough evidence to say who did what. But that doesn't mean there wasn't evidence that there was sloppy oversight of the test booklets. They do know who was responsible for that and yet that gets left out of the investigation.
From SPS Communications:

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has closed the investigation into suspected test tampering at Beacon Hill International School from two years ago during the 2013-2014 school year. While the investigation found sufficient evidence that Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) test booklets were tampered with, it remains inconclusive as to who altered the test answers. Investigators were unable to identify any individual as the person who tampered with the test booklets.
The district first noticed abnormalities in the Beacon Hill test results in early August, 2014. The district immediately contacted the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and hired an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation.

Despite an exhaustive 14-month investigation, it could not be determined conclusively who may have altered the test results, or why. Due to the seriousness of the concerns, a need to find the facts of what occurred and provide clarity around the professional integrity of school staff amid such allegations, the district hired several investigators to examine the case. This included:

· An initial investigation which highlighted protocol violation issues. The investigator interviewed 21 witnesses

· An examination of MSP testing protocols, security documentation, 40 test booklets from the school and other materials

· A second stage investigation, which included a handwriting analysis. A handwriting expert examined written test responses and handwriting of school employees to look for similarities

· A second investigator to conduct a follow-up investigation to pursue additional potential leads

· Examination of more than 120 test booklets for comparison with handwriting of school staff members.

The Beacon Hill incident appears to be isolated; state test results are examined carefully by the district Research, Evaluation and Assessment team, which first identified and reported the abnormalities. No other school has shown similar issues.

However, during the Beacon Hill investigation, the district found ways to improve the testing process to provide additional test security and safeguards. The investigation found several breaches of MSP testing protocols, including a failure to follow test booklet security protocols, including improper storage of the test booklets and the reading of completed student test booklets.

While training and protocols around paper and pencil testing procedures have always been in place for principals, test coordinators and proctors, the Beacon Hill issue has raised even greater awareness of the importance of such procedures. Since the discovery of the testing abnormalities, several improvements have been made to enhance testing protocols and security, including:

· Added training and tools provided to test coordinators, who in turn train test proctors and school administrators to support clear guidelines around test security

o Enhanced storage guidelines so a clear protocol is identified as well as those responsible

o Enhanced paper test tracking document which adds further scrutiny to the movement of paper tests from the central office warehouse to schools (including tracking of those responsible and which tests they’re responsible for during testing days) and back to the central office

· Shortened the amount of time which paper tests are actually in buildings

· Random audit of schools to ensure testing protocols are followed.


Wanda said…
A real investigator would have found the obvious answer.

What we ended up with was a friend of Brent Jones who specializes in brightly colored (and extremely expensive) nothings.
Anonymous said…
I want to know how the investigation was conducted. Were all the interviews taken under oath? Were those interviews recorded?

-Roger P.-
GarfieldMom said…
I read that the principal was on admin leave and is now at another school, back teaching in the classroom, and that an ELL teacher who was also on admin leave is back teaching at Beacon Hill. Think it was from a Ky Stokes tweet.
cmj said…

If you file a public records request, you should be able to get the report from the investigator. It probably doesn't say if interviews were recorded or conducted under oath. I read through the Garfield Choir report and don't remember seeing anything like that.

So a lengthy investigation figured out that someone tampered with the books. Congratulations, SPS, the district team that reported the error to OSPI figured that out months ago! And without spending tens of thousands of dollars on an investigator! Money down the drain.
Eloise said…
With Nyland's judgement, the former principal will be the next Education Director.
Po3 said…
Cheaters never prosper.

Oh wait. I guess they do.

Elsa said…
Last I checked, the District was using a former cop who was married to a principal to do investigations such as this one. Can we assume that he did this one too?
Elsa said…
Hey PO3

In the culture of lawlessness, they not only prosper, they flourish and multiply.
Eloise said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said…
Lots of unhappy, suspicious comments, but I have never been able to figure out whether this was a botched investigation -- or just one where (for any number of reasons -- too many keys, loose rules on how long tests remained in the building, etc.) they just legitimately were not able to conclusively establish who changed the tests.

I am obviously not close to this issue at all, and have no personal or inside knowledge. It seems to me there are two issues:

1. The actual cheating. While cheating can, and does, happen anywhere, there are clearly things that help prevent it (mostly better oversight of test booklets, -- leading into time of booklets onsite, control over master keys, etc.).

As for the principal, etc., I don't know the people who were put on leave, but am not particularly bothered (out of the gate, at least) by the fact that they are still employed as teachers, etc.

Someone here did something really bad (by changing test answers). That person (or persons) if we could identify them, ought to have the book thrown at them. But the issues of extra master keys, etc. all seem to me like lesser offenses (combinations of naive thinking, carelessness, perhaps too much trust in human nature -- but in all cases way less than willful misconduct or action with criminal intent), that have been dealt with by suspensions, demotions -- and (unless my assumptions are wrong) that doesn't seem inappropriate to me.

2. The investigation. Was it done by the right people, in the right way, with the right resources. Even the best investigation can come up empty handed, though. Are folks saying that this was handled badly and that, if done right, we would have gotten better results?
Wanda said…
Yes Jan:

It was handled badly.
Anonymous said…
To me, the most important take-aways from this scandal are a) that cheating occurred, and b) it was done to mask actual (low) test scores. That anyone would go to such lengths should inform us of the desperation people feel under the pressure of NCLB and hi-stakes testing madness that's taken over education policy.

Those of us who've studied the issue for the better part of a decade saw this happen elsewhere, including in Charleston during MGJ's watch. Google "Sanders-Clyde" elementary if you want proof. Whatever compelled people to do this had a lot of worry, anxiety, and maybe benefits behind it. Whichever carrot or stick dangling in front of the offender(s) it was poison for the process and we should've known and expected it all along. It's not surprising that cheating occurred when jobs, lives, friendships, and school communities are at stake.

Charlie Mas said…
There is no question that cheating occurred.

The failure of the investigation to discover the cheater is rooted in two cultural quirks:
1. The school's comical failure to provide the legally required security.
2. The investigation's complete reliance on getting a confession.

All the culprit had to do is deny, deny, deny. The investigation would never be able to prove guilt without a confession. The investigation entirely relied on it. When no confession materialized, the investigation was beached. It's a shame that the investigator didn't realize that sooner and end the charade quickly.

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