The Aurora R-8 School District will be implementing a number of new MAP testing procedures after a report alleging impropriety was filed at the end of the last school year. The report, filed May 17 with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), states that students at the junior high school reported to a teacher that the principal and teachers giving the standardized test "would tell kids when answers were wrong" and "have kids go back and change answers."
In addition to the official report, an email was also sent to DESE Assistant Director of Assessment Drew Linkon, in which a teacher not present in the testing rooms outlined other "areas of concern" based on conversations heard among students and staff members. Such concerns included:Discussion of test items both within and outside of the testing area by students and staff. Direction from administration to delay test groups in an effort to 'reteach' concepts to students immediately before the test because it was noted to be on the test during the first test groups' testing. Proctors checking answers and having students change answers that were incorrect before being able to submit responses. Proctors assisting students in working problems. Proctors giving correct answers to students. Proctor being removed from 'checking out students' at the end of test sessions for refusal to identify incorrect answers. Proctor actively working problems during the testing session using a calculator. Students being allowed to pause the test, go to lunch (where they discussed the test) and then come back to the room to resume the test. Seating charts that facilitated cheating by looking at a neighbor's screen when there was sufficient room available to spread test takers out.
Many of these same concerns were expressed by students themselves in notes and letters also submitted to DESE.
In response to the report, the school district was required to perform an investigation and submit a response to DESE within 30 days. In the response, filed on June 15, Superintendent Dr. Travis Shaw stated that he spoke to a total of 32 students about the allegations during summer school, as the regular school year had finished. The randomly selected students represented about 10 percent of the junior high population.
Of the 32 students interviewed, according to the response, two students said a teacher had helped them solve a problem on the test, while 10 said a teacher asked them to correct a wrong answer and 28 stated a teacher had them go through the test and check their answers when finished with the test.
Based on those answers, the district found there was "some merit to the allegations" that had been reported and outlined seven steps to be taken to avoid more of the same impropriety:All training prior to testing in the future at the junior high will be administered by central office personnel. A member from RPDC (Regional Professional Development Centers) will be asked to attend training, at the district's expense, to ensure clarity and accuracy. Non-tested area teachers will be used at all times to proctor testing sessions. Any teachers or school personnel who administered a test during the 2015-16 school year will not proctor during 2016-17 and possibly beyond. Central office personnel will be present during all testing sessions. The junior high principal will be prohibited from being present in the testing areas. The junior high principal will be prohibited from handling any testing materials, prohibited from having access to the same materials and removed from eDirect web accessibility. Ongoing discussion will take place with the Board of Education and the staff involved to determine the extent of additional consequences, including the possibility of termination for those involved.
At this time, no one involved has had a contract terminated as a result of the incident, according to Shaw. In light of the results of the student interviews, DESE chose not to calculate 12 of the test scores in the school's Annual Performance Report (APR), but Shaw stated that the findings have had "no negative results on the students."
The state entity itself performed no investigation but will conduct a quality assurance visit during the testing process this school year, as is its common practice in cases of testing irregularities. In the last 12 months, cases of testing irregularities have been investigated at a total of 22 school districts across the state, including Aurora.