Los Angeles Puts Standardized Testing on Hold, After Furor Over Cheating Incidents
Faced with the threat of a boycott by teachers, the Los Angeles Unified School District has indefinitely postponed administering standardized achievement tests.
The district had been scheduled to give the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills to students in grades 1 through 11 during the week of Oct. 18.
But the testing was suspended after thousands of teachers, angered over what they called "implications" in official comments that they were somehow responsible for the incidents of cheating that have been reported on separate statewide tests, staged a protest in front of school buildings.
The teachers stated that they would not administer any standardized tests until the superintendent and school-board president apologize for the accusations and implement test-security measures to prevent cheating in the future.
"If any teacher cheats, he4should have his credential removed," said Marvin Katz, vice president of the 32,000-member United Teachers-Los Angeles, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
"But what we worry about is being scapegoats," he said. "We are concerned about the rights of teachers."
"Teachers' integrity is at issue," Mr. Katz added. "This is another effort to make teaching a less-than-honorable profession."
District officials, in a letter sent to all teachers last week, denied that they had accused the teachers of cheating. They noted that they had hired a private law firm to investigate the incident and to recommend steps to ensure test security.
"The board president and superintendent have stated clearly that no one has been blamed for the discrepancies," said Gabriel Cortina, the district's associate superintendent. "An outside investigator has been assigned to determine whether it is possible to pinpoint blame. That will remove the cloud of suspicion from over everyone else."
The union is currently embroiled in a dispute with the board over a new contract, Mr. Cortina noted, and union leaders have urged teachers to boycott after-school activities and faculty meetings to protest what they consider an unsatisfactory contract offer.
"The union has chosen to make [the cheating incident] a major issue with teachers," he said. "This was folded into other boycott actions instigated by the ut-la leadership."
But Mr. Katz insisted that the two actions are separate.
If the superintendent and board president meet their demands for an apology and greater security efforts, he said, "regardless of whether we have a contract or not, we'll go back to giving the tests."
"But if they are unwilling to do" those things, he added, "and we settle the contract, we're still goel10ling to boycott the tests."
The dispute stems from an investigation by the state department of education, which found, over the past three years, an unusually high number of erasures on booklets for the California Assessment Program, a statewide test administered to students in grades 3, 6, 8, and 12.
The state has also found evidence of tampering with a statewide high-school writing proficiency test.
About two dozen Los Angeles schools are involved.
The state agency notified local districts of the allegations, since local officials are responsible for disciplining anyone found guilty of tampering.
District officials said they did not investigate the allegations until this year, when they became public, because they were more concerned with preventing future incidents than with finding out who was culpable.
The number of incidents has declined sharply since 1985, accord4ing to Mr. Cortina, indicating that the new procedures they have implemented have been effective.