An audit that showed 5th grade math exams were altered after the fact at four public schools in Georgia has had districts across the state scrambling to tighten rules for administering tests before they start again in the spring.
In the wake of the scathing report last June, districts have cracked down on where answer sheets are stored once they are completed by students and now require the sheets be turned in to collection warehouses immediately, rather than being kept on campus for several days. Other districts have increased training for principals and teachers who are in charge of testing.
“You don’t just sit there and give materials,” said Kathy Augustine, the deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Atlanta schools, named in the state audit as one of the districts where results were changed. “You walk hallways. If you see any irregularity, you report it immediately.”
The audit did not specify who corrected wrong answers at schools in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Glynn County. But one DeKalb County administrator has pleaded guilty to tampering with the tests, and about a dozen educators have lost their state teaching licenses for up to two years as a result.
The audit was only the beginning of state officials’ monitoring of test-taking in schools.
The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, which produced the audit, is doing a statewide analysis of test results for every student in grades 1-8 who took a standardized test in Georgia in spring 2009. The report, set to be released this spring, could reveal more cheating or other testing problems.
Kathleen Mathers, the executive director of the office, said it’s the first time the state has taken a comprehensive look at testing, particularly focusing on whether schools are responding to performance pressures exerted by the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s standards by changing test answers or allowing students to cheat. She said the new audit is part of Georgia’s bid to win federal Race to the Top stimulus funding, which requires that states evaluate educators partly on the basis of students’ test performance.
We want to make sure performance data we have is accurate, Ms. Mathers said. But the bottom line is its the right thing to do for kids.
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2010 edition of Education Week as Georgia Districts Scrutinizing Testing Practices