Students at nearly 250 schools in California posted photos on social-media websites while they took state standardized tests, again prompting questions about testing security, state education officials said.
The most serious issues arose at 16 schools where photos were posted containing actual test questions or answers.
Deborah Sigman, the state’s deputy superintendent of schools, said that officials remain confident the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, results are still valid and that the incidents involved a small number of the students tested.
“It looks to us as though most of these postings were about gaining some attention and communication with peers, and not an active [attempt] to try to game the system in terms of the assessment,” she said. Ms. Sigman said other posts by students depicted things unlikely to jeopardize exam results, such as test-booklet covers or “bubble art,” which she described as students filling in bubbles to craft a message.
The Sacramento Bee first reported that results from those schools are now flagged with a warning message next to their test results. It notes “a security breach involving social media” was identified at the school and states: “Caution should be used when interpreting these results.”
Results from the 16 schools where students posted actual test content also included the warning that the schools’ accountability rating could be affected. Those schools also could become ineligible for academic awards.
The state education department plans to release its statewide accountability reports within the next few weeks.
This year’s cases of security breaches include slightly more schools than last year. Online postings involving test materials were found from students at 216 schools, with posts from 12 schools that included legible test questions or answers.
Students generally are not allowed to have electronic devices during standardized testing.
Ms. Sigman said officials believe the number of online postings discovered may have increased because of the department’s efforts to monitor social-media websites during testing.
The department may step up its efforts to monitor online postings and to train districts on what to look for during testing, she said.
A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2013 edition of Education Week as Calif. Students Share Photos of State Test Answers