New security measures are in place this spring for Washington state’s academic tests, which are given in several stages from April 18 through May 6. The most noticeable of the new rules is a standard testing schedule for all 10th graders.
“For the first time, we implemented a mandatory testing schedule that sets which days and times the sessions are proctored,” said Kim Schmanke, a spokeswoman in the state’s Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction.
The new schedule should eliminate the possibility of a student who’s already been tested from sharing information with a student slated to take the exam later.
The state has had a suggested schedule for the past couple of years, but procedures are being tightened with an eye to 2006, when that year’s 10th graders must pass three of the four sections—reading, writing, mathematics, and science—of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in order to graduate in 2008.
“As we come closer to the graduation requirement, we’re going to have to make sure that the assessment is given in a fair manner for all children in the state, which is why over the last couple of years, we’ve brought in a new element every year,” Ms. Schmanke said.
Other first-time rules specify that cellphones must be turned off and kept out of sight during all tests, and test proctors must remove or cover any materials in the classroom that may potentially help students.
Violations of the measures could result in the invalidation of student test scores, Ms. Schmanke said.
The measures were developed with input from a technical-advisory panel of about 20 assessment directors from Washington school districts.
Some measures are common to college-admissions tests, such as the standardized time period for test administration and invalidation of scores when a student is caught cheating, the test is disrupted, or the test is improperly administered.
The changes are not, as some news reports have claimed, linked to instances of cheating, Ms. Schmanke said.
But she mentioned a couple of allegations that students, after taking a section of the test, alerted a student at another school who was scheduled to take it on another day.
Some rules are designed to help students cope with the rigorous assessments, such as a ban on giving both reading sections the same day.
“We’re trying to limit test misadministration, so no child is taking the test tired out, or no student is using a pager to text message a question,” Ms. Schmanke said.