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Schools not told that test questions were posted online

July 19, 2012 |  1:37 pm

Standardized test

Investigations into the online posting of items from standardized tests are getting underway belatedly because state officials failed to alert most affected school systems of the problem.

The issue arose at 11 districts across California, including in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Glendale. In all, 36 test items appeared online, apparently after students took photos during testing in April and May.

The L.A. Unified School District was notified weeks ago about images of such things as blank answer pages, but not about the leak of one or more actual test items, said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education. The state linked the test-item breach to North Hollywood High School, which was news Wednesday to Principal Randy Delling and senior administrators.

“It helps us with accountability when we know of a violation,” said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.

The lack of notification was an oversight, state officials said.

Access to cellphones is against testing rules, and schools can be stripped of their Academic Performance Index rating when such rules are violated.

The greater concern for state officials was whether the test results were broadly compromised. They’ve determined that scores for districts and the state remain valid. The inquiry continues, however, regarding individual schools.

In some places, students have been disciplined for breaking rules that they noted on the same social-networking sites, such as Facebook, where the illicit images appeared.

The state acknowledged late Wednesday that four other districts had not been alerted to local problems with either posted items or images of other testing materials: Long Beach Unified, Glendale Unified, Pajaro Valley Unified and Porterville Unified.

Long Beach learned Wednesday of a problem associated with Millikan High.

The state “told our testing coordinator that all they know is the Educational Testing Service told them there was some sort of social networking website where someone posted some geometry questions, and somehow that was associated with Millikan,” said Chris Eftychiou, a Long Beach Unified spokesman. “So far we have little or nothing to base an investigation upon.”

San Jose Unified was among several districts that weren't alerted of a problem associated with a particular school.

"We just got details about this this morning," said San Jose Unified Asst. Supt. Jason Willis. "We weren’t aware of any issues around images. We were blindsided by this."

San Jose was the only district to have two schools linked to leaked test items.

"We take our testing environment very seriously," Willis said. "We are looking at this as a serious incident."

In all, 249 individuals posted 442 images of testing materials that were linked to 147 schools in 94 school districts—most images were not of test items.


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Photo: A seventh-grader marks an answer sheet for a standardized test. Credit: Los Angeles Times