Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fayette Co Director linked to new Testing Allegation

The Peggy Petrilli story is beginning to create some spin offs.

Since the Fayette County school district "substantiated" numerous allegations made against Petrilli in a 42-page report, several Kentucky School News & Commentary readers have suggested that when Petrilli went off the reservation in pursuit of the almighty test score she had plenty of company - some at the highest levels of district administration.

Yesterday, KSN&C confirmed one testing allegation that was made against an as yet unnamed district director, which in Fayette County is tantamount to an assistant superintendent.

This comes after the Office of Educational Accountability was apparently sent an anonymous complaint of testing irregularities alleging,
...The release ... of the 9 month investigation of the State accountability testing practices, irregularities in student retention, and gross violations of SBDM law, by the Principal of Booker T Washington Academy over a two year period, and the revelations in that investigation that these same illegal and unethical practices occurred in that Principal's previous school for years is a direct indictment of the leadership responsibilities of the district superintendent, school board, school directors, and SBDM coordinator. It also rasies (sic) serious concern about the leadership practices being allowed to exist in other schools in our district...

OEA Investigations Division Manager Bryan Jones said that the OEA will neither confirm nor deny anything specific to an on-going investigation - including whether they have even received a given complaint. But OEA "is aware" the allegation is out there.

OEA investigator Doug Terry confirmed that, for the OEA, anonymous allegations are not a problem. Terry said,
...yes we do investigate anonymous complaints and treat those the same as identified ones. The EAARS committee thought if we didn't investigate those it may have a "chilling effect" on the process as most are afraid of their positions if identified.
Pursuant to KRS 158.647 the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) is empowered to review administrative regulations and advise the Kentucky Board of Education concerning the implementation of the state system of assessment and accountability. Its members are Kentucky legislators.

KDE also investigates anonymous complaints KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross said.

Yesterday a FCPS teacher (and KSN&C reader) suggested that the problems substantiated by Fayette County against Petrilli were simply part of a "mentality that is pushing teachers and principals to their ethical limits."

The teacher described her enthusiasm for teaching and optimism about helping students succeed. But over time the teacher came to believe that "success" in Fayette County means higher test scores. “The last two years in particular, things have been spiraling out of control as the district pushes and pushes to get scores higher and higher,” the teacher said. A "whatever it takes" mentality is pushing teachers and principals to their “ethical limits.” The teacher described two incidents in recent weeks that illustrate the frustrations some teachers feel.

KSN&C was able to substantiate" one of the allegations yesterday.

The allegation comes from the recent testing period and involved a district director who reportedly came into a classroom minutes after students completed the day's testing and began looking through student test booklets. The classroom teacher apparently advised the director that testing protocols did not allow this. But according to the report, the director stated that he was “checking for completion” and continued to look through the booklets. Teachers are required by regulation to report any test administration anomalies to the [Building Assessment Coordinator] BAC who is consequently required to inform the [District Assessment Coordinator] DAC. The director was reportedly “told to stop doing this, but there was no write up.”

KSN&C asked District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) Carolyn Martin how she would advise a director who might ask if reviewing student test booklets was appropriate. She responded,
I would explain that there is only one purpose for looking through student test booklets and that is to ensure that stray marks have been erased (as indicated on the last page of the Test Administration Manual—“Checklist for Test Administrators”). That can be handled in a scanning manner by thumbing through the booklet. However, that should be handled by school staff and then only by those who have been trained on the Administration Code.
In fact, the incident involving the director was reported. Gross confirmed that,
[KDE] Staff is aware of an issue in Fayette County and is in discussion with district staff. No formal report has been received as of today.

Gross confirmed that over the years KDE has received allegations "about staff at all levels of school and district employment" from many districts So the fact that a director is implicated does not break any new ground.

KDE's process for resolving this allegation is the same as in the Petrilli matter.

The process that we follow for allegations is that staff reviews the allegation and any supporting material included; makes phone calls or personal visits to conduct interviews and gather more information; makes a determination based on evidence gathered; and develops correspondence for superintendents, principals and other school administrators connected to the issue outlining the findings. If findings indicate that scores should be adjusted, staff works with the Office of Assessment and Accountability to make that happen... Gross advised patience as well. "We don't set specific timelines for completion of investigations -- this is a busy time of year for those, since testing just ended."

In the course of the inquiry yet another revelation occurred. This was not the first time allegations were fielded by the state regarding Petrilli. Terry explained,

...I know we did get some complaints last year, but I believe we punted back to the Fayette County Board and KDE to investigate since most of those were testing irregularities.

As for KDE, Gross recalls the allegations as unfounded. Documents have been requested.

KSN&C has not yet learned where in Fayette County those testing allegations went to be resolved. Martin said the cases did not come to her.

Meanwhile, Marcie Lowe the executive staff director for the Education Professional Standards Board confirmed receipt of the Fayette County allegations against Petrilli.

"Yes, we have received a complaint and it is under review at this time."


Anonymous said...

The principal. You are doing a great job at looking into this. I'm glad to see there is at least one impratial person trying to get to the bottom of this issue. Not sure how you are finding the time to do all this, but I hope you are able to continue exploring and reporting on this. There may not be a great number of people commenting here, but I personally know there are a lot of people reading what is posted here; particularly on this issue.

The Principal said...

Thank you

Anonymous said...

This was not the first time allegations were fielded by the state regarding Petrilli. Terry explained...

In reference to the above part of your report, I must not be understanding something. Am I understanding correctly, that complaints were filed with KDE last year concerning Peggy and the KDE spoksperson says they were "unfounded". Wasn't this part of the same time period that the FCPS investigation covered? How could Martin (FCPS DAC) not have known about that and how could there be no mention of that in the FCPS investigation?

Something sounds a little fishy here.

The Principal said...

Good point, and I'm not certain I clearly understood Terry's statement. It was somewhat ambiguous. See today's (May 7) post for more.

Last year might have meant last school year (the way I took it) - but it could also have meant last August (2007).