What is immediately apparent is that - not all testing allegations are equal.
This one comes at a bad time, and involves a top-level administrator, but it does not rise to the level of allegation we've seen at BTWA. Perhaps a KDE investigation will reveal more than we know at this point, but it seems unlikely that it will exceed the current allegation.
The BTWA report (posted at H-L) recounts school officials sequestered in a room, pencils in hand, and students being moved contrary to regulation - and during the week of the test.
By comparison, a director flipping through test booklets, if full view of school faculty, staff and students, without a pencil, maybe ill-advised, inappropriate and embarrassing, but it does not rise to the level of a major violation. It gives the unfortunate appearance of impropriety; looks bad, but it doesn't smell all that bad.
The teachers, BAC, DAC and anyone who followed regulations and ran some political risk by reporting on their superior should be commended; literally. A thank you note, perhaps. Refresher training for the director seems indicated and sufficient.
District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall, responded to the KSN&C post:
There is a testing allegation regarding Fabio Zuluaga. But in talking with Fabio, it appears that some of the information you have is incorrect. As with any allegations we receive, without exception, we send the reports to the Kentucky Department of Education for their review
Deferring to the report is proper protocol. But it also means we'll only have one side of the story for a while.
But this story is not really about Zuluaga.
Today's educators have been asked (required by law) to produce historically unprecedented results for children - on an inadequate budget. The legislature is required by the constitution to provide sufficient funds for schools to reach their goals - but efforts to get the legislature to step up to the plate aren't going so well.
For the first time in history, starting somewhere around 1995, schools are attempting to assure a proficient education for each and every child in Kentucky. Left with scant resources for increasing teacher productivity and delivering more instruction to more students, many school administrators have turned to "motivation" to leverage better results - and like it or not - the test is the only yardstick.
This has had the tendency to focus people's attention on numbers rather than children. Having each school pick a target accountability index to hit, you can't blame teachers for believing that it is only the test that matters to the district - even if that's not exactly the intention. As long-time district director Bob McLaughlin used to say, "What gets inspected, gets respected." And test scores get inspected - published - ranked - discussed - cussed - and before long become the whole game.
Does this explain the BTWA situation?
Principals are, at once, the most vulnerable individual in the school, and the one charged with raising numbers. Add to that, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the creation of BTWA, the introduction of Peggy Petrilli in the position of principal-as-savior, all of the support from community groups, and it becomes easier to understand how much pressure was brought to making BTWA successful. And that meant better numbers.
It may be about kids. But the numbers are getting in the way of the district message.
Finally, KSN&C posted a quote from OEA investigator Doug Terry referring to allegations made against Petrilli "last year." Thinking like a school person, "last year" to me meant last school year. But perhaps not. Deffendall opined, "I think he must be talking about this situation from last August, which we just completed the investigation on." Well, I suppose that could be. Last August was in 2007 and it's accurate to say that was last year. KSN&C has requested documents. We'll see if anything comes of it.