Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Male High School ACT Cheating found to be Intentional, Referred to EPSB

The perverse incentives associated high-stakes testing have once again played a role in the maladministration of tests - this time, in a high performing school. The episode is both shameful and completely predictable. What are the chances that all such occurrences of organized and deliberate cheating are known? Zero.

At present, EPSB is swamped with hundreds of allegations of wrong doings by Kentucky educators, each case requiring time to clear. For example, KSN&C has been monitoring the case of FCPS Special Education Director Kathy Dykes whose questionable ethics will have been the subject of a full investigation for a year by the time EPSB next meets in August.

Thanks are due to the courageous staff and students at Male who blew the whistle.

This from the Courier-Journal:

State cites Male High principal in ACT cheating scandal
A Kentucky Department of Education investigation has found several standardized test violations at Male High School and has referred former principal David Mike and two other staffers to the Education Professional Standards Board, where they could face sanctions.

The report, released Monday, followed months of scrutiny after students alleged Mike and others helped them cheat on a standardized test — and then asked them to lie to ACT officials investigating him in December.

Mike, who took over the job of principal last year at Male — one of the district's higher-performing high schools — has already been reassigned to non-instructional duties and prohibited from administering ACT tests without permission.

In addition to Mike, counselor Rhonda Branch and teacher Debbie Greenberg have also been referred to the Education Professional Standards Board. All three are being referred because the violations could prove to be intentional, KDE commissioner Terry Holliday said.

KDE's investigation into the administration of the ACT Compass Test in 2013 at the school found several violations, according to the report, including:
• Students were assisted by teachers and other students answering Kentucky Compass secure test items while using a Compass diagnostic program as a practice test.

• Students were allowed students to take a practice test repeatedly, increasing their exposure to real test items.

• Proctors helped students answer live test items during practice test sessions.
The report says that it was not "general knowledge" that there were live ACT Compass test questions on the "practice tests" when the events took place.

Nevertheless, "these actions increased the number of students who reached college readiness and improved Louisville Male High School's overall" state accountability rating, the report said.

The report also cited apparent attempts to cover up the incidents. That included a finding from interviews that Mike told a teacher to destroy student "practice test" notebooks instead of sending them to ACT.

"Two staff members indicated that Mr. Mike and/or Ms. Greenberg tried to coach them as to what to say to the investigators when questioned. A student indicated she felt intimidated or bullied by Mr. Mike into lying for him about the Compass cheating," the report said.

Mike declined to comment, a JCPS spokesman said. Greenberg and Branch could not be located. Greenberg retired July 1; Branch is still employed, Jackey said.

According to the professional standards board, the case will be reviewed and the board could revoke or suspend professional licenses. They can also impose probationary conditions or issue a written admonishment. Respondents can appeal in circuit court.

"There's a lot of due process involved," said Alicia Sneed, director of legal services, noting that the board could take more than a year.

Because Fall 2013 ACT Compass scores had already been invalidated, and since there is no evidence of any inappropriate activities during the spring 2014 ACT Compass exams, no further action will be taken regarding students' test scores, Holliday said in a letter to JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens.
JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said Monday the school district is studying the state report as part of its own investigation.

Meanwhile, Holliday recommended ethics training and additional test administration training for the three employees, if they assist in any future state testing.

"JCPS takes the recommendations in this report very seriously and will ensure the employees mentioned follow these directives so that student learning and achievement remain the focus of their efforts," Jackey said in a statement.

He said JCPS is conducting two investigations, one based on KDE and ACT findings and a second into allegations of unprofessional behavior.

School board chairwoman Diane Porter said she was still digesting the report, but said testing is "something we want to make sure we're doing correctly." She declined to comment further.

Mike, formerly principal of Western High, is also under a separate investigation, started May 30, by JCPS for "unprofessional behavior" that "does not involve testing" at Male High School. He had been allowed to stay at the school during that investigation, Jackey said.

Sneed said the Education Professional Standards Board gets about 100 improper testing allegations a year, but opened only 10 cases last year, mostly in instances that appeared intentional, she said. Many of the others were accidental.

Concerns about the scandal have boiled over at Male school council meetings, and in May, about 40 students protested the cheating allegations outside JCPS headquarters on Newburg Road.

1 comment:

Richard Innes said...


Issues of high stakes testing aside, I think we both share a profound sense of disappointment and sadness that any professional school staff members – especially at one of the state’s premier high schools – would fall prey to such temptations.

I really would appreciate your “take” on some items in the Investigation Findings.

1) On Page 7 of the Scribed package in your post, a finding says: “Staff members did not come forward with information or share knowledge of the incidents until the issue with overstaffing occurred.” Based on a Courier-Journal education blog item, that overstaffing incident appears to have surfaced in May 2014, almost half a year after the investigation teams first started on site work at Male High. Thus, this comment seems to point a finger at more Male faculty beyond the three who are facing EPSB action. My question is why isn’t the union raising a fuss about that rather vague finding, as it tends to smear all Male faculty members. I’d rather have the truth out on this dangling finding, but that does not seem to be happening, so far (since the finding was left dangling by the assessment allegation report team, I wonder if they really had just cause to even include it – but they did include it and it needs more attention).

2) Another finding on Page 7 says: “Ms. Greenberg threatened to overstaff individuals if they did not comply.” This appears to be a very serious charge. It says Greenberg threatened teachers with loss of positions at Male if they didn’t support cheating (which, again, is a prestigious school and undoubtedly a much sought position within the Jefferson County school system). Does such a threat rise to the level of a criminal act? Again, where is the union? This is EXACTLY one of the reasons that unions do have a role to play, if they step up to the plate to really do the right thing. Should law enforcement be getting involved with this? We are talking about teachers being threatened with their jobs for not going along with misbehavior that could also place their certificates in jeopardy.

3) Richard, in your position you hear a lot about what is really happening at the ground level in schools. Is the sort of intimidation and test corruption just reported at Male happening elsewhere? If so, how do we get support to our many honest teachers and staff to get this stamped out? No one deserves to be threatened with job loss because they don’t go along with misbehavior.