Three San Diego County schools are disqualified from receiving state funding or awards for two years because of standardized test cheating – not by the students, but by the teachers.
Lafayette Elementary, Clear View Elementary and Mar Vista Academy (formerly Mar Vista Middle School) will be stripped of their scores on California’s Academic Performance Index (API).
The rating system allows schools to set and meet performance targets, and losing the API scores can lead to funding cuts or removal of faculty and administrators.
Cheating can encompass many mistakes, from telling students outright that they have the wrong answer, to handing out the wrong study guide.
That’s what happened at Mar Vista Academy.
“It was brought to the attention of the principal that a teacher using a study guide possibly contained questions from a previous year,” said Manny Rubio, spokesman for the Sweetwater Union School District.
That study guide was given to hundreds of students in Mar Vista’s math classes, despite training for teachers on what is and isn’t allowed.
The state does let teachers use similar questions from previous tests as study guides, but teachers cannot use the exact questions.
At Lafayette Elementary, homonyms were left in a pocket chart on the board while students took the test, administered by a substitute teacher. A third grader pointed out that one of the homonyms was on the test.
The third school, Clear View Elementary, was stripped of its API scores after a teacher checked the testing booklets of certain students when they finished a section of the test. The teacher then put the test booklet back on the students’ desks on a specific page and told the students they need to check it.
The Chula Vista Elementary School District says the state’s initial determination to disqualify Clear View is under review. The district contends the irregularity may not have affected enough students to merit a disqualification.
“Most of the time, it is something that they hadn’t really planned on doing or thought about doing,” said Rubio. “In some cases it is. Unfortunately you’ll also see schools where it was intentional. It was very much their way of trying to boost their students’ performances.”
The state says it takes the reliability of assessments very seriously, as do the schools, which self-report.
Most schools abide by the law; 27 out of more than 10,000 California schools were flagged for irregularities this year.