I am writing to address a news story that ran on the local NBC television station Channel 5 on the evening of March 26 that inferred cheating on standardized assessments had occurred in school districts across the state. There were 17 North Texas school districts identified in this report as having a 5-percent or greater test score irregularity. Listed among these 17 school districts was Weatherford ISD. There is absolutely no truth in what this story is inferring. I take offense to this story and believe it slights the hard work of our students, their teachers and parents, and the school district as a whole. From what I have been able to determine, this report should be characterized as reckless and irresponsible at best.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that the analysis does not prove cheating. I would take it further and say that it is irresponsible to create a list and suggest cheating by those schools that have made significant gains in student performance on these assessments. TEA pointed out their concerns in the validity of the study since the study looked at campus level data from a small sample and not individual student data. There are many indicators that would need to be investigated before you could make such a broad statement about student performance. We are not placing any value on this report and we do not expect our students, parents, employees, partners or community members to buy into them as well.
The state assessment program is an important part of our responsibility as professional educators and we take this responsibility seriously. Significant safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the tests. Many of these protocols are established by the Texas Education Agency but Weatherford ISD has gone beyond what is required by the state to ensure that our testing process is beyond reproach. Here are a few of the security steps we follow for each test administration:
- Prior to each and every test administration the campus test coordinator (CTC) is trained in test security.
- Testing personnel are well aware that their teaching certificates could be revoked if caught in a cheating incident.
- Each CTC is required to train all campus personnel involved in the administration of the test in test security protocols and all personnel sign oaths that indicate that training has occurred prior to handling secure test material. Students at the high school also sign oaths to bring this issue to their attention and the seriousness of their actions.
- All WISD test administrators are required to view an additional on-line training video provided by TEA, certificates of completion are filed with the CTC.
- Test administrators are required to actively monitor the room during the administration and are never allowed to read, grade papers, or work on their computer while students are testing.
- CTCs and the campus administration monitor each testing room throughout the entire test administration.
- Campuses log their monitoring visits on forms either posted on the door of the classroom or on a clipboard.
- A central office monitoring team visits each campus during a test administration and a monitoring form is filed.
- Test administrators are required to report even a broken seal to the CTC and in turn the CTC reports the broken seal to the District Test Coordinator.
- Tests are secured in a locked room prior to testing day. The tests are collected after each examination and returned to the secure room between test administrations and tests are returned to Pearson immediately following the conclusion of the assessments.
Our students and teachers have worked in a very focused manner. Not only to improve their scores on the state assessment but to improve the overall quality of the educational experience in WISD. This has not been an easy task and we are by no means satisfied with where we are. We will continue to push for improvement but will do so in an ethical and authentic manner, not one falsified by altered tests or dishonest means.
Jeffrey M. Hanks, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools