Mar Vista Middle School, in the South Bay and part of the Sweetwater Union School District, was one of 27 California schools stripped of its scores on the state's Academic Performance Index over claims of cheating on or straying from standard procedures for the handling of testing materials.
Statewide, 27 of 10,000 California schools lost their academic rating this year due to incidents involving cheating, mistakes, or misconduct on the more-than-ever important state tests.
Subsequent to a public records request fulfilled by the state Department of Education, the Los Angeles Times discovered that 27 schools in California were stripped of their Academic Performance Index scores.
According to the district’s STAR testing coordinator: "On April 10, 2013 the Principal of Mar Vista Middle School came by to see me in my office. He had concerns that one of his teachers...may have copied previous years’ STAR [testing] materials, using them as study guides with her students. He presented some of the review sheets that he had found in the teacher’s room on campus. In reviewing the documents it appears these materials came directly from [the California Department of Education's] STAR Math Testing materials. Our office looked at over 30 pages of student study guides and found an overwhelming portion of the questions were exactly the same or very similar….
“At [a] meeting the Mar Vista Principal shared that these review sheets have been given to two other teachers in Algebra 1 and one other teacher in Math 7. These teachers have been providing them to students in those classes….
“The teacher in question has had her computer removed and the Information Technology Department is currently going through the hard drive for any documents related to the STAR testing.”
The materials were collected and students were allowed to test in all areas of the STAR California Department of Education Educational Testing Service until a determination was made on the testing violation.
Schools that fail to achieve performance targets are subject to sanctions such as the loss of some state and federal funding or sweeping changes on the campus, including removal of administrators and faculty.
Starting next year, many California students will be able to log on to a computer to take some of the STAR tests that educators say will offer faster results, more complex questions, and fewer opportunities for tampering.
Lafayette Elementary School in the San Diego Unified School District also was stripped of its scores after a substitute teacher in a third-grade classroom left a pocket chart on the board that students could see, showing homophones such as “their,” “they're,” “there,” “hour,” “our,” “hear,” “here,” “new,” “knew,” “its,” and “it’s.”