Thirteen Bibb County schools had a higher-than-average percentage of erasure marks on 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test answer sheets, which could signal test tampering or cheating, according to a state study.
With high-stakes testing, there are often times when students’ responses on exam questions may not reflect their own work, meaning students could copy answers, get hints from teachers or have their exams altered by educators, officials with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement said of its CRCT Analysis Report released Wednesday.
The state group paid for CRCT answer sheets to be scanned for erasure marks and specifically for wrong answers changed to correct ones on math, reading and language arts sections of the CRCT for first through eighth grades.
The average number of a school’s classrooms where incorrect answers were changed to correct ones was 4 percent statewide, according to the study.
Any school exceeding 4 percent was flagged and placed into categories — minimal concern, moderate concern or severe concern.
Other schools that fell at or below the state average were placed in a “no concern” category.
“The analysis looked on average at 125,000 test-takers in every subject and grade level at which the CRCT was administered and provided a clear picture of typical student test behavior against which all schools could be compared,” said GOSA Executive Director Kathleen Mathers. “Our recommendations are intended to eliminate future problems and help students who have been adversely affected by test tampering.”
While 80 percent of schools statewide fell in the “no concern” group, two Bibb County elementary schools were classified as “severe concern.”
Forty percent of classrooms at Burke Elementary, which consolidated into Ingram-Pye this school year, had a higher-than-average number of erasure marks on CRCT exams last spring, the study said.
Meanwhile, 27 percent of classrooms at Brookdale Elementary had a higher-than-normal number of changes on students’ answer sheets.
Just 4 percent of schools statewide fell into the “severe concern” category.
“We don’t want to rush to judgment,” Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson said Wednesday. “We just need to keep an open mind of what this means.”
Often students make corrections or don’t have good “eye-tracking” and could skip rows, causing them to erase and change answers, Patterson said.
She said the report’s findings would be explored during the next few weeks.
“I’m concerned about it,” Bibb County school board President Gary Bechtel said. “An investigation is going to be mandatory.”
He said some of the erasure marks could be in first- and second-grade classrooms with students just learning to take exams.
Testing irregularities were not reported last spring at either Burke or Brookdale, said Bruce Giroux, the system’s testing director.
The school system will take disciplinary action if any investigation reveals test tampering, Patterson said.
The GOSA recommends that the state board require schools in the “severe concern” category to be investigated by their local school systems and have a state worker monitor those schools during upcoming CRCT exams.
Six other Bibb schools were placed in the “moderate concern” category, with 11 to 24 percent of classrooms having higher-than-normal erasure marks.
Those schools were Jones, Danforth, Williams, Bruce, Hartley and Burghard elementary schools.
Spot checks by random state monitors are suggested for such schools during upcoming state exams.
Schools with “minimal concern” — those having a slightly higher percentage of erasure marks than the state average — were Riley, Vineville Academy, Barden, Burdell-Hunt Magnet and Rice elementary schools. Other Bibb schools were listed in the “no concern” category.
No schools in Monroe, Baldwin, Crawford, Peach and Wilkinson County school systems showed signs of irregularities in testing.
Houston, Laurens and Twiggs County schools and Dublin each had one of their schools with either moderate or of minimal concern.
Nearly 17 percent of classrooms at Susie Dasher Elementary in Dublin had higher-than-average erasure marks, rising to the “moderate concern” level, while 9.5 percent of Pearl Stephens Elementary classrooms in Houston County had higher-than-average erasure marks, putting that school at a “minimal concern” level.
For more information, visit www.gaosa.org.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.