Rome City Schools will be launching an investigation into teachers at three of its elementary schools following a report by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement that points to concerns of possible cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test taken in 2009 by students in grades first through eighth.
The report focuses on the number of erasures that changed answers from incorrect to correct. Schools were rated in four categories of concern based on the percentage of classrooms that had higher-than-average erasures.
Three city elementary schools fell into the “moderate concern” category, meaning between 10.5 and 24.4 percent of classrooms at those schools were flagged for wrong-to-right changes. Those schools in the moderate category were Southeast (19.6 percent), North Heights (12.8 percent), and West Central (11.5 percent).
Superintendent Gayland Cooper stressed that he wants the investigation process to be transparent as possible, and once he consults with Office of Student Achievement about the proper way to proceed, he’ll soon begin talking to the teachers whose classrooms were flagged.
“I am just distraught because we pride ourselves on student achievement,” said Cooper. “I assure you it’s a small population that we have to look at.”
Citing due process, the superintendent would not release the names of the teachers in question.
He said he is eager to get to the heart of the issue and find out what happened in these classrooms to allow for so many wrong-to-right changes.
He indicated support for his teachers.
“I know they are good honest people and I know there has to be some sort of logical reason they got flagged,” Cooper said. “I don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.”
The result of Cooper’s investigation will be forwarded to the appropriate state organizations for further action. Cooper said Thursday that he hopes to find out today exactly how the OSA wants him to proceed.
Two schools fell into the “minimal concern” category, indicating between 5.5 and 10.4 percent of classrooms were flagged. Those schools were East Central (8.7 percent) and Main (7.7 percent). The classes flagged at those schools could be monitored during this year’s CRCT, or the exam could be given by a different teacher.
On the state level, about 370 schools had an unusually high number of erasures on the tests last spring. The highest numbers of changes to answers on exams were found in just 74 of the 1,800 schools reviewed — or about 4 percent, agency director Kathleen Mathers told the state Board of Education during its monthly meeting.
“We are not saying in any way that we think teachers in those buildings changed answers on tests,” Mathers said. “We are saying this looks unusual.”
Cooper stressed that because each section of the CRCT counted as a different class in the report, some of the Rome teachers in question may have been counted twice, meaning only a small group of teachers will be investigated at the three schools.
“If anyone was doing anything inappropriate we’ll find out,” said Cooper.
It’s the first time the state has taken a comprehensive look at standardized testing, which is part of how the officials measure whether schools have met federal education benchmarks. A test was flagged if it had many more erasures than the average for the student’s peers. Nine schools on the list had more than 70 percent of classrooms with questionable test answer sheets.
All Floyd County elementary and middle schools were in the “clear” category, meaning fewer than 5.4 percent of classrooms were flagged. Floyd County Schools Superintendent Lynn Plunkett said she was never worried that the report would show anything different.
“I did not have any concerns. We emphasize ethics. We emphasize security. We do this every year,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Rome News Tribune