UPDATE, May 6, 2013: It's STAR test time in California and it's game on! Teams of people from the state Dept. of Education and the national Education Testing Service are checking social media sites "every 15 minutes," according to a story in today's Los Angeles Times by Howard Blume.
[Their] chief concern is that students will take pictures [with cellphones] of test items and post them...which occurred last year (see story below). ...
If a security breach is serious enough, a school could lose its rating on the state's Academic Performance Index, which could lead to sanctions, including loss of funding. Students face such ramifications as suspensions. The stakes also are high for the state. If too many test items are compromised, the entire testing cycle could be invalidated.
Last year, 36 questions from various standardized exams ended up on social media sites. Those items have been replaced. And, for the first time, the state dealt a penalty to 12 schools, ruling them ineligible for the next round of state academic awards. Local schools affected were Glendale High, Millikan High in Long Beach and Rowland High in Rowland Heights. North Hollywood High was initially targeted until officials determined that the offending student had transferred to Birmingham Community Charter in Van Nuys, which endured the penalty instead.
In all, 249 individuals posted 442 images of test materials that were linked to 147 schools in 94 California school districts. Most images were not of actual test questions.
Long Beach Unified is determined to avoid any repeat. It's posted signs in each testing room stating that "unauthorized electronic devices MAY NOT be used at any time during the testing session." Proctors also instruct students to put cellphones in backpacks, and then the backpacks are collected, said district spokesman Chris Eftychiou...
UPDATE, July 20, 2012: "YOLO" wrote one kid via the pencilled-in circles in a STAR answer sheet -- you only live once...but if you post photos on Facebook and Tumblr, the repercussions can go on forever. The Huffington Post picked up a news broadcast from KCBS in Los Angeles yesterday, reporting that 147 California schools may face penalties from the Dept. of Education that, with its contractor, the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., "are currently investigating the security breach[es]"...in which, since April, "249 students posted 442 [test] images on social-networking sites..."
Schools where students took the photos could face discipline, such as a loss of scores on the state’s Academic Performance Index. That in turn could make a school susceptible to the loss of grants or sanctions, since being stripped of a score indicates a school hasn’t met performance targets. The scoring formula for schools where students exposed questions is being adjusted, the Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that affected school districts were not notified on a timely basis about the online posting of test answers, cellphone photos of answer sheets, and other testing violations:
...[LAUSD] was notified weeks ago about images of such things as blank answer pages, but not about the leak of one or more actual test items, said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education. The state linked the test-item breach to North Hollywood High School, which was news Wednesday to Principal Randy Delling and senior administrators.
“It helps us with accountability when we know of a violation,” said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.
The lack of notification was an oversight, state officials said...
The state “told our testing coordinator that all they know is the Educational Testing Service told them there was some sort of social networking website where someone posted some geometry questions, and somehow that was associated with Millikan [High School],” said Chris Eftychiou, [LBUSD] spokesman...
San Jose Unified was among several districts that weren't alerted of a problem associated with a particular school. "We just got details about this this morning," said [SJUSD] Jose Unified Asst. Supt. Jason Willis. "We weren’t aware of any issues around images. We were blindsided by this."
Presumably related to the scandal, the CDE sent letters to all school districts in the state this week announcing that the release of standardized test scores would be delayed by two weeks, until August 31, 2012. So much for the 12-day turnaround promised earlier this year. (See story below.)
March 8, 2012: Twelve days -- that's what the state is promising as a turnaround between taking the standardized state tests (STAR) and school receiving the results, according to a press release from the state Department of Education yesterday (reported by Katy Murphy on The Education Report).
From the CDE announcement:
Beginning with (school year '12-'13), we expect both the California Standards Tests and the California Modified Assessment results to be reported in a matter of days rather than months, making them both more timely and more useful to our schools,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom] Torlakson said. “I commend [State Board of Education President Michael] Kirst for his work... on this project. ...
“...we are moving forward with the transition to new assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, including the creation of an advisory committee that will examine the wide range of tests now given to students...This work will allow me to prepare my recommendations to the Legislature later this year about how to achieve a shared, long-standing goal to reduce both the number of tests that are given and the time it takes to receive them—and most importantly, give students, parents, and teachers the best possible information about their progress.”
Context to the announcement is provided by John Fensterwald in today's Educated Guess:
By getting scores back during the school year, instead of during the summer, districts will be better able to make decisions on summer school attendance and placement for courses in the fall. Teachers will be able to identify gaps in student knowledge and, with time left, address them, suggested Susan Swann, executive director of ETS’s K-12 Assessments in California.
Test results have been delayed until now because of the methodology ETS used in evaluating new questions that it introduced in the tests. For 2013, ETS will substitute tests from previous years instead of including new questions, which won’t require a lengthy post-exam vetting process. Another method is to accumulate a big bank of previously vetted test questions, which the SMARTER Balanced state consortium preparing the assessment for Common Core standards will use.
What happens after 2013 is up in the air. ETS’s contract runs out next year, creating at least a one-year gap before states are scheduled to begin offering the new Common Core assessments. ETS will likely get its contract extended.