Staff gathered at Pleasanton Middle School Thursday to discuss the withholding of the school's Academic Performance Index (API) scores after the California Department of Education (CDE) said the results were compromised.
PMS Principal John Whitney would not comment on the situation, but confirmed that Thursday's meeting was in regards to the CDE announcement.
When the 2007 Academic Performance Index (API) rankings were released Friday, the district was told that Pleasanton Middle School's 2007 Growth API results would not be included. That is because the 2006 API scores were invalidated.
The California Department of Education (CDE) said handwritten copies of a 2005 practice science STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) test made by a Hart Middle School teacher and shared with other teachers during a meeting compromised the eighth grade science test scores at PMS, according PUSD spokeswoman Myla Grasso.
Superintendent John Casey said the district was surprised by the CDE decision, announced early Thursday. He said the district will decide within three to four weeks as to whether an appeal will be filed.
The district was made aware of the test copying in a meeting last March. The CDE was reportedly notified immediately and the district began to investigate. The district found that the information from the copy was made available to one teacher at each district middle school "during a time when the teachers were meeting to review and prepare science curriculum for the course." The investigation also showed that the copied test was not shown to students, according to Myla Grasso, the district's Director of Public Information.
Casey said the investigation had two components: the first being done by the district and bringing it to the CDE, and the second part included amendments made by the CDE.
"Our investigation showed that teachers looked at these questions for a very brief period of time," Casey said. "The teachers didn't create worksheets or example problems that were ever directly created [from the copied test. You can get public documents from the state that can give you an idea of what will be on the test. We don't have any evidence that our kids had an advantage."
While the teacher did break the rules in copying parts of the test, Casey said the test was not obtained illegally. The science portion of the STAR test was a field test, meaning the exam results would be used to help finalize the final version of the test to be given the following year. The field tests were not used to calculate a score. Casey also added that only portions of the 2005 test were likely used in the 2006 test.
In addition to the invalidation of the 2006 API scores, the 2007 API Growth score will not be calculated, Grasso said. The 2007 test results, however, are still valid.
The teacher who made a copy of the test was from Hart Middle School and copies were given to science teachers at each of the three middle schools in the district, Grasso said. Yet only Pleasanton Middle School was disqualified.
"The [CDE couldn't get over the fact that PMS's scores were so high," Casey said. "District staff believes that the scores at Pleasanton Middle reflect only the achievement of the students at the school."
The fact that none of the other schools was disqualified gives reason for the district to believe that PMS was unfairly singled out, Grasso said.
PMS science scores have been higher for the past few years, with 88 percent of the student body proficient in science, compared to 72 percent at Harvest Park and 78 at Hart.
"These are great teachers and great teachers are going to get great results and focus on state standards," Casey said. "This doesn't surprise us. We should be congratulating them."
STAR tests are under strict security, Grasso said, and are only available to teachers and students at the time of testing. Teachers also must sign affidavits, saying they agree not to make copies of the test. The CDE's reasoning is that students would have an unfair advantage if teachers are structuring curriculum around the test.
"We're not sure we agree with that [reasoning because the state wants us to teach to state standards and that's what we did," Grasso said.
Legal action has not been taken against the Hart teacher, but according to Grasso he or she received "reasonable and appropriate" disciplinary action from the district, but was not fired.
"These are good teachers," she said. "We don't want this to be a career defining event for them. It was a mistake; it was not of bad intention."
Jim Rallis, director of assessment, said the 2006 API scores will be invalidated for the school, but will not not affect individual students. Grasso also added that the disqualification could make it difficult for the school to apply to be a California Distinguished School, but wasn't sure at the time.