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Posted: May 18, 2013 8:25 p.m.

NCSS finds testing issues at Alcovy

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Attached is the official school response to the email alleging improper testing procedures at Alcovy High School. The response was written by Cark Skinner, the school system's director of testing, research and evaluation.

“Miscommunication and human error” caused 170 students not to complete the coordinate algebra portion of the End Of Course Test — a state test taken by ninth through 12th-graders — at Alcovy High School, and other testing problems were reportedly found when the Newton County School System investigated concerns after receiving an anonymous email.

An email sent to the NCSS from an unidentified person under the alias “Concerned Citizen” described issues such as students missing testing, scheduling for portions of the test being changed at the last minute by school administration, and student disruptions during testing.

The email, according to NCSS officials, was sent to Carl Skinner, the school system’s director of testing, research and evaluation, on May 7, which led the system to investigate. An additional email was also sent to The News on May 13. Skinner said Alcovy’s testing assistant principal also alerted him to testing issues at the school.

Though some of the claims in the email were found to be true, an investigation by the school system on May 8 revealed that a number of accusations were “exaggerated,” Skinner said.

One accusation was that students were only given one hour to complete the coordinate algebra section of the test, when they were supposed to be given 125 minutes (roughly two hours).

According to Skinner, this statement was true and described events on the day of the coordinate algebra test, May 2. Skinner said the test was scheduled for 12:35 p.m., which would have allowed the maximum time for students to test under normal circumstances.

He said each section of the test is 45-60 minutes, with a mandatory five-minute break, equating to 125 minutes plus 35 minutes to distribute materials, complete the answer document (this EOCT was administered via paper) and collect materials. According to Georgia’s EOCT Examiner’s Manual, this was a total of 160 minutes.

“While this time is adequate, it should be longer to allow for the unexpected deviations due to miscommunication and human error, which did occur,” Skinner said. “Due to miscommunication and human error, the students did not receive their entire time allocated for coordinate algebra. However, since students could complete their EOCT in as little as 45 minutes per section, the majority of students did complete their test.

“We did have 170 students not complete testing that afternoon.”

Skinner noted that the state was informed of the irregularity as well as the anonymous email. The parents of all 170 students impacted were contacted and told that NCSS could either invalidate their student’s test and retest him or her; or submit the test as an irregularity and not retest, according to Skinner.

The irregularity resulted in 128 students having their tests invalidated. The other 42 students chose to have their EOCTs scored as irregularities. Skinner said the tests would be coded appropriately and submitted after the students took the retest, which was scheduled for Friday.

Along with the irregularities in testing, there also was an accusation that some computers did not work properly and that tests kept restarting.

The investigation revealed that there were issues with some of the computers used during the economics portion of testing, but there were similar issues at other schools.

“The first day during the economic (online) EOCT, most of the high schools had a small issue with Java or TestNav.

Alcovy had issues which resulted in student delays of approximately 90 minutes; however, all students completed their tests within the confines of state guidelines. And, there have been a few additional computer issues with hardware and connectivity issues throughout the other high schools,” Skinner said.

During the investigation, Skinner talked randomly with six teachers who administered different sections of the EOCT. He said many had no knowledge of quite a few of the accusations, including that there were a number of disruptive students during testing.

“From the interviews conducted during the investigation, there is some truth in the accusations, and some of the concerns were unfounded,” Skinner wrote in an email.

“A few of the concerns were ‘routine’ i.e., computer issues. We were already aware of the more serious matters as well as parents and contacted the state and followed their guidance. Alcovy has been given direction of how to avoid similar issues in future testing.”

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