Iowa Assessment tests altered at Davenport elementary school

Answer sheets were altered to boost scores on Iowa Assessment tests at one elementary school in Davenport, but school officials say they don’t know who made the changes.

“Its gut-wrenching for all of us. I mean, from the moment that I saw it and started the investigation, I had a very, very bad feeling. The staff is devastated,” said Dr. Art Tate, Davenport superintendent, Wednesday.

In an investigation that began in February 2013, Davenport Community School District officials discovered a high number of erasures on answer sheets submitted for third, fourth and fifth-grade students at Madison Elementary School.

The erasures were apparently made to change incorrect answers to correct answers on the sheets.

“The investigation found conclusively that the Iowa Assessment student response sheets for reading and math at Madison (Elementary) were altered to increase the scores,” said a statement from Dawn Saul, Communications/Media Relations official for the district.

The changes appeared to be focused on tests included in the state’s No Child Left Behind reporting.  Significant erasures were not reported for Madison’s second-grade tests or for science tests for third through fifth graders, which are not included in No Child Left Behind reporting.

Tate said there are no monetary benefits to producing higher scores on these tests.

“We don’t get more money, the teachers don’t get more money. It’s a matter of saying you passed AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress.) Many of our schools do not pass AYP each year, so I guess it’d be bragging rights to say that you did,” said Tate.

On average, the Madison reading tests had 7.36 erasures per student.  Saul said the average for all other schools’ reading tests in the district was 1.25 erasures per student.

The corrected answers boosted the average reading score for third, fourth and fifth graders at Madison to 92%.  From 2004 to 2011, Madison scores averaged 1% above the district score.  In 2012, Madison reading scores were 13% above the district average.  This year’s altered tests would have resulted in Madison scores 26.6% above the district average.

The district stressed the changes were made by someone other than students, and that the students did nothing wrong.

“It’s clear to us students could not have done this. There’s no way it could happen. I mean, some erasures, there’s 20 per test out of 40 questions,” said Tate.

“The investigation is inconclusive in regard to the person or persons who committed the act,” Saul’s statement said.

Tate added that the District has exhausted all of its leads at this time.

“We looked into every lead we had. We interviewed over 30 people, we have over 20 hours of transcripts from those interviews, and at the end of it, we cannot point to any person or persons,” Tate said.

Saul said no test results irregularities were found at the district’s other elementary schools.

The irregularities were reported to the Iowa Department of Education.   Because of the altered tests, scores for Madison will not be included in the state’s reporting for No Child Left Behind compliance.  The tests will be re-administered to Madison Students April 29 and 30.

“The student needs to know how they’re doing, the teacher needs to know, the school does, and also the parents. We just can’t let that go and say, ‘We don’t need your test scores.’ It’s not a punishment; this is something we want to do for the students,” said Tate.

The District also planned to increase security and control for test materials and  student answer sheets in the future.

“The District leadership is committed to working with teachers to together increase oversight and monitoring to eliminate the possibility of test tampering,” Saul said.

Madison was recognized in November 2012 as one of five Iowa schools making significant progress to close gaps in student achievement.   A delegation from Madison received the 2012 Breaking the Barriers to Teaching and Learning award from the Iowa Department of Education.

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