2 Schools Under Investigation After CSAP Irregularities

Principals Of Beach Court Elementary, Hallett Fundamental Academy Placed On Leave

Denver Public Schools is asking the state attorney general's office to investigate two elementary schools after statistical irregularities were discovered in the schools' CSAPs.

A statement from the school district does not name the schools involved but EdNewsColorado.org identified the schools as Hallett Fundamental Academy and Beach Court Elementary.

The principals from both schools have been placed on administrative leave, EdNewsColorado.org said.

The allegations reportedly center around testing results that show statistical irregularities over more than one subject or grade level over a 2-year period.

The analysis of the tests included an examination of erasure marks on student answer sheets, according to DPS.

Results showed the two schools far exceeded district averages in the number of wrong answers erased and replaced with correct responses, according to sources who spoke to EdNewsColorado.

The review centers on results from 2011. DPS said it has instituted several additional measures in 2012 to protect the integrity of state assessments, including limiting the amount of time an individual could be in possession of assessment booklets and instituting additional test-monitoring safeguards.

As part of their initial analysis, district officials placed testing monitors in a number of schools during the spring administration of the TCAP state exams.

Last week, when third-grade reading TCAP results were released, both Beach Court and Hallett posted double-digit declines, EdNewsColorado reported.

Beach Court dropped 40 percentage points on both the English and Spanish-language versions of the exams while Hallett, which did not administer the Spanish-language version, dropped 12 points. Remaining TCAP results will be released in late July.

For years, both schools saw significant gains in its scores, particularly Beach Court, which saw its reading proficiency rate rise from 40 percent in 2004 to 85 percent in 2011. Beach Court has been the recipient of glowing media reports and district praise since 2005, when the high-poverty neighborhood school in Northwest Denver began posting strong increases in reading, writing and math.

"I love this school," said Lorenzo Estrada, a parent whose son is in kindergarten at Beach Court Elementary. "We chose it because of the test scores, and we would recommend it to anybody. I hope that it [the allegation] is not true"

Hallett’s reading proficiency hit 63 percent in 2004, dropped to the 50 percent range from 2005 to 2010 and then climbed from 50 percent in 2010 to 66 percent in 2011.

Beach Court is rated on the DPS performance report card as a “blue” or distinguished school, meaning it “exceeds expectations” and ranks as one of the district’s highest-performing schools. Hallett is rated as a “green” school, or one that “meets expectations” set by DPS. Both schools are rated “performance” by the state, its top rating.

"I want to emphasize that the initial data analysis makes no conclusions about wrongdoing. It is a statistical analysis that helps determine where further review is warranted. By definition, in any statistical analysis there will be statistical outliers, and the fact alone that there are statistical outliers should not be seen in any way as implying wrongdoing,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a statement. “No conclusions will be made until the end of the investigation. It’s also important to stress that the number of classrooms involved in the investigation is very small. Overall, the percentage of classrooms with statistical concerns in DPS was almost exactly the same as the very small percentage of tests that triggered similar statistical concerns in a blind statewide wrong-to-right erasure analysis of all schools in the state. Of our 162 schools in DPS, there are only two schools where there are statistical concerns across more than one grade and subject."

7NEWS has a crew investigating these allegations. Watch 7NEWS at 10 p.m. for more info.

Press Release From DPS

Below is the full press release from DPS.

The leadership of the Denver Public Schools has consulted with the Colorado Department of Education on an analysis of all DPS test scores and materials from the 2011 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). As a result of that analysis, DPS has asked the state for an independent review of test-score administering and handling of the 2011 CSAP in a very limited number of schools identified by this statistical analysis. The investigation will be overseen by the Colorado Department of Education. The state’s Attorney General’s Office, in its role as CDE’s legal advisor, will conduct the investigation with the assistance of a national firm that is experienced in assessment procedures and integrity.

“We care deeply about the integrity of our student-achievement assessments,” DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said. “Students and their families rely on assessment information to get a sense of how students are doing, and teachers use that information to target and modify instruction to best meet the needs of students. We owe it to our students, their families, and the entire DPS community to ensure the integrity of this performance data, and we want to look carefully to see if any actions have compromised this integrity.”

“We initiated a thorough, comprehensive review of all 2011 CSAP scores earlier this year to determine if there were any significant inconsistencies or statistically unusual results. We shared that information with the CDE, and as a result of these analyses and our consultation with the state, we have asked for an independent investigation to examine the practices and procedures in any schools or classrooms that are identified as having statistically unusual results,” Boasberg said.

Among the analyses that DPS performed and shared with CDE were detailed comparisons of whether students’ test performance varied significantly between multiple choice and written responses, between two schools over two years, and among different types of assessments. In addition, DPS and CDE examined the number of wrong answers that were erased and changed to correct answers on state assessments.

Data from only two of the 162 schools in DPS indicated statistical irregularities across more than one subject or grade level. It is important to emphasize that the initial data analysis makes no conclusions about wrongdoing. It is a statistical analysis that helps determine where further review is warranted. No conclusion will be made until the end of the investigation.

It is important to note, moreover, that the number of schools involved in the investigation is very small. Overall, the percentage of tests with statistical concerns in DPS was almost exactly the same as the small percentage of tests that triggered similar statistical concerns in a blind statewide wrong-to-right erasure analysis. CDE will, based on these investigations, be determining practices and procedures which can be applied statewide in the future.

“We commend the Denver Public Schools for being proactive and conducting this early analysis,” said Jo O’Brien, Assistant Commissioner of Assessment, Research and Evaluation at CDE. “The CDE’s statistical thresholds used with DPS were determined based on statewide data and comparisons used by other states.”

The current review centers on results from 2011. DPS and CDE will analyze spring 2012 data when it becomes available this summer. Lessons learned from the DPS investigation will be taken into consideration in the review of the 2012 data and used in determining test policy statewide next year.

DPS instituted several additional measures in the spring of 2012 to protect the integrity of state assessments, including limiting the amount of time an individual could be in possession of assessment booklets and instituting additional test-monitoring safeguards.

During the course of the investigations, DPS officials will not publicly identify schools or classrooms involved. A full report on the findings of the investigation will be made public after it is completed.

“Our Board of Education will work closely with the Superintendent and district staff to make sure the investigation is thorough, fair and transparent,” said Mary Seawall, President of the Denver Board of Education. “I support the proactive steps taken by district leadership in initiating this examination and its full cooperation with CDE. I believe in the integrity and dedication of educators in DPS. At the same time, it is our obligation to hold any staff accountable if we find that any have failed in their duty to our students.”

“We are committed to have the necessary accountability to ensure, when we convey assessment results to our families and our teachers, that the results are an accurate reflection of our students’ academic progress,” Boasberg added. “As difficult as it is to ask for this type of investigation, it is essential to ensuring that the hard work of our kids and our educators is being measured and reported accurately. We emphasize that we have great confidence in the integrity and professionalism of our educators, and this investigation involves a very small percentage of our classrooms. We understand that this investigation will raise concerns in our community. It is an unfortunate fact that in every field that tracks performance—be it, for example, financial, athletic, or post-secondary—there is a risk of improper conduct to influence performance results. The answer is not to stop assessing performance; it is to vigorously protect the integrity of the performance assessments. Ultimately, our duty is to serve our kids and our families, and they deserve a thorough and truthful picture of how students are progressing academically.”

Statement from DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg

Dear DPS Community:

The information that our families receive from us about their children’s academic progress is critically important to our students’ success. Assessment results give our educators, our students, and our families an understanding of student performance—both where our students are making strong progress and where we need to target help. Teachers, for example, use the assessment information to modify and target their teaching strategies and use of classroom time to best meet the needs of their individual students.

In the Denver Public Schools, we have great confidence in the integrity and dedication of our teachers and principals. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that all of the information we provide to our families and schools about the academic performance of students is accurate and that all testing procedures and safeguards are followed. We owe it to our students, their families, and the entire DPS community to ensure the integrity of this performance data.

Earlier this year, we initiated a thorough, comprehensive review of all results in all DPS schools on the 2011 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) exams (last year’s test) to determine if there were any significant inconsistencies or statistically unusual results. We shared that information with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), and, as a result of these analyses, we have asked for an independent investigation to examine the practices and procedures in the very limited number of schools or classrooms identified as having statistically unusual results.

I want to emphasize that the initial data analysis makes no conclusions about wrongdoing. It is a statistical analysis that helps determine where further review is warranted. By definition, in any statistical analysis there will be statistical outliers, and the fact alone that there are statistical outliers should not be seen in any way as implying wrongdoing.

No conclusions will be made until the end of the investigation. It’s also important to stress that the number of classrooms involved in the investigation is very small. Overall, the percentage of classrooms with statistical concerns in DPS was almost exactly the same as the very small percentage of tests that triggered similar statistical concerns in a blind statewide wrong-to-right erasure analysis of all schools in the state. Of our 162 schools in DPS, there are only two schools where there are statistical concerns across more than one grade and subject.

The current examination centers on results from 2011. We will again consult with the state to analyze spring 2012 data when it becomes available this summer. In addition, our school system instituted several additional measures in the spring of 2012 to protect the integrity of state assessments, including limiting the amount of time an individual could be in possession of assessment booklets and instituting additional test-monitoring safeguards.

DPS has turned all of its 2011 data analysis over to the state. The examination is being conducted by the state’s Attorney General’s office, in its capacity as legal adviser to the CDE, with the participation of Alvarez & Marsal—a national firm that specializes in performance management in the private and public sectors.

During the course of the investigation, we will not publicly identify schools or classrooms involved. We will share a full report with the community once the investigation is complete.

We are committed to having the necessary accountability to ensure that when we convey assessment results to our families and our teachers that the results are an accurate reflection of our students’ academic progress.

As difficult as it is to ask for this type of investigation, it is essential to ensuring that the hard work of our kids and our educators is being measured and reported accurately. We, of course, have great confidence in the integrity and professionalism of our educators, and this investigation involves a very small percentage of our classrooms. We understand that this investigation will raise concerns in our community. It is an unfortunate fact that in every field that tracks performance—be it, for example, collegiate, private business, or athletic—there is a risk of improper conduct to influence performance results. The answer is not to stop assessing performance; it is to vigorously protect the integrity of the performance assessments.

Ultimately, our duty is to serve our kids and our families, and they deserve a thorough and truthful picture of how students are progressing academically.

We have a deep belief in our kids and their capabilities, and we will do all we can to ensure their success at school.

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