The Indiana Department of Education is entering the fray surrounding a possible case of standardized test cheating at North Central High School in Washington Township. The DOE has requested that the Washington Township School Board submit a report on the incident, as well as detail the steps it intends to take to investigate the veracity of the cheating allegation. District Superintendent Nikki Woodsen spoke to the board members and said that the district is committed to a thorough investigation that will leave no stone unturned.
The cheating scandal arose out of the allegation that some North Central High teachers copied exam questions from the state’s end-of-course exam and distributed them to their students. The incident first came to light on a television broadcast, where an anonymous whistleblower shared en email that made references to a faculty meeting where the test questions were discussed. Although the information hasn’t yet been substantiated, the source claimed that the questions under discussion were from the state biology test, and while the sharing between teachers and students is only a supposition, the email, and the meeting it refers to seems to be legitimate.
Further complicating the investigation is the fact that students don’t have to pass the biology exam in order to graduate, unlike the exams in English and mathematics. Although the scores are published and publicly available, they do not play a role in students’ grades but might have an impact on teacher evaluations.
School Board President Anthony Dzwonar, the father of a North Central student, said he understands parents may be concerned
“I’m a parent, and it does concern me,” he said. “Washington Township has some very important values — honesty being one of those, and integrity. We expect and the vast majority of our students and staff do uphold those values. The allegation that someone has not is something we take very seriously.”
The state’s process calls for a school district to investigate an incident first and report to the state, typically within 10 days.
Before last year’s incident where a teacher shared an exam essay question on Facebook, the test administration procedures in the state were not codified in law, and while circumventing them could result in disciplinary action, those found guilty of it, weren’t, likewise, guilty of a crime. Since this March, however, the procedures have been formalized by the state board and therefore those violating them could be guilty of breaking the law.
Wes Bruce, the state education department’s chief assessment officer, said allegations a teacher may have copied test questions and shared them with students or other teachers is alarming.
“Something like this, where there is a substantial list of questions, many of which are secure items and a few of which appeared on this year’s test, it doesn’t get any more serious,” he said.