The Arizona state Education Department has asked the Attorney General's Office to look into allegations of AIMS test cheating occurring at seven schools in the state after a higher than average rate of changing test answers on 2014 tests.
According to a letter sent from Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas to the Attorney General's office, a number of tests in the schools had been invalidated by the Education Department as a result of "a high number of erasures from wrong answers to right answers."
If found guilty, the schools could face a variety of punishments, including a lowering of their state letter grade or even a loss of high-performance funding. Both are based on AIMS test scores, reports Barbara Grijalva for Tucson News Now.
While Douglas wrote in her letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich that the Education Department had not determined "that a particular student cheated or that a certain teacher or school administrator manipulated test documents," Rob Pecharich, principal of charter school Edge High in Tucson, recently reported that according to an internal investigation that, "it is highly likely that a number of test answer sheets were altered in an apparent attempt to increase the scores."
Pecharich went on to say that 13 tests had been invalidated, but school officials have not yet determined who made those changes, writes Cathryn Creno for AZCentral.
Letters were sent to each of the seven schools from the Department of Education, notifying them that some test sheets submitted had unusually high "wrong to right" answer changes. An eighth school also received a letter, which was also forwarded to Brnovich's office, suggesting there were problems with enrollment and other data that had been submitted with the AIMS test sheets.
Representatives from both the Education Department and the Attorney General's office said this is the first time that education officials in the state had sought a legal review of changes made to test answers.
"I have never heard of this," said former state schools chief Lisa Graham Keegan. "There are checks (of test sheets) at the school level and checks at the state level, but I have never heard of it going to the attorney general."
The high level of erasures drew the attention of the Education Department, as they said it was not normal for a high number of students to change their answers on the exam. In addition, a common thread was found to the answers that were changed in a variety of instances.
For now, it does not appear that the amount of cheating that may have occurred is on the same level as that which took place at Atlanta Public Schools.