Superintendent: No Cheating on Standardized Tests
Administrative errors led to Woonsocket's inclusion on a list of school districts with "suspicious" results on tests, Donoyan said.
Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan insisted there has been no instances of cheating on standardized tests, and Woonsocket's inclusion in a report on "suspicious" test scores nationwide was a result of administrative errors in handling the tests in 2008.
"There was no cheating. There was nothing ever found to fraudulent," Donoyan said Wednesday. "Apparently there was an error in the administration of the tests. It was the newness of the test."
Woonsocket schools were included among nearly 200 school systems nationwide with "suspicious" scores on standardized tests, according to a study by the Atlanta Journal-Contitution. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has called for an investigation into those school systems to determine whether they cheated on the exams.
The Journal-Constitution examined test scores from 69,000 school systems across the country, specifically examining the percentage of classes that were flagged for abnormalities over a four-year period. School systems will typically have 5 percent of classes flagged in any given year. The study deemed suspicious any school systems consistently registering 10 percent of classes flagged, or those with a spiked in flag percentage in a single year.
In 2008, 29.8 percent of Woonsocket classes were flagged for having a test-score shift outside the norm, the study found. Donoyan acknowledged there were several errors made in 2008, when many were administering the test for the first time. Specifically, the reading booklets distributed to students were not been handled according to protocol, Donoyan said. Some may have been given to students too soon; some were collected out of order; others were stored in an open area.
"The (state) Department of Education provided a lot of support that year. There were a lot of people involved ... too many cooks in the kitchen," which partly led to errors, Donoyan said.
Woonsocket's scores improved dramatically in subsequent years. The district registered flag rates of 3.86 percent, 7.69 percent and 0 percent in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
"There have been no issues since," Donoyan said. "It is important to note we have tied up the loose ends, and our entire staff ensures everything is handled properly."
Coventry, Providence and East Providence joined Woonsocket on the "suspicious" list, prompting Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist to defend the districts while noting the state will look further into the report.
"We take testing integrity seriously, and we have no reason to suspect any incident of testing irregularity in recent test administrations in Rhode Island," Gist said in a prepared statement Monday. "We will, however, thoroughly review the assessment data from these four districts and revisit our assessment and monitoring procedures if necessary. We have full confidence in the honesty and integrity of the educators and students in Rhode Island."