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Schools Can’t Pin Down Blame for Cheating on Test

Times Education Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District does not know who changed student answers on a 1985-86 statewide standardized test at 18 schools suspected of cheating, a high-ranking district administrator said Tuesday.

According to Associate Supt. Paul Possemato, who headed the district’s investigation last year into charges that cheating occurred, the district cannot link any specific school employees to an abnormally high number of changed answers on the California Assessment Program test of basic academic skills two years ago.

Last week, Possemato said the district had identified the individuals who changed the scores, and he said 25 teachers and a classroom aide were involved.

However, he said Tuesday that because other people, including principals and school volunteers, had access to the test booklets, it was impossible to determine “who had the eraser in their hand.”

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The district identified 25 classes in 18 schools where the number of erasures of answers from wrong to right were suspiciously high, he said. “There is absolutely proof that someone changed the scores. What we cannot prove is who did it,” he said. But “at no time could we ascertain that any teachers in fact did the changing” of the scores.

“Everyone seemed to have access to the test,” he added, which in itself indicated that security surrounding the examination was too lax.

In a confidential report prepared by the district in June, 1987, district officials found a number of irregularities. At West Hollywood Elementary School and Gault Elementary School in Van Nuys, for example, unused tests were kept at the school instead of being returned to a central office, and at many schools classroom aides handled answer sheets.

In one classroom at Bandini Elementary School in San Pedro, 101, or 83%, of 122 answers altered were changed from wrong to right, which the district report said was a “highly questionable” ratio.

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At Colfax Avenue Elementary School in North Hollywood, 106 out of 107 answers erased were changed from wrong to right. The report noted that the new principal “reported parental pressure to raise test scores.”

In two classes at Lanai Road Elementary in Encino, 128 out of 138 answers were changed from wrong to right. “There is evidence that extensive alterations were made to the test booklet answers of students in these two classes,” the report said.

Last week, state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig disclosed that 40 schools statewide had cheated on the 1985-86 California Assessment Program test. But he said the state did not know who was responsible.


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