The Los Angeles Unified School District, locked in tense contract negotiations with its teachers, announced Monday that it will indefinitely postpone giving students the districtwide Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills because of teachers’ refusal to handle the exams.
The announcement came the same day that thousands of members of United Teachers-Los Angeles demonstrated outside most of the district’s 600 elementary, junior high and senior high schools to deny accusations that teachers may have been responsible for tampering with student answers over the last three years on another standardized test, the California Assessment Program.
The teachers have refused to administer any standardized tests to students--including the comprehensive test, which was scheduled to be given this week. United Teachers-Los Angeles, which represents the district’s 32,000 teachers, is also boycotting other duties such as yard supervision and after-school meetings to protest what it views as an unsatisfactory contract offer from the district.
Associate Supt. Gabriel Cortina said the district will suspend giving the basic skills test, in part because of problems in training others to administer the test in place of teachers. The test is given annually to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses and to determine students’ eligibility for certain special remedial tutoring programs funded by the state and the federal government.
The union recently rejected a three-year contract proposal that would have raised teachers’ salaries 17% by 1991. The union is asking for a 12% raise this year. The district and union also disagree on a plan for giving teachers greater authority to make school decisions.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles school board on Monday formally appointed the Monterey Park law firm of Barbosa & Vera to head an investigation into the alleged cheating, disclosed by state and district officials last month, on the California Assessment Program test.
Four of seven board members--Rita Walters, Leticia Quezada, Warren Furutani and Roberta Weintraub--voted in favor of the firm’s selection. Alan Gershman, Jackie Goldberg and Julie Korenstein abstained, they said, because of discomfort about the potential cost and possible criminal charges that could result from the investigation.
The board rejected a proposal by Gershman calling for a 30-day amnesty period during which school employees could admit involvement in test tampering with no risk of disciplinary action.
District officials said the Barbosa & Vera firm was chosen in part because Ronald T. Vera has experience in cases involving educational testing. Law partner Henry S. Barbosa, a former deputy district attorney, has an extensive background in criminal and public agency law.
“We will look at the discrepancies and try to explain them,” Vera said. “We are concerned that the inquiry be done in a fair and impartial manner. We have no preconceived notion as to what happened.”
The state Department of Education found irregularities in 1985-86 and 1986-87 on the CAP test, which is given annually to third-, sixth-, eighth- and 12th-graders. Test answer books were altered at about 70 elementary schools, including 24 in the Los Angeles school district.
Education Department officials said they did not know who was responsible at those schools for changing an abnormally high number of answers from wrong to right. District officials initially said teachers were involved in the tampering but later admitted they did not know who might have done it.
“I am absolutely convinced that no teachers cheated (on the CAP tests),” Wayne Johnson, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, said Monday as he joined picketing teachers outside Franklin Avenue School in Los Feliz, one of the schools accused of changing test answers on the 1985-86 exam.
He said teachers will cooperate with the investigation because they want the truth to come out. But “we don’t want a witch hunt. We want a proper legal investigation.” Teachers from the schools implicated in the test-tampering scandal will be advised of their rights by union lawyers and provided with free legal counsel if they are accused of wrongdoing.
At Franklin, teachers said they were not involved in handling or giving the CAP test. Joy Malouf, who taught one of the classes that state and district officials identified as suspect, said that on the day the exam was given, “I just sent my children to the auditorium” where someone else administered it. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Franklin Principal Verna B. Dauterive said that mainly for logistical reasons, CAP testing is conducted in the auditorium by a teacher’s aide. The high number of wrong answers changed to right on Franklin students’ exams was not unusual, she said, but was due to the fact that bright children “tend to erase more” than other students.