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Possible cheating during standardized testing is investigated

California education officials have identified 242 schools statewide where students posted standardized-test-related images on social-networking sites — 16 of which included exam questions or answers that could be deemed cheating violations.

Hundreds of photos turned up online this year during the administration of the Standardized Testing and Reporting exams, which make up most of the school's state rating on the Academic Performance Index. Test scores were released Thursday.

The majority of images depicted students posing with closed test booklets or illegible materials, the California Department of Education said in a release.

Students are not allowed to use electronic devices during the exams. None of the postings affected school test results, the state said.

"These postings look to be attempts by students to gain attention among their friends, not an effort to gain an advantage on a test," said Deb Sigman, the state's deputy superintendent of public instruction.

Still, state officials are investigating more closely the 16 schools where actual exam material was posted — including two schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and one in Burbank.

The schools include Alexander Hamilton High School and Alliance Cindy and Bill Simon Technology Academy High in Los Angeles, as well as Monterey High, a continuation school, in Burbank.

In a worst-case scenario, these campuses could lose their Academic Performance Index score. A school can lose its score entirely if 5% of tests are invalidated. Schools could also be exposed to the loss of grants or to sanctions — because being stripped of a score means a school hasn't met academic performance targets.

Last year, 12 schools were investigated for similar postings, delaying the release of test scores for two weeks. No Academic Performance Index scores were withheld.

Decisions regarding the 16 schools should be made in coming weeks, the education department said.

"We take the validity and reliability of our assessments very seriously, and our schools do too, which is why we redoubled our efforts to monitor these postings and alerted school districts when they occurred," Sigman said.

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