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Test scores nullified; Coaching voids Goddard MCAS results.

Byline: Linda Bock

WORCESTER - MCAS test results for the Goddard School of Science and Technology were invalidated yesterday after a joint investigation by state and local officials found educators at Goddard provided students with inappropriate coaching during testing.

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Worcester public schools discovered through interviews that school personnel who administered the 2010 MCAS tests reviewed student work on the test, coached students to add to their responses and wrote answers or portions of answers that were not the words of students.

All of these actions are prohibited by state testing protocols. Student results in English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology in Grades 3 through 6 will be invalidated, meaning the results will be permanently deleted and no scores will be reported at the student or school levels.

Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said in a news release yesterday that educators at Goddard broke with the established testing rules, causing the state to take action and void the test results.

"I take this sanction very seriously," Superintendent Melinda J. Boone said yesterday. She said she met with the faculty yesterday morning to tell them the news, and a letter to parents and guardians went home with students after school.

Ms. Boone said no one teacher had been singled out, and none of the teaching staff at Goddard has been disciplined.

"As superintendent, I am very aware of the need to follow established procedures to the letter," Ms. Boone said today. "While coaching to encourage best student performance during the instructional day is effective and expected, that same level of coaching can not occur during the MCAS testing."

The Goddard community knew in September that the scores were suppressed by the state for some sort of review. At the time, only third-grade math scores were questioned. Now all of the scores have been tossed out.

"This is a very strong school with a history of performance," Ms. Boone said. "While this set of scores we may not be able to use, there are other tests and measures that tell us that students are doing very well there."

The school has worked hard to improve. In 2009, the majority of its students scored below proficient in every subject.

Ms. Boone said she assured Mr. Chester that the district will work with state education officials to ensure that all educators at Goddard - and in all Worcester public schools - are properly trained in proper MCAS testing procedures. The next round of MCAS testing will take place in March.

"The state has concluded thorough investigations, and I have assured the state I will take these actions. I will assign someone to administer the 2011 tests so there will be no questions," Ms. Boone said. "I will also make sure all the principals in the schools in Worcester are retrained using the state's testing protocols."

In a separate interview last night, Ms. Boone said the state "had no action recommended for discipline," and she does not expect any district-level discipline as a result of the findings.

Ms. Boone and Goddard Principal Marion B. Guerra are confident that the instructional practices in place were designed to raise student achievement. Ms. Boone delivered a statement from Ms. Guerra.

"While I am saddened by the decision, I understand the reasoning behind the decision to invalidate our 2010 MCAS scores," Ms. Guerra said in her statement. "The decision was based upon their findings of irregularities in test administration protocol."

Ms. Guerra said she reads students' journals weekly to monitor progress, and she checks routine test scores and achievements in classes at the school on a monthly basis. There are about 500 students in the K-6 elementary school.

Ms. Guerra said she and the staff will work to make sure that testing procedures and scores are never again brought into question.

"We've learned a lot about testing practices," Ms. Boone said. She said the district lacks an internal test administration monitoring system. She said administrators will review the district's test administration protocols, and make sure there are safeguards in place. Ms. Boone said she was asked to submit a report to state education officials by Jan. 28 to outline how the district will train staff in proper testing procedures and how it will oversee administration of the spring 2011 tests.

Some parents interviewed yesterday were supportive of the teachers and administration at the Goddard School, though a few had questions about how the news would affect their children.

Doug McArthur, parent of fourth-grade and sixth-grade daughters, said he still supports the school.

"They both worked so hard," he said. "The school is great, though, and they never miss a day. I still have confidence in the school."

Mr. McArthur said teachers have instituted several programs that he said have raised the levels of work of his daughters.

"For kids to enjoy going to school, they must be doing something right," Mr. McArthur said. "I never liked school."

Abigail Rodriquez has a son in kindergarten and a daughter in fourth grade. She said her daughter has been at the school since kindergarten.

"It's a good school," Ms. Rodriguez said.

The state's action to invalidate 2010 MCAS results at Goddard School means the school will not have any 2010 Adequate Yearly Progress results. When the state issues 2011 Adequate Yearly Progress, results will be determined based on the upcoming spring 2011 MCAS results. It will measure improvement from 2009 to 2011 but will not directly affect students.

Jacqueline Reis of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to this report.


CUTLINE: (1) MCAS test results for the Goddard School of Science and Technology on Richard Street were invalidated by state and local officials. (2) Superintendent Melinda J. Boone (GRAPHS) Goddard School MCAS scores

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 21, 2011
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