New Jersey Education Department Investigating 27 Alleged Security Breaches Surrounding Administration Of Standardized Tests

The New Jersey Department of Education is investigating alleged testing security breaches in 27 school districts stemming from administration of this spring’s N.J. Assessment of Skills and Knowledge tests, High School Proficiency Assessment and Alternative High School Assessment, the Star-Ledger reports.

Fifteen schools are also under investigation following an “erasure analysis” of 2011 tests, which revealed an unusually high number of answers that were changed from incorrect to correct.

In a memo to school superintendents about the erasures, Education Commissioner Chris Cerf wrote that testing irregularities are not proof of cheating, but the "quality and integrity of data is of utmost importance."

The alleged testing security violations run the gamut from a teacher who unknowingly gave her students scratch paper that had old algebra problems and equations printed on the back, to one tenured teacher who suffered such “curiosity and anxiety” about the tests that she peered into the sealed NJ ASK booklet and told her coworkers about the type of questions she saw. Her colleagues reported the wrongdoing, and she has since been suspended and faces the loss of her license. Her 26 students also had to be re-tested, even though she denied discussing the questions with them.

According to the Bergen County Record, several eighth graders in Tenafly had calculators during sections where they weren’t allowed due to a proctor’s mistake. In Paterson, a student was suspended for 10 days and had her test voided after she was caught with a cellphone image of the answers to the alternative high school graduation test in Spanish.

The Star-Ledger reports that each year the state administers standardized tests to about 850,000 students in approximately 600 school districts.

"I’m thinking 27 teachers out of hundreds of thousands of students who take the test every year is a very small number," Rosemary Knab, associate director of NJEA Research & Economic Services, told the paper. "It can’t be ignored, it should be addressed absolutely, but that needs to be kept in context."

New Jersey isn’t the only state confronting security breaches surrounding administration of its standardized tests. In June, a forensic report confirmed cheating by three Washington, D.C., schools on the district’s 2011 standardized tests. Of the 38 D.C. schools flagged for further investigation for cheating, 23 were found to have some degree of test violations.

In New York City, 71 Stuyvesant High School students had to retake this year’s Regents exams after a fellow student was caught taking pictures of the tests and distributing answers to over 50 classmates.