Glen Cove hearings continue on test-fixing probe, officials say

Students arrive before the start of class at Students arrive before the start of class at the Landing School in Glen Cove. (Sept. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Glen Cove's school board president said Monday night that closed hearings are continuing and settlement discussions with some educators are occurring, as the district seeks to resolve alleged test-fixing during the administration of state exams at two elementary schools in spring 2012.

"We are confident that this issue will never be revisited upon our district," Donna Brady, the board's leader, told about 50 people gathered in Glen Cove High School's auditorium during the public portion of the board's business meeting.

Training of faculty regarding state testing procedures is ongoing, she said, calling the situation "an unfortunate chapter in the school district's history."

It was the first board meeting since revelations of educators' alleged test-fixing as detailed in a board-commissioned report on administration of the state tests at Connolly and Landing elementary schools.

The school board in November hired the law firm Guercio & Guercio to investigate after the parents of a Finley Middle School sixth-grader, a special-needs student, raised questions about their daughter's math score, saying the result seemed out of line with her classroom achievement. That led to an examination of other sixth-graders' test performance, which investigators said showed significant increases in math scores.

Kathleen Lappano, who has lived in the district since 1971, disputed the board's claim that the report was "old news," pointing out that teachers are currently facing repercussions.

While the board said subsequent tests have been conducted within state guidelines, Lappano said she expected nothing less, adding that it doesn't earn them any "Brownie points."

The probe focused on state English Language Arts and mathematics exams administered to fifth-graders at the two elementary schools in spring 2012. It named 22 teachers and the principals of the schools, who it said were ultimately responsible for overseeing the proper administration of tests.

Newsday obtained a copy of the report and published an article Sept. 15 on its findings. The school board paid $51,411.95 for the report, said Michael Conte, a spokesman for the district.

Of 60 children interviewed during the course of the investigation, 84.7 percent "indicated they received inappropriate staff-directed assistance" on one or both exams, the report said.

Students said teachers supplied them with correct answers, darkened answer forms for them, or urged them to reconsider their responses, among other actions. All of the teachers accused of wrongdoing "denied, outright, having either provided or witnessed inappropriate, staff-directed assistance to students or otherwise failing to comply with the governing rules and procedures" for test administration, the report said.

Staffers from Gribbin Elementary School, who were brought in to proctor the exams, told investigators they had observed problems with test administration at Connolly in earlier years.

The district's attorney has said administrative proceedings had begun against faculty members implicated in the test-fixing. Potential punishments against the administrators and teachers could range from a letter of reprimand to dismissal.

The Glen Cove district faces separate allegations of test-changing on 2012 Regents exams at Glen Cove High School.

The State Department of Education and the Nassau County district attorney's office are conducting their own investigations into the alleged testing improprieties at the two elementary schools and the high school.

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