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Images of ELA test posted on Facebook spur state probe

The state Education Department is investigating after images of multiple pages of the fifth-grade English Language Arts exam were posted Wednesday on a West Babylon parent Facebook page.

“We take all breaches of test security very seriously and every instance will be fully investigated,” department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in an email Thursday after Newsday inquired about the matter.

Hundreds of thousands of students statewide and on Long Island Wednesday began taking the two-day paper-based ELA test. Local districts also could choose to give the paper-based test on Thursday and Friday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the West Babylon school district was alerted to a posting on a West Babylon parent Facebook page, which included images of several pages of the exam, Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly said in an email on Thursday.

Following protocol, Farrelly notified officials at both the Education Department and Western Suffolk BOCES of the breach.

Officials would not provide details on where the images were posted or who may have posted them.

“It is our understanding the post has been removed from Facebook,” DeSantis wrote on Thursday afternoon. The department did not immediately respond to a request for more details.

Michael Flynn, chief operating officer of Western Suffolk BOCES, said Farrelly notified him and Angelique Johnson-Dingle, the BOCES district superintendent who also is test integrity officer, about the social-media posting.

The exam pages had been posted while the test was being administered, Flynn said.

“The state exams, they’re secure exams and they should not be publicly released,” he said.

BOCES officials, also following protocol, reported the incident to the Education Department. “West Babylon and Western Suffolk BOCES took all appropriate actions that are required to address this report,” he said.

Flynn said he couldn’t recall any previous incidents when photos of a test were posted online within any of Western Suffolk BOCES’ component districts.

Posts describing and sometimes paraphrasing test questions were posted Wednesday and Thursday on other social media sites, including the Long Island Opt-out Facebook page, prompting discussion from parents, teachers and other users.

Jeanette Deutermann, a Bellmore parent of two and founder of the Long Island Opt Out network, said she was sent the photos of the pages from various users. But, she would not post them to her Facebook page, she said, having been briefed by lawyers that it could be considered copyright infringement.

“Parents rely on pages like mine to get this information, especially on these critical days,” she said, referring to the days that state tests are given. “And I don’t want to take a chance of having my page suspended or taken down.”

Instead, she and others describe some of the test questions that they are sent and find troubling.

“I think it should be full transparency,” Deutermann said. “You have an eight-year-old taking the test and the parent can’t see the question that their child has been working on for 12 hours.”

She continued, “I think pages like mine, like Long Island Opt Out, are the only way that parents are going to get the truth of what their children are doing during these assessments.”

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