The Illinois State Board of Education is launching an investigation into 33 Illinois schools, including nine in Chicago, whose Illinois Standards Achievement Tests showed "irregularities" that may warrant disciplinary action. The exam is administered to third through eighth grade public school students annually in Illinois.
Since 2005, 33 Illinois schools have reported test irregularities, which can include sessions where students were given extra time, questions were read aloud or students were permitted to begin early, WBEZ reports. Exams administered under irregular conditions don't count towards the school's overall performance.
But the list could show alarming trends that compound the state's current testing troubles. The state is already undergoing a major cheating probe, analyzing erasure marks on last spring's ISAT exams that have previously helped uncover evidence of adults improperly helping students in other states, according to WBEZ.
Now they will add a computer analysis of test results to the investigation, looking for patterns in difficult questions that were disproportionally correct in certain classrooms and trends in erasure marks, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. This is the first time the list of affected schools has been made public, meaning many educators will be retroactively examined for the last six years of reported issues.
The testing irregularities that earned schools a spot on the list aren't necessarily evidence of cheating. Forest Park superintendent Lou Cavallo told the Sun-Times that they reported a fifth grade teacher who told her students to carefully "look over" their answers after noticing some errors on their exams, which one concerned student reported to a parent, who called the school.
"A teacher was encouraging students to look back over answers," Cavallo told the Sun-Times. "Not giving any answers--not cheating and saying, 'That is wrong--change it to this.' Nothing like that, but to look over answers."
One case, reported in Naperville District 203 in 2006, stemmed from a teacher who used a previous exam as a study guide for 7th grade students, not realizing the same test would be repeated, the Sun-Times reports. About 120 scores from Jefferson Junior High students were suppressed as a result.
"It was an honest mistake," district spokeswoman Susan Rice told the Sun-Times. "But anytime that we discover an inconsistency or deviation from procedure we have notified the state."