TCTA | Complaint alleges teacher provided inappropriate assistance to…
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Complaint alleges teacher provided inappropriate assistance to students during STAAR tests

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A complaint was filed with the State Board for Educator Certification, alleging that a teacher's certification was subject to sanctions because the teacher had provided prohibited assistance to five special education students during a grade 5 STAAR reading and math assessment. The teacher denied the allegations and requested a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The evidence introduced at the hearing showed that the teacher administered STAAR tests to the same five students, who all required oral administration and other accommodations. For the math test, the teacher was to read the problem and answer choices. For the reading test, the teacher was to read the questions and possible answers, but not the reading passages on the portion of the test that assessed reading comprehension.

Following the test administration, a different teacher filed a report with the district, expressing concern that the students' STAAR performance was inconsistent with their classroom performance and other STAAR test administrations. The students had failed the STAAR test in grades 3 and 4, but passed in grade 5. Following an investigation, the district was unable to determine whether the allegations were true and referred the investigation to the Texas Education Agency.

The investigator for the district testified that he determined that the allegations could not be substantiated because he was not able to speak with all of the students who took the test, because they had left the district. The two students he spoke with stated that no one helped them answer the questions on the test. According to the teachers who were interviewed, the students were not expected to attain the scores they did on the test. There was no video footage of the test administration available.

TEA's analysis of the test booklets showed no evidence of tampering. There were minimal erasure marks on the tests and very few math calculations performed in the test booklets. A longitudinal analysis on the students' progress across testing years found that the students showed poor performance for grades 3 and 4, a notable increase for grade 5, then a "dramatic decline" in performance in grades 6 and 7. The five students also showed at least a 25 point increase over other special education students in the district during the grade 5 test administration, but not in other grades.

TEA reviewed the students' answers and discovered that all five students marked the same answers on the grade 5 tests, whether correct or incorrect, on 34 out of 36 questions on the math test and 35 out of 38 questions on the reading test.

TEA concluded that the students' progress trends were improbable and supported the allegations that the students were assisted during the grade 5 tests. The erasure analysis indicated that the answer sheets had not been tampered with after they had been turned in. Finally, the response pattern analysis showed a similar pattern that was not likely to be the product of natural occurrence or random chance.

The teacher denied that he had provided inappropriate assistance to the students. He reiterated that there was no evidence to that effect and suggested that perhaps the test results may have been modified after they were turned in. He also questioned the motives of the teacher who filed the complaint with the district. He stated that he spent time with the students, tutoring them for the STAAR tests so that they would be successful on the test.

The Administrative Law Judge concluded that the evidence supported a finding that the teacher had provided assistance to the students during the grade 5 test administration and recommended that the teacher's certification be revoked.