Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 17, 2011

School district accused of testing fraud

Parents say teacher filled in child's answers to conceal deficits

by Chris Kenrick

A family is accusing the Palo Alto Unified School District of testing fraud, claiming their daughter's teacher for two years filled in answers on her tests to conceal her learning disabilities and need for extra help.

The girl, who just finished fourth grade at an undisclosed Palo Alto elementary school, remains "far behind her peers" due to the actions of her second- and third-grade teacher — the same person both years, according to a claim filed May 20 in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The claim seeks $550,000 from the district.

School district officials were off-site at a leadership-training course in Cupertino Thursday and not immediately available to comment.

"It was and is apparent that the test scores were fraudulently manufactured in order to provide the appearance that (the student) was learning the material and did not have a learning disability or need additional supports," the legal complaint said.

The girl started first grade in Palo Alto in 2007 showing "significant reading and learning deficits" but improved somewhat with extra assistance, the claim said.

She remained "significantly behind in math, reading and writing" when she entered second grade but "started to exhibit perfect scores, albeit with many eraser marks," the claim said.

The parents said they raised questions with the teacher when their then second-grade daughter could not do simple math problems at home, despite the high scores on classroom tests and even standardized tests.

But the teacher, according to the claim, "feigned insult and refused any further discussion," saying the girl was "doing fine in math" and "doing all the work herself."

Only when the child entered fourth grade last fall and got a new teacher was it learned that her "math, writing and reading skills were well below grade level after all."

Her "parents were told she was a 'low-achieving' child and that 'we are in the tail end of being able to fix this,'" the court document said.

As late as last December, the district refused the parents' request to administer an assessment of the girl, citing her good performance on second-grade standardized testing and other past tests, the complaint said.

More recently, the district did assess the student and found her eligible for special education in the category of "other health impaired" — one of 14 possible categories under federal special-education law.

"They've come around to recognizing she's eligible, but she had two wasted years because the teacher was otherwise hiding her eligibility," said San Jose lawyer David H. Tollner, who is representing the family. Tollner, formerly executive director of the Pacific Autism Center for Education in Sunnyvale, specializes in special-education law.

"I've seen cases like this where teachers will cover deficits in students so they don't have to assess them and provide various other special education supports, but this is an extreme case, clearly," Tollner said.

"This is actual standardized testing that's been erased and teacher responses put in where the student clearly didn't know the information, but the parents were led to believe the student was on the right track."

The family is seeking $500,000 in damages for emotional distress, and another $50,000 for compensatory education, according to the complaint, a redacted version of which was provided by the school district.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Alan , a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 6, 2011 at 11:00 am

I believe that there should be a nationwide investigation on all school districts to see if there are cheating and fraud. This is probably a national problem.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

This is an old thread which was commented on in the past. Learning disabled students scores are not included in test reporting. I think there are other ways to skew the scores also.

It is a shame that the child is behind now, but no worse than simply having a bad teacher who taught nothing. My child learned nothing from her 2nd grade, liberal, spacey teacher so she went into third grade behind and we had to supplement for her to catch up in math.


Posted by Fake Reselts, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I have been asked by teachers many times that my special ed. children not be tested. Reason, they are not smart and will make the district look bad, other teachers ask if they can take the CMA testing instead of the regular. I always say no, they have to take the regular. I do that because it is time for the district to be graded in how much have they taught my children. I believe that the reason a teacher would do this is to keep parents and district happy, but she is only fooling herself. District makes a big deal when it is time for testing, they even give food to kids because they want high results, they shall do that all year, not just on testing days. Shame on the district, I am wonder how many other teachers are doing this, and how legitimate are the scores this district is been getting.


Posted by CMA, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Actually, the CMA may be a more accurate assessment of your student's learning over the past year. Don't dismiss it. If you don't know the reasons why it's a very positive alternative, please don't spew negatives about the CMA so freely.


Posted by Reality, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

showing once again that test scores are definitely not the most important indication of how our kids are doing, or the relative success of our schools.


Posted by No sympathy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm

If a teacher actually did this, she or he must be mentally deranged.

Not saying I believe a teacher actually did erase the wrong answers and put in correct ones..it is too fantastic to believe. But if it DID happen, then of course it was wrong..On the other hand, why didn't the parents get private testing done? Why didn't the parents use all the other tests and work of the child from the first year, then the second, in meetings with the district? Why does it all hang on 2 tests, each of which don't come out in the scores until the end of the year?

Or are they trying to make me believe that the teacher faked all the other tests and changed the child's homework also?

I mean, honestly, this story just smells.

And, even if this is true about the 2 tests... $500,000 ?? Really?????This is absurd. For what? An insane teacher and parents who didn't do their work?

This sort of thing makes me ill.

Sorry, I am not in sympathy.


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