District responds to 'testing fraud' charge Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:27 am
Palo Alto School Superintendent Kevin Skelly expressed confidence the school district will be able to resolve charges of "testing fraud" by parents of an elementary student. The family claims their daughter's teacher for two years filled in answers on her tests to conceal the girl's learning disabilities and need for extra help.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:16 AM
Posted by parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:27 am
This is so believable. The family should be suing the district for more than that because it will take more tutoring and therapy to catch her up now. Plus, the emotional distress was intentional, either to save money, to fit the agenda or educational philosophy of the principal or to keep achievement gap in Spec Ed from growing.
Congratulations to this family for being so courageous!
Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:36 am
School districts in general do not want special ed kids because of the additional financial burden. It most cases it takes the threat of, or a actual law suit to get them to do what's legally required to educate the kids.
What's surprising here is PAUSD has a good program that runs K through 12. What was the teacher thinking?
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:43 am
Not surprising unfortunately. Two lost years for this child that will continue to make things even more challenging for this child. It is well-established that the earlier and more intensive the intervention, the better a child with special learning needs will do. How sad, and completely inexcusable. If, in fact, this teacher altered tests, s/he should be fired immediately.
Posted by George K., a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:44 am
If this is true and the family has a case, then I don't understand the logic of suing for emotional distress for an amount 10x the amount of the compensatory education. This appears on the surface that it was the act of an individual teacher, and not a pattern of behavior by the school district. Shouldn't the primary objective of their suit be to obtain the education the child needs and deserves?
Posted by Tony Putulin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 11:12 am
It is unfortunate that the Weekly allows this kind of sensationalism without getting the "other side" of the story. This is journalism at its worst. I wonder if Chris Kenrick really took the time to truly research this very sensitive and oftentimes polarizing issue. Thank you Chris for your unbiased reporting!! The Weekly should have more of you.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 11:18 am
George K., this IS a pattern in PAUSD. Ten years ago, the principal at our neighborhood school actually yelled at us, yes raised her voice, when we refused to remove our dyslexic child from the STAR testing. Our child ended up scoring in good standing with respect to the PAUSD goals.
We had high hopes for the new administration to curtail this type of persecution but it seems the whole incident occured within the last few years. Carol Z. was notorious for letting this "don't ask, don't tell" scenario go on. The discrimination mainly effects kids who are learning disabled or have attention related problems or aspergers/autism. Severely disabled kids are are taken care of because people can see clearly what is happening with them.
Posted by T in MP, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jun 17, 2011 at 11:18 am
Wow! Why is there no discussion of the employment status of this teacher? If proven, these facts should lead to immediate termination. There's just no excuse. As to the district's liability, well, if they were asked to look into it and refused... That's also a failure. Probably not a termination offense for any one person but definitely a liability.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Mountain View, on Jun 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm
School districts don't want to admit a problem exist and society pays later. If a child has learning disabilities and the district fails to take corrective action, they usually end up in prison. Nearly 80% of the current residents of our jails have some type of learning disability. Here the teacher clearly new a student had a problem, and failed to notify the parents. The teacher should be fired. Some students obviously get help while others get passed along in school. The schools should address this problem early, for the students own self esteem and in the long run a lower cost to society.
Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Isn't there testing fraud regarding whose test scores are reported? I heard that learning disabled students' test scores are not included in STAR testing reports anyway.
While it was wrong of the teacher to fake the test results, this is not permanent damage to the child and the family should only be awarded the cost of extra tutoring for the child, not half a million dollars. This student is in elementary school and still has time to catch up. Kids really don't learn much in elementary school for the 6 years they are there. Math calculations and how to write are easy to catch up on. It only takes a child a few weeks to memorize math facts. My child had a horrible second grade teacher and was behind in third grade and had to catch up but is in honors math now. And it did not take much work to catch up.
Posted by HouseofCards, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm
And so it is that the house of cards known as PAUSD begins to collapse. My daughter went through elementary school never learning long division. Teacher said she must not have been paying attention when they covered it. What, they covered it once?
And just wait til the cheating at Gunn H.S. becomes public. Stuff like the student "TA" who sold test answers with the teacher's knowledge and all the kids knew. Ha ha, love to see the truth coming out.
Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm
If this case is proved in court, then the teacher certainly should be fired and her pension curtailed -- just as if she were employed in the private sector or at a private school. Private school teachers are usually held to higher standards than those in public schools (and defended by the teachers' union) and they usually do not have generous pensions with medical benefits.
I trust whatever the outcome of this case that there are new guidelines put in place at PAUSD around standardized testing.
Posted by Dan, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm
The claim looks pretty convincing. I'm very sorry for what happened to this girl. I would, however, ask her parents to be mindful of the effects a $1M payout would have on PAUSD. It would be a shame if the misguided actions of one teacher lead to budget cuts affecting all PAUSD students. Is $500k emotional + $??? punitive damages really necessary? Is this about justice or money?
Posted by Local mom & Teacher, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm
It makes no sense for the teacher to "doctor" a students assessments in this way. I am a teacher in a nearby HIGH performing district. It serves no benefit to the teacher to alter a students work in this way. I find it interesting that there is no information from district in this article.
Posted by PA Teacher, a resident of another community, on Jun 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm
Yes, please let us hear the other side to this story. I am a teacher in the district and agree w/ local Mom & teacher, there is no benefit to "doctor" an assessment. What good would it do to hide that a student has a disability! More information would be great Chris. Thanks!
Posted by parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm
Dear Mom from Another Palo Alto neighborhood, that is the point with learning disabilities. What some children learn very quickly, others take years to learn. It may seem like kids learn little in elementary school but when you have memory problems math facts do not stick, sequential steps for things like addition and long division do not stick. Some kids need lots of practice and more years of growth just so their brains can forge the connections to make writing possible. If a kid has trouble decoding or tracking, they need specialized instruction. Cutting two years out of that process is making a serious impediment much, much worse.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm
PA teacher, an assessment like the STAR test is a test of the school. Of course the school and the teacher look better if the kids get perfect scores. A low score on the STAR test is an indicator that the child needs to be tested for learning issues - a process which is actively discouraged in Palo Alto by the district. Some principals hold it against staff when they suggest testing to a family - a phenomenon we have experienced as a family. Conditions may be different at your school but our elementaries have lot of autonomy.
Posted by Barron Park, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm
I don't understand the comments that seem to presume the claims are true, and that PAUSD or the teacher are known to be at fault. Anyone who has been witnessed the tort complaint process knows that initial allegations need not be entirely (or at all) true, and that excessive allegations are commonplace. We don't know yet what is real and what is not. And, with a public fury like some of what's above, we may never know.
When they are available, the PAUSD staff may respond (as they should) with something like "no comment due to pending litigation." They are in an awkward position because the plaintiffs have both the motivation and ability to try the case in the press and create an uproar. Without having to prove anything. The District will (presumably) respect the privacy of the child and save their substantive comments for the courtroom. Unless railroaded into settlement by a public drumbeat, like some of the comments above.
The facts may all be true as alleged. Or it may be that there is only a smidgen of truth, and the public is being played like a cheap fiddle by a smart lawyer.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm
It's very hard to fire the teacher -- it becomes a union issue. And just like with many other issues, Skelly would rather not go up against the Teachers' Union. See, he gets paid the same whether he fights them or not, so he doesn't need to complicate his life because of one pesky student's learning disability. Much easier to go attend a taxpayer-funded "leadership" course. Huh? Where's the leadership?
Posted by Alumni Mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm
If you think your child needs an assessment, you need to make the request in writing. By law, the school district has a certain number of days (I think 40 or 60--but check and keep them accountable) to perform the tests. But you must do this in writing--email works as written request, but I would make the request of the school and send a copy to the district at the same time. Verbal requests are often ignored or comes down to "he said/she said". Early intervention is key. Why ask for $500K? Because this child wil probably need private tutors through high school and maybe therapists to get over the fact that she has been made to feel stupid.
Posted by Mom w/children w/IEPs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm
I'm looking forward to learning the other side of this story. I have a hard time believing that there is any kind of coordinated effort by anyone within PAUSD to prevent children from getting into the resource program. As a parent whose children have had IEPs since 2nd grade, I know first hand that the school and the district have been very supportive of my child's needs. further, they often suggested services IN ADDITION to what I had asked for. Does it always go perfectly? Heck no, but not b/c of any premeditated ill intent. Case workers & resource teachers are overloaded, resources are stretched too thin.
Posted by Aaron, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jun 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm
This is the obvious result of 'outcomes-based' education. It is a real scandal, and it should not be ignored. Objective testing is the only way for parents to determine if their kids are learning anything. Most parent don't have a clue, because the education establishment wants to sell them wolf tickets.
Posted by Mellie, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm
This makes no sense to me. There would be nothing gained by "re-doing" a child's STAR test. If a child's school performance warrants a special ed eval the school "team" looks at a lot more than a STAR test. The STAR test wouldn't even come into play until the following year after it had been scored. Additionally if a teacher were to waste his or her time doing this for no for seeable reason I think that he or she would take the time to erase the marks completely. Sloppy erase marks sound more like an unsure student than an adult trying to perform sabotage. The scores of one student wont make or break a school's API. This whole thing is weird and doesn't quite add up from the information given. There's got to be more to the story.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm
The school has to respond to a parent's request for an assessment - they do NOT have to assess the child if they do not think the student is "disabled". The definition of disabled is somewhat up to the District, but must significantly impact one of more life activities. From
The District IS required to convene a team of teachers/staff to review the student's information within 15 days. The school then decides whether or not to further test the student. They are NOT required to test the student further if after reviewing the information they have (grades, report cards, etc.) they think the student is fine.
The cooperation varies hugely from school to school in Palo Alto, with some principal's realizing that providing a little help at an early age can head off significant problems later and some principals choosing to ignore the problems. Our experience has been very positive.
Posted by PA mom, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm
I cannot believe that the parents let this alleged situation prolong for two yrs. I would think negligence should also be placed on them. Standardized testing is one measurement of progress. Academic progress must be shared among parents, teachers and the child somehow. If the parents knew about the teacher's participation in cheating, they would also be considered as co-conspirators. Poor kid!! I wonder if the parents really have the kid's interest in mind. or is it just greed!
Posted by Judy, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm
It is unfortunate that the parent's unproven allegations against their child's elementary school teacher elicited such overwhelming negative responses from so many people in the community. Some points that should be considered:
1. It is difficult to imagine that the teacher could exert so much control that no other professional (teacher's assistants, reading specialists, etc.) would not have noticed the alleged discrepancy between the student's classroom performance and test scores.
2. It is possible that a Response to Intervention model (RTI) was developed for this student before undertaking an assessment for special education services
3. The parent's could have referred their child to the school's Student Assistance Team to explore the issues relating to their concerns about their child's academic performance.
4. It is also interesting that the student was found eligible for special education services under the Other Health Impaired (OHI) category rather then SLD (Specific Learning Disability). This suggests that a performance/ability discrepancy along with a processing disorder was not identified in the assessment process.
A question to consider therefore, is the possibility that the suspicious erasures on the Star testing were the result of test anxiety/impulsivity/attention issues rather than teacher malfeasance.
Posted by Tony Putulin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2011 at 4:36 am
Thank you, Chris! This is more like it. I agree with Dr. Skelly that this is a legal matter. Withholding divisive comments at this time is the proper and prudent thing to do. I may sound biased and I am if it means revealing the honest to goodness journalistic truths.
The current school administration has done more for the Palo Alto community than any of the previous two combined in the last three years. A lot of people will disagree with me but that's okay, this is the beauty of democracy. Only in Palo Alto! That said, this does not give this administration or any prior administration the license, let alone the blanket right, to conceal the truth. Let the legal system does its job. You will be amazed about the possibilities.
We are truly blessed here in Palo Alto for having the best of the best. But oftentimes, we tend to corrupt ourselves and in the process, "kill" ourselves. Like our representatives in Congress, we have forgotten about civil discourse.
One teacher's curse should not leave all teachers in the District branded for life. That would be too cruel. Teachers are and will remain our number one asset no matter what anybody says. And parents (including me) must own up to our parental responsibility. We should stop blaming everyone but ourselves.
My family moved to Palo Alto ten years ago because we heard so many wonderful things about this beautiful city. Let us keep it that way. As for the "testing fraud" issue, this too will pass but not totally forgotten. At the end of day, the issue will be resolved in its proper forum, the court system, not in the trial by fire world of the public media.
Posted by MooZooGoo, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 18, 2011 at 6:55 am
I'm not surprised.
In elementary school, our teacher openly announced that (s)he had accessed and edited our answer sheets post-STAR. The teacher claimed it was to address stray marks, but the absence of a culture of respecting the integrity of the examination was apparent, and the issue that needs to be fixed.
Posted by Nixon parent, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2011 at 9:51 am
Look at the comments to the story in the Mercury News. It sounds like the child had an aide in the classroom. With the School District unable to comment, much information is missing. Without referring to this story, I want to praise the teachers and aides at my child's school for how much they care about each child and how hard they work.
Posted by Interesting, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2011 at 2:39 am
Where's the link to the lawsuit? Anyone notice that the school district did a lousy job redacting the names? You could still see the child's name, school, and teachers name. You are suppose to black out the names, then photocopy, then scan.
Posted by former Paly parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm
I don't know much about the subject in question - special ed - but the story reported here - so far - makes me think someone was coached into this scenario. It doesn't ring true or seem straightforward at all. I just can't see a teacher doing this. There may be some issue with the child but the scenario sounds concocted...anyone else have this sense?
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm
How can people assume this allegation is true? We should be supporting our teachers who have to manage difficult and anxious parents on daily basis on top of educating our children. Looking at the anger this has stirred up in our community. How can this be in the best interest of our children? One side of the story has been told and peope want this teacher fired? If and when names come out can you imagine the emotional stress this child will have from other children who hear about this from their parents and peers? Everyone please take a deep breathe and let the story u fold before making usumptions. Remember many teachers in the district are giving more homework against their better judgement to appease the intense parents in our community. Please be kind to our teachers! Hopefully the truth will be discovered without further "emotional damage" to this child.
Posted by Another parent, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2011 at 8:38 am
The parent above is correct. Nobody is guilty until proven. It's very difficult for teachers to manage parents these days. Everyone wants to hear their child is Stanford bound and Everyone wants to have someone to blame when they think their 4th grader is not on that track yet. The attorney is a genius, look at how the media loves this story. Does Palo Alto need this press? Support our elementary teachers! As a parent of a child with a learning disability in Palo Alto I think the kids that need support get it, sometimes disability is difficult to diagnose, and takes time. The family may have finally gotten "other health impaired" bc they screamed law suit. We can only speculate. I worry for the child as well if this gets out.
Posted by The Truth, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jun 20, 2011 at 11:10 am
PAUSD is not an ideal school district for learning disabled children to attend. Even our smart students feel dumb in this district due to the competition. My child feels stupid being in the second lane of math (which is the top lane in other schools). I grew up here and the parents have always been college-educated. The kids here are generally more intelligent than in the rest of America. Yes, I want my children rubbing shoulders with them, but it makes for more academic stress.
Posted by Northside parent, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Jun 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm
All of us have had wonderful teachers and not so wonderful teachers. But, what might not fit for some, is outstanding for others. When something like this reaches the media, we automatically think the worse. Its based on our past history. Nothing is ever perfect for everyone so its too easy to think the story is fully believable. Its what sells advertisement. Never mind if its one sided. Anyone ever thought that maybe its Administration and not the teacher?
Posted by Parent, a member of the Walter Hays School community, on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:42 am
When you speculate that maybe the administration changed the test scores your assuming this claim is true. The child could have been anxious about the tests and been changing the answers or looking at somebody's test and changing the answers. Parents that actually go to this extreme are probably stressing their kid out at home? Who really knows what's going on but I agree with the person above that lots of students can have different experiences with the same teachers. We are going to lose good teachers from this- who wants to work in Palo Alto with all the intense parents. I see them daily and it's hard to listen to all the intense judgement if your child isn't on the AP track in elementary school. I was once told my 9 year old is too old to start AYSO bc he's been left behind. Really? I wish people would relax maybe just a little?
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community, on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm
Assessments are expensive--I've been told $5K. Not all learning disabilities are obvious.
In this case, the school was rapidly growing and focused on other changes. The principal, I think, wanted the "problem" to go away. The teacher involved has good qualities, but is also weak and, I suspect, tried to make the problem go away through unethical means. Why not do a neater job of it? Probably because the teacher wanted to make it A) look like the child's work and B) didn't want to really face what s/he was doing. As I say, not a bad person, but a weak one.
It should never have happened, but I'm sorry to say I think that it did. It's the indirect result of growing our schools rapidly--about 50 percent in this case--but not expanding support staff--i.e. the same number of reading and math specialists for half again as many kids.
I'm not a PAUSD employee, just another parent who happens to know part of the story.
Posted by mp parent, a resident of Menlo Park, on Feb 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm
Many schools cover up how poorly a child with learning disability is doing. We have recorded on tape Menlo Park SD personnel stating that is the strategy - limit the homework for a child who is struggling father than find better ways to teach that child. Our chilld wasgiven straight A's even though we know much of the school work was incomplete or not turned in. They did this so they could argue the child does not need an IEP. The STAR test results showed our child was below level. School would say our child is just a poor test taker and is really a straight A student. So not to worry and no need to do anything. Many parents can't afford the legal fees, so these poor children go for years getting farther and farther behind. The schools don't have the budget or have other priorities, so kids with special needs get screwed. So sad.