‘Deeply troubling’ report: Carver teachers cheated to help students pass SOLs

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Education officials in Virginia released a scathing report Tuesday that suggests teachers at a Richmond elementary school ‘provided inappropriate assistance’ to help students pass SOL tests. 

Back in June, 8News learned that students at George Washington Carver Elementary would have to re-retake SOL tests after ‘potential testing irregularities’ were found.

The Department of Education began investigating and, after more than a month of interviewing dozens of students and staff members, determined that test administrators inappropriately assisted students during recent SOL testing.

“Based on an extensive review of the school’s SOL test data in combination with statements from various GWC ES students and staff, the VDOE concludes inappropriate assistance was provided by some GWC ES staff members to a significant, undetermined number of GWC ES students during the initial administration of the SOL tests through June 1, 2018. …

Based on statements by various GWC ES students and staff, the VDOE concludes that an extensive number of SOL tests administered through June 1, 2018, were not administered in accordance with the policies and procedures detailed in the SOL Test Implementation Manuals and Examiner’s Manuals.” — VDOE

Below are specific excerpts from students, according to the VDOE’s report:

“Ms. Lacy checked our answers. If she smiled at me, I didn’t have to check it, but if she frowned, I knew I needed to check it.”

-“If you get stuck, you’re supposed to tell the teacher. Ms. Davis will give you hints.”

-“Ms. Cartwright read it [science] to me. If it was a hard question, she said, ‘Hit review.’ She showed me how to do one. She drew [a picture] for me.”

-“Ms. Cotman would check your work. If I got it right, she said go to the next one.”

While interviewing school administrators and other anonymous sources, VDOE officials were told that only certain staff members administer the vast majority of SOL tests at the school.

“It’s a weird system here. We don’t want any part of it. We don’t want to talk about it.”

Another anonymous source specifically mentioned former principal Dr. Kiwana Yates, who left the school back in late June, weeks after news of the testing irregularities surfaced. 

“Dr. Yates is the disciplinarian of testing and scores. People know that. If I’m not getting the scores, then I’m going to have to answer to Dr. Yates.”

After conducting those interviews, the VDOE determined that issues included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • Students reported receiving assistance from adults during their SOL tests
  • Examiners and proctors did not administer SOL tests in accordance with the SOL Test Examiner’s Manual (e.g., standardized test directions were not followed consistently, details beyond the standardized test directions were provided to students at various times during the SOL tests).
  • SOL tests were administered with test accommodations (e.g., the read-aloud accommodation) to students who did not have the accommodation documented in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.
  • Certain SOL test accommodations were not implemented properly during the administration of SOL tests (e.g., a read-aloud accommodation was provided to students in the same room with students not receiving a read-aloud accommodation; different SOL test content was read aloud to students in the same room).

Because of those issues, VDOE staff could not confirm the validity of the spring 2018 SOLS tests that were administered at the school through June 1.

As a result, the 336 SOL tests administered at the school prior to June 5 were deemed invalidated and re-administered under the supervision of VDOE staff.

The VDOE also suggests that testing irregularities date back further than the 2018 school year.

During the interviews, two students referenced testing from spring 2017 with ‘Ms. Lacy’:

“I remember 3rd grade reading. I got some wrong, but the second time [expedited retake] I got them all right. I read them over. I got help from Ms. Lacy.”

“Ms. Lacy checked our answers. If she smiled at me, I didn’t have to check it, but if she frowned, I knew I needed to check it.”

The VDOE added that it was important to note that students were not at fault or responsible for the testing violations. 

WATCH: Superintendent Kamras responds to report

Superintendent Jason Kamras echoed that claim in a statement released Tuesday: 

“The report is deeply troubling. It presents abundant evidence of what amounts to cheating by a small group of adults on the SOL examinations for the past several years at Carver. To be clear: our students did nothing wrong; they merely followed the instructions of the adults responsible for them.

To safeguard the integrity of our testing processes across the division, I have asked Dr. Tracy Epp, our Chief Academic Officer, to convene a working group of teachers and principals to provide recommendations about both policy and practice in time for the Spring 2019 SOL testing.

I’m under no illusion that doing so will be easy. It’s going to require us to confront biases and stereotypes head-on; to provide more and better support to our students and teachers alike; to be bold and innovative; to fiercely advocate for more resources; and to be unrelenting in the face of challenges ahead. 

Every one of our students, from every single neighborhood and every single family, has the capacity for greatness. It is our collective responsibility to create the conditions that will allow that greatness to shine. And that is exactly what we will do.” — Jason Kamras

School board member Jonathan Young also sent the following statement to 8News:

“Now that we can unequivocally call testing irregularities for what it was, i.e. cheating; we have a responsibility to every child in RPS to hold those responsible accountable and to ensure that none of our other schools have any similar lapses in ethics.” — Jonathan YoungThis is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates. 

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