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Test scores at Crum invalidated

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LACIE PIERSON

CRUM -- The results of Crum Elementary School's WESTEST 2 efforts for the 2012-13 school year have been invalidated following a state investigation into questionable erasure marks on some tests.

Wayne County Schools officials are working to move forward after completing their own investigation into the matter, which deals specifically with one section of the test completed by fifth-grade students, said Superintendent Lynn Hurt.

The school system was notified by the West Virginia Department of Education in January that Crum Elementary was being investigated after several of the test bubble forms showed a large number of erasure marks in instances when a wrong answer was changed to a correct answer, an indicator of cheating, which was discovered through a third-party vendor hired by the state to examine the tests.

Hurt would not say how many tests were called into question among the 30 students in fifth-grade last school year.
 
The state department's investigation uncovered enough evidence to invalidate the scores for the one section of the test in question, but it did not uncover enough evidence to definitively prove that cheating took place, Hurt said.

As a result, Crum Elementary's designation as a Success School, the highest designation a school can achieve, was altered by the state department to show the school has no designation at all.

The WVDE website on Thursday listed Crum's designation status as "No designation: Invalid testing practice."
The designation will have no bearing on students' educational records, Hurt said.

"It affects the school as a unit, but it does not affect the individual students," Hurt said. "What that designation says to me is that we've dealt with the problem, or at least we have investigated what we believe to be the problems, and we've corrected them."

State officials have left any further action up to Hurt and the Wayne County Board of Education, and Hurt has addressed the matter with Crum Elementary Principal Carla Richardson and Crum Middle Principal Sherri Brewer, who is principal to the now-sixth-grade students whose tests were the subject of the investigation.

Brewer said she was made aware of the investigation, and she deferred additional questions to Hurt. Richardson declined to comment about the matter. School officials also are crafting a letter to send home with Crum students this week, explaining the situation to parents.

The school system's investigation uncovered no indication that the teacher involved with the class committed any inappropriate action, and there will be no disciplinary action taken as a result, Hurt said.

She did say county school administrators have visited Crum Elementary to go over best practices for test taking in each grade, which includes actions like having two teachers in a classroom during the test.

She also noted that the WESTEST 2 will be completed entirely on computers this year. The students in question have continued to meet their benchmarks for the current school year and that Crum Elementary has consistently met growth and academic benchmarks set forth by the state under the WESTEST and WESTEST 2 testing methods, Hurt said.

"The teachers that work with these students every day have the children's best interest in mind," Hurt said. "These are good teachers who have been successful year after year, and their students have gone on to be successful in middle school."

Even though the school is without its previous 'Success' designation, Wayne County Schools Director of Communications Bill Rosenberger said students, parents and teachers should still hold themselves to that standard.

"Those students have worked hard," Rosenberger said. "That community really does believe in education. I hope in their hearts they still view themselves as a Success School and not let this impact them in any way."