Long Island Inquiry Includes Claim of Altered High School Exam Score

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An investigation into whether teachers in a Long Island school district improperly coached students on standardized tests has expanded to include an allegation that administrators changed a Regents exam grade for at least one high school student, the authorities said on Monday.

Both the Nassau County district attorney and the Glen Cove school district are looking into the new accusation, which involves a Regents exam taken last year by a student at Glen Cove High School, spokesmen for the agencies said. John Byrne, a spokesman for the district attorney, said the allegation involved administrators at the high school.

"We expect school administrators and teachers to teach students to play by the rules and to lead by example, so these allegations that they changed grades and coached students during exams are very troubling," Kathleen M. Rice, the district attorney, said in a statement. "Our investigation is limited to whether the alleged conduct was criminal, and we are in the process of making that determination."

No one has been charged or disciplined.

Several months ago, district officials have said, they began investigating accusations that teachers at two elementary schools improperly coached third, fourth and fifth graders during state standardized tests last year. About 18 teachers have been interviewed as part of that inquiry, union officials said. The district attorney's office said it had not been aware of the investigation until The New York Times reported on it last week.

The accusation about the Regents grade came up more recently, and in the last few days school district officials alerted the district attorney's office to it.

"The school district has been investigating allegations of a Regents grade change for an individual student for between two and three weeks," said Michael Conte, a spokesman for the school district. "It is separate from the investigation that has been ongoing, since November of 2012, into the testing irregularities at the elementary schools."

The officials declined to discuss who in particular was being investigated or what the motive for changing a grade could be. Regents exams are created by the state in a range of subjects, and students must pass a certain number of them to earn a diploma. Many teachers count Regents scores in course grades.

Joseph Hinton, the principal of Glen Cove High School, did not return several phone calls and e-mails on Monday. No one from the Council of Administrators and Supervisors, which represents school leaders in Glen Cove, responded to inquiries on Monday.

Though the state coordinates the Regents exams, local teachers and officials have wide latitude over the grading process. Until this year, districts were allowed to let teachers grade their own students' exams, but after reports showed an unusual number of students in New York City scoring the bare minimum required to pass, the state banned the practice.

Beginning in 2011, the state required all scored Regents answer sheets be scanned into computers at a regional level and sent to the state, said Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the State Education Department.

Districts are responsible for placing students' Regents exam results onto their transcripts, which can be viewed by colleges and are "a local record of student work," Mr. Dunn said.

He said that if someone was changing a transcript, the state would not necessarily know. "The state does not have transcripts," Mr. Dunn said. "The transcript is a local document."

The investigation of the elementary school tests has already created some anxiety around Glen Cove, and the state has required the district to add safeguards, including extra proctors, for this year's tests, which begin on Tuesday.

"This investigation will raise many questions about individual teachers, school administrations and the policies related to standardized testing," said Thomas R. Suozzi, a former mayor of Glen Cove and a former Nassau County executive who is running for the county office again this year.

education

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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