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Teacher helped kids cheat, probe says

Note the last sentence.

By Adam Klawonn

VISTA A school district investigation has concluded that a third-grade teacher helped her students cheat on state standard tests for math by posting multiplication tables in the classroom.

Eight of the 17 third-graders interviewed by the district individually said the teacher also told them which answers to correct on the California Standards Test, whose results are benchmarks under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The results of the investigation were detailed in a June 30 letter from Vista Unified School District officials to the state Department of Education.

The district released the two-page letter yesterday in response to a state Public Records Act request filed Aug. 3 by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The letter from Katie Langford, the district's accountability coordinator, said the teacher is being reprimanded, was put on two weeks' administrative leave during the last two weeks of school, and was transferred this year from Mission Meadows Elementary to another campus.

She also will have at least one observer present during the 2006 test.
But Vista Unified Superintendent Dave Cowles said no action has been taken on the reprimand. In a telephone interview, he declined to discuss details, citing state laws that allow public entities to keep personnel matters private.

Although the teacher's actions caused "testing irregularities" to occur, Cowles said none of the tests from her classroom were thrown out. He said the scores did not represent a big enough sample to affect the school's overall scores.

The cheating case that arose with a parent's complaint in May has triggered changes within Vista Unified.

Cowles said school officials will be more aggressive this coming year in monitoring testing procedures from having teachers administer aptitude tests in classrooms other than their own to recruiting volunteer observers.

"We will, in the future, have a more proactive proctoring of tests that provides some sort of neutrality in the test administration," he said.

As the school year for kindergarteners through eighth-graders resumed yesterday in the district, the teacher who was the focus of the investigation, Elizabeth Capua, was back in the classroom but at a different school Hannalei Elementary.

Neither the teacher nor the principal could be reached for comment.

Janet Exley, who was told about the teacher's actions by her daughter, said yesterday that she was pleased the district had revamped its procedures for testing oversight.

But Exley said she was still wanted Mission Meadows officials to send a letter of apology to all parents for the mishap.

"What has happened has happened and we can't change that," said Exley, who lives in Oceanside. "But we can move on and move forward and do whatever the district can do for these students that were affected."

The tests are part of No Child Left Behind, a federal act meant to hold schools more accountable for students' academic performance.

— Adam Klawonn
San Diego Union-Tribune


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