Newark Public Schools React to State Test Scandal

Friday, 13 February 2015 16:06 Local Talk News Editor

Newark Public School administrators have said on Feb. 9 they had taken swift action in response to a report that a high school student had allegedly copied and transmitted a statewide aptitude test here Jan. 29.

Newark Board of Education President Rashon Hasan said early Monday that he was briefed by NPS Central Office officials of a high school senior's taking a mobile telephone picture of one of the Alternative High School Assessment's questions he was taking while at the Barringer STEAM Academy.

A subsequent district investigation, said Hasan, found that the senior had e-mailed that picture to four other students at Malcolm X. Shabazz and Weequahic High Schools.

Both Hasan and NPS officials said that the student's ASHA scores, at New Jersey Department of Education direction, were invalidated.

"NPS has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to cheating," said district spokeswoman Brittany Chord Parmley Feb. 9. "The student's test has been invalidated. Measures will be taken to prevent this type of breach in the future."

NJDOE spokesman Richard Vespucci, in a Feb. 9 statement from Trenton, added that the affected ASHA's mathematics test section will not be scored, nor counted, in Newark. There will not be an ASHA re-test.

There is no word whether the high school senior or the four photo recipients will receive further penalties.

While none of the recipients' names were released, Rashon took to task whoever leaked the name of the high school senior at the incident's center to the community.

NPS also has not said whether or how they will step up proctoring and/or cell phone/personal electronic device screening at test sites.

The ASHA battery of exams are given to high school juniors or seniors who have previously failed or did not take the statewide High School Proficiency Assessment. ASHA, a presentation of the individual student's school work portfolio and/or an appeal to the DOE are the current given alternatives.

HSPA, while still counting towards high school graduation for 2014-15, is to be replaced by PARCC. High school juniors and third grade students are to first take the all-on-line Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Career exams in early March and in May.

The inaugural PARCC exams, on one hand, will not count towards the current junior class' graduation. The new battery, when it takes full effect in 2015-16, will count to between 10 and 30 percent of a student's graduation qualifications and up to 30 percent of a teacher's performance evaluation.

ASHA will remain as a PARCC alternative.

News of the Barringer STEAM senior's test violation comes at a time when NPS is preparing its students for PARCC.

Questions over whether students and teachers have had enough PARCC preparation time - some 20 to 30 days in advance - have arisen here and among the state's other 565 public school districts. School boards have been wrestling whether to give students and parents a PARCC opt-out although the DOE has no official opting-out policy.

Having the infraction happening at Barringer STEAM is also news that the high school did not need.

Concerned students, parents and education advocates have complained that many of the problems Barringer STEAM and Barringer Academy of Art and Humanities had re-opened with Labor Day have not been fully resolved. Complaints about the lack of teachers, qualified or uncertified, lack of supplies, overcrowded classrooms and the lack of permanent class schedules at the school year's start have lingered.

BHS - Newark's oldest high school and third oldest in the U.S. - was divided into respective AAH and STEAM schools 2013-14.

The ASHA infraction from the North Ward high school building may also be less than welcoming news for State District Superintendent Cami Anderson.

Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe has until March 1 to decide whether to keep or fire Anderson for 2015-16. Hespe's annual performance review is part of the new three-year contract he and Anderson agreed to.

Anderson has been both the author and lightning rod of the One Newark plan since its unveiling 12 months ago. The controversial school consolidation plan comes while the state and federal education departments linked PARCC exam taking to funding.

Anderson, as state district superintendent, reports to Hespe - and Gov. Christopher Christie, who appointed her in 2012.

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