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DC State Board of Education Hearing on the “Testing Integrity Act of 2013”

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Testimony of Jesse B Rauch, Executive Director of SBOE

Good morning, Chairman Catania and honorable members of the Council of the District of Columbia. My name is Jesse B Rauch and I am the Executive Director of the DC State Board of Education. I wish to thank you for the opportunity to testify on the topic of testing integrity.

With its independence, the State Board of Education seeks to fill a critical niche in the District’s education governance system – as an impartial thought leader and convener. To meet this responsibility, the office seeks to perform three (3) roles:

1)    As an office of policy, research and analysis;
2)    As a convener; and
3)    As a public advocate.

I wanted to take an opportunity to stress just how critical it is that we have faith in our ability to measure our student’s achievement and growth over time. The DC-Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS) provides achievement and growth data to inform students, teachers and parents about student learning. Those assessments also, form the basis of the state’s accountability framework, which rates the effectiveness of schools and identifies when they need additional support. Because of the important uses of the data to both inform instruction and support accountability, it is important that our test results are accurate, fair, useful, interpretable and comparable.

Given the recent allegations that misconduct occurred in at least 18 schools in the District of Columbia, and that other jurisdictions around the country have found cases of test impropriety, assurance that our schools operate under proper policies and protocols is vital. The State Board is taking these issues seriously, and to that end, is considering supporting further investigation into testing impropriety in the District.

Last night, the State Board of Education held a public meeting where we heard from concerned members of the public, in addition to Dr. Peggy Carr, Associate Commissioner of the the National Center for Education Statistics, and Jeff Noel, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Director of Data Management.

Jeff Noel from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education testified about the preventative measures, detection techniques, and investigative process, among other techniques, that OSSE uses to maintain testing integrity. Dr. Peggy Carr expressed support for in OSSE’s regimen, though she believed there was room for improvement in the monitoring of external factors. Nonetheless, she did share her support for OSSE’s method of flagging suspicious assessments.

She also described the best practices used by the National Assessment Governing Board in its administration of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, to ensure test integrity including:

•    Using multiple methods of investigation, such as interviewing witnesses, conducting erasure analysis, examining answer documents and analyzing test results over time.
•    Pursuing all allegations of irregularities – even hearsay – and not ignoring any of them, as well as ensuring investigations are conducted by trained professionals
•    Moving to online testing will eliminate some forms of cheating (e.g., erasures, tampering) but will require new monitoring techniques.
•    Creating a healthy system wide testing culture in which people feel responsible for ensuring the integrity of the system.

We also heard from members of the public that wants testing integrity addressed, and shared concerns about the culture of testing and how tests are currently used in the District. Likewise, the public shared comments about the “Testing Integrity Act of 2013,” identifying areas where the legislation may need to be strengthened.

Following these comments, the State Board of Education approved a resolution in support of improving testing integrity and accountability. Overall, like other jurisdictions, the State Board sees the introduction of the “Testing Integrity Act of 2013” as an opportunity to initiate a discussion on the roles and purposes of testing in education. For example, we may wish to discuss the match between the purposes of our tests to what we are trying to measure.  The State Board stands ready to assist the Committee with this issue – we exist to provide objective research and analysis, and to get public input, on state-level education issues just like this.

In closing, I want to share the word of US Secretary of Education that “the existence of cheating says nothing about the merits of testing.” Assessment is an important part of the learning cycle and provides critical information about student learning. It is of course not an end unto itself, and should be part of a balanced system of instruction and support for students and teachers alike. I also want to acknowledge that even in the midst of investigations into cheating, there are many, many teachers who are doing excellent work with children every day. It would be a shame if the actions of a few tainted the reputation of the many individuals who do the right thing every day to improve the lives and prospects of our students.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with your office.