MILLIKEN - When Superintendent Marty Foster heard about issues regarding testing procedures of the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests, he took them very seriously and decided to take action quickly.
"Rules are rules," Foster said. "We play by the rules."
Foster runs the small Weld County RE-5J School District in the town of Milliken. He says Milliken Elementary's former Principal Paul Dillehay admitted that he and his secretary improperly went through the TCAP answer booklets after students finished taking the tests last spring.
"I specifically asked him, did you change any answers and he said, no, he didn't," Foster said.
But, when investigators looked into the matter, they found a lot questions tied to the multiple choice answers.
"They looked at erasures and the percentage was 50 percent higher than normal," Foster said. "They noticed that when the answers were erased and changed again that they were almost always from wrong to right."
Milliken Elementary has been a struggling school. It was on "School Turnaround" status for the last two years. Foster says the test scores from last year showed a literally unbelievable improvement.
"They went from the 40th percentile to the 65th percentile meeting almost every expectation," Foster said. "In my mind, I knew that wasn't possible."
Foster says in his mind, he suspected cheating.
"A few minutes later (Dillehay) called me and said that I'm to come over and give you my letter of resignation," Foster said.
Amanda Harmon had two kids take TCAP tests at Milliken Elementary last year.
"I think it's really troubling," Harmon said. "I think it's really unfair to the community to not have access to correct information and what's going on in our schools."
Foster sent this letter home to families:
Dear Milliken Elementary School Parents,
The purpose of this letter is to inform you of a matter concerning this past spring's state assessment program at Milliken Elementary School.
The Colorado Department of Education sets very stringent rules and procedures for administering the state assessment, better known as the TCAP test. These rules must be followed without exception by everyone involved in administering the state assessment to students throughout the state.
In keeping with those strict requirements, I have had to declare a misadministration for all of the test scores for all students who completed the TCAP test at Milliken Elementary School for 2013 due to violations of TCAP test security policies and procedures at the administrator level at Milliken Elementary School.
This means that all TCAP test scores have been determined to be invalid and no test results will be available for students who completed the TCAP test at Milliken Elementary School this past spring. No other schools in the District are affected by the misadministration of the TCAP Test scores at MES.
This is a very unfortunate occurrence, but please know that the teachers and administration at MES will continue to provide a caring and nurturing educational environment for your children as we begin the 2013-14 school year.
Dr. Martin Foster
Superintendent of Schools
He also notified the Colorado Department of Education right away and made the decision to voluntarily invalidate all of the tests at Milliken Elementary for the 2012 school year.
"I did not want to mislead anyone in our community," Foster said.
Janelle Asmus is the Chief Communications Officer for the Colorado Department of Education. She says state officials applaud the way Foster handled the situation.
"This was something that showed the integrity of the school district leadership in reporting it and investigating the matter locally," Asmus said. "That speaks well of that district leadership."
Asmus said the invalidated test scores will have no impact on the students other than forcing teachers to use other measures to gauge their progress. But, the district's accreditation may be compromised.
"Having the test results suppressed for a year is a significant challenge," Asmus said. "But, it's not one that can't be overcome by the school and district."
In 2012 a Denver elementary school came under scrutiny for suspiciously high test scores. After a state investigation at Beach Court Elementary, investigators concluded that Principal Frank Roti cheated by erasing and changing answers in his office. The 2011 test scores were thrown out. But, the numbers show that while 2011 proficiency rates were in the 80-to-90 percent range, the 2012 scores shows proficiency rates closer to 40-and-50 percent.
Foster says he hopes he can regain trust with the community by being proactive with this crisis.
"It will have an effect on the district's rating, but we'll recover," Foster said. "We'll move forward and I'm going to do everything I know to do to make sure this never happens again."
9News was unsuccessful in trying to find a working phone number for Dillehay to obtain comment.
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