MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Department of Education wants to know if middle school teachers were cheating on the state’s most important math test.
The Prior Lake-Savage School District is investigating if some middle school teachers looked at scratch paper students used on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). Doing so would allow them to teach to the test, which isn’t allowed.
“The MCAs are extremely important,” said Jeff Holmberg, the assistant superintendent at the Prior Lake-Savage School District.
The tests are required by federal law and are under intense scrutiny from beginning to end.
“All of the teachers are trained,” Holmberg said. “They’re trained in how they proctor the test, how to give the test.”
It’s why Holmberg wants to know what exactly went on at Hidden Oaks Middle School with its MCAs in math. The rules say students are allowed to use scratch paper, but that it must be thrown out immediately after testing.
At Hidden Oaks, however, teachers were offering extra credit for that scratch paper.
In an email explanation to another teacher, one of the school’s math teachers said: “Last year, we gave 10 points for showing work on at least half the problems.”
Essentially, that means teachers were looking at the scratch paper and would possibly know what was on the test.
Hidden Oaks Middle School had offered the extra credit on the MCA math portion for the past two years and had planned to do it again this current testing cycle until teachers across the street at Twin Oaks Middle School started asking questions.
WCCO-TV found MCA math scores in some grades have been as much as 14 percent higher during those years at Hidden Oaks. The district has discontinued the practice at the school and will report whatever it finds to the Department of Education.
“We want a great experience of testing for kids so that they can demonstrate what they know,” Holmberg said.
The district hopes to turn over its investigation to the Department of Education by Monday. A spokesperson with the department says if there’s proof teachers were teaching to the test, those tests would be invalidated and wouldn’t count for the school’s scores.