Richmond County school leaders have changed some procedures for administering the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in April.
The changes, made this week, come in light of a state-initiated investigation of questionable erasures on the standardized tests last spring at Lamar and W.S. Hornsby elementary schools. Tests from the schools appeared to have a large number of wrong answers erased and the correct ones supplied. The schools were among 370 statewide that had a high number of erasures, and more than a dozen school districts, including Richmond County, were expected to launch investigations, according to a report in February by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.
One change decided on this week will be to no longer allow teachers to go behind students and darken bubbled answers that were too light. School system spokesman Louis Svehla said that had occurred in some cases to help a machine properly read the students' answers, but now tests will be sent straight to the state untouched.
"We're going to send the tests in as they are," he said.
The two Richmond County schools whose scores are being investigated now have different names -- Lamar-Milledge and Hornsby K-8 -- and have been combined with other schools or expanded since the tests were taken. At Lamar-Milledge, Milledge's principal from last year has taken over operations, Svehla said. When the two schools merged, many of the former Lamar students were rezoned elsewhere and mostly Milledge students began attending Lamar-Milledge.
Nonetheless, Svehla said, teachers will no longer administer the CRCT to their own students at these schools; a different instructor will do it. That new procedure is state-mandated and won't apply to other schools this year, Svehla said.
He noted that younger students might feel intimidated having someone other than their teacher giving their test.
"It can work both ways, so we'll see how this works," he said. "There could be positives and negatives to that."
Svehla said the school system is seeking a third party to conduct its investigation, which has a May 14 deadline. Cost hasn't been determined, but he said a district in Atlanta paid $100,000 for its investigation.
"We're in these (tough) budget times already, and now here's going to be an additional cost," he said.
Within the past week, Svehla said, the school system has received more detailed information about individual classroom and student data that was questioned from last year.
"So now you can really investigate the classrooms it happened in and look at those tests," he said.