Three Manteca Unified high schools — East Union, Sierra, and Weston Ranch — were among 226 schools statewide that the California Department of Education said violated rules against students using their cell phones during standardized tests and then posting images on various social media.
The worst offense was at East Union High where a student took a photo of an actual standardized test question and posted it online. That meant East Union was among 16 schools statewide that were cited for the more serious offense of posting actual test questions and/or answers.
Deputy Superintendent Deborah Sigman said Friday that officials remain confident the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results are still valid and said the incidents involved a small number of the students tested.
“It looks to us as though most of these postings were about gaining some attention and communication with peers, and not an active (attempt) to try to game the system in terms of the assessment,” Sigman said.
In addition to photos revealing test questions or answers, Sigman said other posts by students at 242 schools depicted things unlikely to jeopardize exam results, such as test booklet covers or “bubble art,” which she described as students filling in bubbles to craft a message.
The results from all imapcted schools are now flagged with a red warning message next to their test results. It notes “a security breach involving social media” was identified at the school and states: “Caution should be used when interpreting these results.”
Results from the 16 schools where students posted actual test content also included the warning that the school’s accountability rating could be impacted. Those schools also could become ineligible for academic awards.
The department will be releasing its statewide accountability reports within the next few weeks.
This year’s cases include slightly more schools than a similar discovery last year. Online postings involving test materials were found from students at 216 schools, with posts from 12 schools including legible test questions or answers.
The discovery delayed the release of last year’s scores for two weeks. In response, the Department of Education enacted new security measures to monitor the use of electronic devices.
Students generally are not allowed to have electronic devices during standardized tests.
Sigman said officials believe the number of online postings discovered may have increased because of the department’s efforts to monitor social media websites during testing.
She noted that nearly 4.7 million California students participated in standardized testing this year, saying the number of incidents is “a low number given the kind of social media that students have access to.”