Was School Board Kept in Loop About Exam Problems?

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The principal at Anaheim High School argued against the Advanced Placement Exam sanctions that ultimately placed his school on probation, according to newly released emails.

And while it’s clear from the emails that ousted Superintendent Elizabeth Novack was informed of the issue, it’s unclear whether the board was truly kept in the loop.

Board Member Katherine Smith said she was never informed.

Another board member, Al Jabbar, confirmed the outline of her account.

“No, we were not informed,” Jabbar said after Thursday night’s board meeting, adding that he first found out about the issue from parents.

Board Member Anna Piercy, meanwhile, said the board was indeed informed. As for when that happened, she said she couldn’t recall a rough time estimate.

Voice of OC’s request on Monday for all written communication on the issue has so far turned up no records of the board being notified before December.

Anaheim High was “placed on probation” over the alleged breach in September and given a warning that further violations would ban it from giving the exams.

Parents were “very upset” about the issue, Ben Sanchez, Anaheim High’s principal, wrote in an email last summer.

Sanchez declined to comment, referring questions to district spokeswoman Pat Karlak.

Karlak hasn’t yet returned Voice of OC’s messages from Thursday night and Friday.

It’s also unclear whether the students have been able to retake the test.

A September letter by Educational Testing Service states the students have been retested, citing it as a key reason why the school wasn’t outright banned from giving further AP tests.

But The Orange County Register reported on Thursday that the students had not been retested.

The new emails came in response to a Voice of OC records request on Monday for all written communication regarding the testing issue.

(Click here to read the emails. Contains duplicates.)

The European history “exception tests” had to be given on May 31, according to an email from Educational Testing Service or ETS to Sanchez, and AP coordinator, Elizabeth Marshall.

By June 10, Marshall had faxed a “Coordinator’s Incident Report” to the ETS Office of Testing Integrity about the exception history exam, emails show.

“Based on the information provided the test takers are cancelled, due to the conflict of interest,” wrote back Patricia Taylor of ETS.

She asked Marshall to follow up and schedule a retesting date for the six students.

On June 12, ETS wrote:

Unfortunately, the test takers [sic] scores cannot stand, due to the fact that the History teacher administered the Exception European History exam at your school.

Sanchez then challenged that finding, writing to ETS that he believes a U.S. history teacher can indeed proctor a European history exam:

The History teacher that proctored the exam does not teach the ‘subject’ European History. He teaches U.S. History. My interpretation of the language in the manual is that subject means the specific subject. It does not state in a department other than the one that they teach or in a curriculum other than the one they teach.”

The principal also states that he had been assured this was the case:

Additionally, in a conversation with a representative from College Board, I was told that a teacher other than the teacher that taught the curriculum to the students or another teacher that teaches European History could proctor the exam.

The College Board rep was named Nadette, Sanchez wrote.

He also underscored the urgency of the matter:

Please respond to me with a decision as soon as possible. I have some very upset parents to respond to.

ETS then wrote back the same day to cite their Coordinator’s Manual:

The example in the 2012-13 Coordinator’s Manual states: “A ninth-grade English teacher may not proctor an AP English Exam, but could proctor an AP Biology Exam.” Therefore, a History teacher may not proctor an AP European History Exam, but could proctor an AP Biology Exam.

And on June 18, ETS wrote that “after careful consideration of the matter the decision was made that the cancellation of the scores will stand.”

“If the test takers would like to retest please contact me to arrange a date for the retest,” Taylor of ETS added.

By Aug. 23, Sanchez was principal at Oxford Academy but was still trying to resolve the Anaheim High exam issue:

I am now the Principal at Oxford Academy but I have been trying to assist the new Principal at Anaheim with this situation. The student [sic] do want to re-take the exam. What needs to be done to reschedule?

ETS wrote back on Aug. 26 to say that the exams would likely arrive within 10 business days.

And on Sept. 26, the new principal at Anaheim High, Anna Corral, asked whether there was anything else she should be doing to earn back the school’s status:

I would like to make sure that AHS is doing what is necessary to give our school a good status. Our counselor who serves as our coordinator has registered for the required workshop. Do you require for me to attend also? Please let me know if there is any further assistance I can give to earn our status back.

We value the integrity of ETS and value the services you provide for our students. We hope to earn back the trust that we too are doing what we can to service our students.

She was then forwarded a letter addressed to Sanchez that places the school “on probation” but allows it to continue administering AP tests so long as there are no further violations.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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