Officials at the 3,200-student Anaheim High School risked losing their ability to administer critical Advanced Placement exams after testing policies were violated, according to a recently-released letter.
“Your school has been placed on probation, and we will not authorize your school to conduct future AP Exam administrations should it again knowingly or accidentally violate any of the exam security requirements,” states the Sept. 6 letter from Educational Testing Service or ETS, which investigates exam problems for the College Board.
(Click here to read the full letter.)
The letter was addressed to the principal, Ben Sanchez, who now heads Oxford Academy in Cypress:
During the review, it was revealed that a United States History teacher administered the AP European History Exception Exam to six students.
To ensure that no student is given an unfair advantage on exam day, teachers may not serve as proctors for exams in the subject they teach …
Typically, schools that knowingly or accidentally violate AP Exam administration policies are not allowed to administer AP Exams in the future.
But because Anaheim High “provided vital assistance to resolve this matter, including retesting the students,” the school is allowed to give the exam this spring, the letter states.
AP exams allow students to start building up college credits while still in high school.
Because of the violation, the letter states, the school’s AP coordinator was required to take a full-day workshop, “Organizing Your AP Exam Administration.”
District spokeswoman Pat Karlak said officials acted quickly when the issue arose.
“The district responded rapidly and followed through with the recommendations of the College Board,” she said, noting that the students were allowed to retake the test.
“We take all allegations of irregularities with the utmost seriousness.”
Yet basic details in this case have been hard to come by.
After gathering information from the district’s education chief, Karlak said Monday that she still didn’t know when the test was given or who authorized the history teacher to administer it.
Difficult to Get Public Records
District officials didn’t make it easy to get the letter.
Voice of OC first requested it in the early afternoon of Dec. 12, 2013, citing the state’s Public Records Act, which requires prompt access to readily-available public records.
Hours after the request was made, the district’s top attorney said he didn’t know whether the letter existed.
“I don’t know,” replied District Counsel Jeff Riel. “I have to investigate that.”
Pressed about why the letter wasn’t being made available, he said that if a record exists, the district has 10 days to determine whether it’s public.
The Public Records Act, meanwhile, states that officials “shall make the records promptly available” as long as they’re not exempt from being made public.
A week went by without the letter’s release.
Voice of OC then sent an email citing portions of the records act and threatened to sue.
That apparently got the attention of officials.
Later that morning, the district’s spokeswoman sent a copy of the letter.
But weeks after Voice of OC’s initial records request, Karlak said that further communication records with College Board and its representatives were not available.
At the same time, an internal memo obtained by Voice of OC shows that weeks ago, top administrators were looking for the letters in response to Voice of OC’s request.
On Dec. 13, interim Superintendent Sandy Barry wrote to the board:
I learned this morning that two (2) reporters from the Voice of OC approached both [District Counsel] Jeff Riel and Pat Karlak at last night’s Board meeting, asking for copies of letters from the College Board about test improprieties that allegedly occurred last spring at Anaheim High School. Both Jeff and Pat told the reporters that they would research this request and locate the letters. … Meanwhile, Cabinet continues to research this issue. They are checking files for the letters from the College Board and bringing me up-to-date regarding the personnel who were involved in this matter.
Now, more than three weeks later, none of that additional correspondence has been released.
Assistant Superintendent of Education Paul Sevillano said Monday that there was an additional letter from ETS seeking clarification. But Karlak said it was the first she had heard of it and that it wasn’t available for release.
Barry’s memo also contradicts some details in the ETS letter.
The interim superintendent wrote that the school was reprimanded for giving the test “on the wrong day.” Meanwhile, ETS wrote that the violation was due to the history teacher giving the exam.
And Barry wrote that eight students took the test, while the ETS letter states it was six.
Barry’s memo ends: “As I learn more, I will share details with you. It is important that you be given a heads-up now in case a story about [this] subject appears in the Voice of OC.”
Voice of OC filed a new, expanded request Monday for “all correspondence regarding AP testing problems at Anaheim High School.”
The revelation comes on the heels of the district’s abrupt firing last month of Superintendent Elizabeth Novack.
The move still hasn’t been publicly explained by district officials, fueling rampant speculation.
Last year, the first round of AP European History tests was administered Wednesday, May 15, according to a national schedule.
Another round of testing was scheduled for May 23.
On May 13, 2013, board members approved a plan to reassign Sanchez, the Anaheim High principal, to Oxford Academy as part of a shuffling of principals, according to the district. It was set to become effective on July 1.
The district oversees the education of about 32,000 students from the cities of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma and Stanton.
Board members plan to have their next public meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.
Click here to download the agenda (large file size).
You can reach Nick Gerda at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
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