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WASL scores may be tossed

State investigating tests at Balboa

State experts will examine WASL test booklets from a Spokane Public Schools classroom next week for alleged tampering, and they could recommend that the district consider invalidating the scores, state officials said Friday.

The inspection by Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of a sixth-grade classroom’s tests at Balboa Elementary School comes after allegations that the principal tampered with the booklets this past spring, officials said.

So far, the district’s investigation has determined Pat Lynass did not alter the tests, said Staci Vesneske, an assistant superintendent.

The allegations came out in late April.

Teacher Jim Harrison told district officials that Lynass looked through a completed reading test booklet, which is against WASL protocol, school district officials said. Also, the principal served as a proctor of the test in Harrison’s classroom; she confronted a sixth-grader about taking the test seriously, which made the girl cry.

“I am required by my training to report any violations,” Harrison said.

The state experts will be looking for any “discrepancies or irregularities in the booklets that are inconsistent with the students’ work,” said OSPI spokesman Chris Barron. For example, the experts look to see if answers have been erased and rewritten numerous times or for answers that were obviously coached.

When the district heard the allegations, “our assessment department did an investigation and then turned the booklets over to the state,” said Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Stowell.

Stowell said Lynass told district officials that just before the testing began school staff “said they had concerns about kids in Harrison’s classroom not taking the test seriously, laughing about it and drawing and writing comments on it.” So Lynass decided to proctor the test. Lynass already had concerns because in 2008, 20 students in the district opted out of the WASL, officials said. Fourteen of them were in Harrison’s class.

“I believe she had an obligation to look into those staff concerns,” Stowell said.

Harrison, who admits he’s not a fan of the WASL, said: “I don’t encourage them to take it or not take it. No more than I would tell them about my political beliefs, or my religious beliefs, would I tell them about my WASL beliefs. If a parent asks me – and the parents don’t generally know they have the option to opt out – I tell them.”

During the test, Lynass apparently confronted Madison Chapman, who was drawing pictures on her math test, and told her “she needed to take it seriously,” Stowell said. The principal followed the girl into the bathroom and said “her placement in middle school (math) depended on it.”

Later, the principal reportedly looked through the booklets for doodles and drawings.

Lynass has apologized to the child, Stowell said.

Following the district’s investigation, “they told Pat that in the future, if she sees that behavior, she should wait until after the test to confront them,” Stowell said. “If she feels she needed to look at the booklets, she needs to contact the assessment department.”

Lynass does not face discipline, Vesneske said.