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Miami, FL: Possible FCAT Science Cheating at Crestview Elementary?

An official complaint has been filed with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools regarding suspected test cheating on the FCAT Science exam at Crestview Elementary School during the 2013-2014 school year. The complaint is based upon a report from Mr. Keith Guthrie.

Guthrie stated he had suspicions about test scores on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam involving two students (one ESE, the other ESOL). Mrs. Matilda Ysidro, told Guthrie that she witnessed the former Science Coach, and current Grade 5 Science teacher, Ms. Lori Caraccia assisting these two students last school year by “emphasizing” the answers on the science exam.

Guthrie came to me “for direction,” as his case is similar to the test cheating on the Industrial Arts exams at Miami Norland Senior High School in April 2012. Guthrie knew my experience with exposing test cheating. I have also represented Guthrie in past grievances and labor disputes with Crestview administration.

Guthrie told me that the events occurred while Ms. Caraccia was testing these two students for the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam during the last school year. Mrs. Ysidro told Guthrie she walked in on them and observed Ms. Caraccia “emphasizing” the right answers. During a second interview with Guthrie, Ysidro said as students were taking the test, if the student marked the wrong answer, Ms. Caraccia would tell them, “You better check your answer”, in some cases multiple times, until the student marked the right answer before moving on to the next question.

Mr. Guthrie deemed what Mrs. Ysidro told him as credible because the two students in question attended his classes. One student was ESOL, the other ESE, and both students failed his class. Both students hardly participated in class and displayed Level 1 performance on their last FCAT Reading exams. Yet both students scored Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam- a clear disparity between classroom performance and their FCAT Reading scores.

Guthrie said only five (including these two) Grade 5 students scored a Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam.  He knew the other three students; he tested them; and their scores were reflective of their classroom achievement and other test scores.

I advised Mr. Guthrie to email the Florida Department of Education Inspector General. He indicated he would email his complaint. Mr. Guthrie has not contacted the FL DOE IG at the time this column was published.

The Florida Department of Education investigators simply need to obtain the names of the five students who scored a Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam; identify those coded as ESOL and ESE and confirm with Mr. Guthrie that they failed his class.  After the two students, and potentially others, are identified, retest them using a different proctor. As the school went from a “D” to a “C,” and Grade 5 FCAT Science performance shot up from 27% in 2013 to 38% in 2014.

Recently school administrators have been involved in cheating scandals in other states (Atlanta, El Paso, Houston, and Philadelphia). Ms. Caraccia was the Science Coach appointed by the principal and on her leadership team. It will be up to the District, and the FLDOE IG, to determine whether or not school administration was aware of possible cheating (coaching) of these students and, if so, when they knew it.

The dramatic rise in Crestview’s school grade from a “D” to a “C” (Crestview scored 477 points; 42 points above the minimum of 435)  lead to a total a payout of $40,000- $50,000 in teacher incentives from the Florida School Recognition Program.

Hopefully it was an isolated incident, but given that test cheating at Norland went largely unnoticed and unpunished by the FLDOE and by law enforcement, the message is clear that cheating pays.

I am reporting what was told to me by Guthrie. This case is not unlike what happened at Miami Norland Senior High School two years ago.  Only a complete and thorough investigation will get to the bottom of how widespread the test cheating is, as was the case at Norland.

If substantiated, many troubling questions are raised: why is there cheating on different levels within the Norland feeder pattern?  What will the District do about it? Will the people involved go the way of Emmanuel Fleurantin or Brenda Muchnick? Time will tell.

The following is a comparison of FCAT Science test results for Crestview Elementary.

Elementary
School Percentage Passing (Satisfactory and Above)
Grade
Level
Science
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
2013 2014
Dade
Top of Form CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (1161) Bottom of Form
5 27 38 

 

Elementary
School Percentage Passing (Satisfactory and Above)
Grade
Level
Reading
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Mathematics
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Science
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Writing Essay
(3.5 and Above)
2013 2014 2013 2014 2013 2014 2013 2014
Dade
Top of Form CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (1161) Bottom of Form
3 41 48  40 42  NA NA  NA NA 
4 55 56  61 58  NA NA  42 30 
5 49 55  42 48  27 38  NA NA