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Seattle School District Inquiry Into Test Tampering Comes Up Empty

Kyle Stokes
Seattle Public Schools' headquarters in the SoDo neighborhood.

A lengthy investigation into who altered Beacon Hill International School students' answers on standardized tests has come up empty, Seattle Public Schools officials announced Tuesday.

Last fall, state officials threw out all of the elementary school's 2013-14 test results after Beacon Hill saw an unusual jump in its scores and a district review found "heavy erasure marks" in students' exam booklets.

But after 21 witness interviews, an examination of 40 booklets, a handwriting analysis and a review of district testing procedures — all conducted over 14 months — the district still cannot determine who is responsible for the tampering.

Two Beacon Hill employees — former principal Po Tang and teacher Judy Eng — were placed on administrative leave last spring after a district review found they had improperly stored test materials and read completed student exam books.

But Tang returned to the classroom this fall and is teaching at another school. Eng is back on the job at Beacon Hill.

District officials have avoided terming the tampering "cheating," but the changes were deliberate and obvious.

For instance, nearly every Beacon Hill third grader in 2013-14 got a perfect score on their math exam. Four out of five third graders got near-perfect scores in reading. Compared to statewide averages, both of those figures are off the charts.

"The amount of changes made to the tests were likely to trigger some kind of alert at the district or at OSPI [Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction]. There were so many changes and so many students who were changed to score near-perfect answers," district region director Kelly Aramaki said at a press conference last spring.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.