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Cheating by 7 Students Voids College Credit Exams : 79 Tests Rescheduled; Firm Will Bear Costs

August 03, 1989|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

College placement examinations taken by 79 students at a Glendale high school were invalidated this week by the organization that produces the tests after Glendale Unified School District officials discovered that seven students cheated on the exams.

Officials at Educational Testing Service (ETS) invalidated the Advanced Placement Examination scores of the Crescenta Valley High School students because an ETS investigation found that high school officials failed to properly monitor students taking the tests, a spokesman for the service said.

The decision by the nonprofit educational measurement organization comes more than two months after seven students were suspended from school when they admitted to cheating on the exams.

All students seeking college credit for taking university-level courses at the high school in biology, U.S. history and English composition will be required to retake the tests this month during summer vacation, testing service officials said Wednesday.

Ewing said ETS officials had reason to believe that students taking the tests at the La Crescenta school were seated too close together and that an inadequate number of proctors were present in the examination rooms.

Procedure Criticized

"The administration of the test was irregular enough that we could not honestly say that the students had been tested in a standardized fashion," Ewing said.

Crescenta Valley High School Principal Kenneth Bierman acknowledged that school officials did not administer the tests in strict accordance with ETS guidelines. But Bierman said that was beside the point.

"You can say anything you want to as far as, were the chairs lined up properly or what, but the fact is, we've had kids practically sitting on each others' laps, and none of them cheated before," Bierman said. "It's all a matter of personal choices. If kids want to cheat, they'll find a way."

A total of 150 tests taken by the 79 students have been invalidated by the testing service, Ewing said. Eight advanced placement tests were taken by 230 students at the school on May 15-17. But tests in only the three subject areas where cheating was discovered have been invalidated, he said.

Advanced Placement Examinations measure students' skills in college-level courses in subjects ranging from physics to languages. Students pay $57 to take each of the examinations. If a student does well on an exam, most colleges will exempt him or her from the introductory college course in that area.

Delays in Results

School district and ETS officials said it is likely some Crescenta Valley students will score lower on the exam because of the testing delay and said some colleges may not receive the results of the tests until after the school year has begun.

The cheating came to light in May after several students told school administrators that they suspected other students of cheating on the exams. Several days later, seven students confessed that they had copied the answers of other students or opened test booklets before they were allowed.

The students, all in 11th grade, were suspended from school for three days but will be allowed to retake the tests, said Crescenta Valley High School Principal Kenneth Bierman. The school is withholding the names of the students.

A two-month investigation by ETS investigators of how tests were administered at the high school has centered not on the actions of the students but on the circumstances that may have made it easier for cheating to take place, Ewing said.

Under contractual arrangements with the Princeton, N.J.-based testing organization, school districts agree to teach college-level courses and to administer the service's exams, which test knowledge of the course material, Ewing said. Under the arrangement, schools are required to follow guidelines provided by the service on administering the exams, he said.

Gives Guidelines

Among other things, the guidelines specify the ratio of supervisors to students required in a room where the tests are being administered. If 51 to 100 students are being tested in one room, for instance, three supervisors are needed.

In the first test given at Crescenta Valley High School, in U.S. History, Bierman said 60 students were tested, but only one proctor was present.

The ETS guidelines also specify that students taking advanced placement exams must be separated from each other by five feet, but students taking the biology advanced placement test at the high school were seated next to each other and separated by dividers, Bierman said.

Glendale school district officials said they will be examining their procedures for administering the exams to determine what can be improved.

"This is an area that we're definitely going to be looking into to make sure we did a really good job," said Donald Empey, deputy superintendent for instruction. "We really need to examine it."

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