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ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE INDEX

Third-Graders' Tests Trigger Probe

Education: The state is investigating whether a La Crescenta teacher helped pupils on the Stanford 9. State funds are at stake.

October 05, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY and MARTHA GROVES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A La Crescenta elementary school could lose thousands of dollars in state reward money because a class of third-graders may have cheated on the Stanford 9 test with help from its teacher, state education officials said Wednesday.

An investigation by the Glendale Unified School District found that teacher Michael Iwankiw may have told some students at Lincoln Elementary School to change wrong answers to right before handing in their tests, and he may have allowed students to share their answers with each other, Principal Barbara Mikolasko said. The teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is concluded, she said.

"Depending on the outcome of the investigations, the worst thing that could happen would be if we found he made changes to test answers, and there is disciplinary action," Mikolasko said. "If not, he will return to teaching."

The California Department of Education invalidated the entire school's scores on the Stanford 9 test that was administered last spring, blocking its chances for the next two years to receive financial rewards from the state linked to Academic Performance Index scores.

Mikolasko said Iwankiw had admitted that he allowed students to talk to each other during testing and failed to lock the answer sheets in a drawer after school. The teacher was not available for comment Wednesday.

A new verification system used by the Education Department tipped state officials that too many of Iwankiw's students had erased too many wrong answers. The computer system singled out questionable results from Lincoln and 50 other schools in the state, said Education Department spokesman Pat McCabe.

Five schools statewide, including Lincoln, confirmed that cheating might have occurred on their campuses, and they will not receive Academic Performance Index scores, McCabe said. Eleven schools had not responded to the department as of Tuesday and the remainder said they had found no evidence of cheating. Lincoln Elementary, which has 546 students, was the only school in Los Angeles County under scrutiny for possible cheating, McCabe said.

Glendale Supt. Jim Brown said the district would appeal the state's decision to withhold Lincoln's API score.

"I am very concerned that the school as a whole has to pay the price," Brown said. "I do not think that is fair. We learned in Discipline 101, you can't hold the whole class after school for something one student did. It only creates resentment."

Delaine Eastin, the state superintendent of public instruction, said there is no appeal process in place but indicated she would discuss the feasibility of starting one with the State Board of Education.

"If there's an exceptional case, we will take it under advisement and go to the state board and seek a waiver," Eastin said. "We're not trying to be too rule-driven. We are trying to be firm but fair."

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