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Interpretation's Date: January 27, 2015
by superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano
Section: II. Curriculum

Lexie Damous, Principal
Poca Elementary School
P.O. Box 430 Route 62 South
Poca, WV 25159

Ms. Damous:

I appreciate your commitment to your students and staff. However, a thorough analysis of the 2014 WESTEST 2 math results from Poca Elementary indicates that the data is not a reliable measure of the students' knowledge, skills and abilities. The WVDE Office of Assessment thoroughly analyzed the test data using multiple indicators and the result is clear: the 2014 WESTEST 2 math data for Poca Elementary has been compromised and the test results have no statistical validity.

A summary of the West Virginia Department of Education's investigation is as follows:

CTB/McGraw Hill, the WESTEST 2 testing vendor, analyzed the total number of erasures (online answer changes) and the total number of wrong-to-right changes on each 2104 student assessment aggregated by test group. A test group is defined as all students assigned to a common testing period using the online test administration system. Poca Elementary School grades 3, 4 and 5 Mathematics were flagged in CTB's Erasure Analysis Report as having an unusually high percentage of wrong-to right answer changes.

The CTB Erasure Analysis Report provides data to address the statistical possibility that student responses were altered. The Erasure Analysis Report, disaggregated by school, by grade, by content, and by examiner was reviewed by WVDE Office of Assessment and Accountability and WVDE Office of Research. Thereafter, a timely investigation of the questionable Poca Elementary School Grades 3, 4 and 5 2014 WESTEST 2 math data began on September 8, 2014. John Morrison, investigator, Office of Legal Services; Timothy Butcher, WESTEST 2 assessment coordinator; Dr. Beth Cipoletti, assistant director, Office of Assessment; Dr. Vaughn Rhudy, WESTEST 2 assessment coordinator; Terri Sappington, WESTEST 2 assessment coordinator; Larry White, interim executive director, Office of Assessment; and Cindy Daniel, Putnam County assistant to the superintendent, participated in the investigation.

In addition to the information provided in the CTB Erasure Analysis Report, the WVDE Office of Assessment independently analyzed the student-level erasure data (online answer changes) for Poca Elementary School provided by CTB/McGraw-Hill. These data, disaggregated by test group and analyzed by multiple measurement metrics (wrong-to-right erasures, pattern analysis, time sequencing, growth and student score improvement), revealed that the students at Poca Elementary School averaged a significantly high number of wrong-to-right erasures per student. The average for mathematics grade 3 at Poca Elementary was 7.9, for grade 4 is 6.5 and grade 5 is 4.9. This average per student is significantly above the state average for WESTEST 2 Mathematics, which is 0.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student. The wrong-to-right erasures accounted for 84% of the total erasures in all grades of WESTEST 2 Mathematics at Poca Elementary. The pattern analysis revealed a commonality among answer choices within each respective grade. Additionally, a review of the online test activity log, which records item-level activity during the test, provided by CTB/McGraw-Hill, shows multiple item answer changes were often made in less than a minute, especially at the end of the test. Finally, the WVDE investigation team noted that Proficiency in Mathematics at Poca Elementary was a statistical improbability of 100% in Grade 3 and 96% in Grades 3, 4 and 5 combined.

Putnam County Superintendent Harold Hatfield and Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniel were presented the initial investigation results on September 30, 2014. On October 8, 2014, an on-site investigation was conducted to gather additional information. John Morrison, Timothy Butcher, Terri Sappington and Larry White from WVDE conducted interviews with Poca Elementary School staff involved in test administration and county personnel. You were personally interviewed as part of this investigation on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, at 2:05 p.m. at the Putnam County Board of Education central office. Cindy Daniel represented the county throughout the investigation and during these interviews.

During the interviews, Poca Elementary School staff members explained that the large number of erasures for the students at Poca Elementary School on WESTEST 2 Mathematics was the result of the testing strategy taught by an independent educational consultant. Test activity log data does not support the examiners' claims. Therefore, the independent educational consultant was interviewed October 16, 2014 by John Morrison, Timothy Butcher and Larry White. During this interview, the consultant stated she did not teach the professed strategy in training sessions presented for Putnam County or Poca Elementary.

The results of the WVDE's investigation of Poca Elementary School test data and test administration raised serious questions about the reliability of the test results that could not be satisfactorily explained. After considering all evidence, the WVDE investigation team ultimately determined that the erasures, percent of wrong-to-right erasures, patterns, growth and cohort performance exceeded the thresholds established by the WVDE, demonstrated that the test results had been compromised and showed that the test results had no statistical validity.

As this summary shows, the WVDE investigation at Poca Elementary was both thorough and thoughtful. As such, I do not believe that yet another opportunity for you, as the school's principal, to address the testing abnormalities will alter the findings of the WVDE investigative team. I do regret that the invalidation of test scores was necessary, however, it is my duty as State Superintendent to ensure that only valid test data is used to make instructional decisions about our students.



Michael J. Martirano, Ed.D.
State Superintendent of Schools


c: Gayle Manchin, President, West Virginia Board of Education
Harold "Chuck" Hatfield, Superintendent, Putnam County Schools