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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — School officials at Ramstein Air Base have disciplined an eighth-grade teacher for violating standardized testing procedures.

The science section from 106 TerraNova tests was thrown out in March after an internal investigation determined that the teacher broke the rules, Ramstein American Middle School Principal Nancy Hammack said.

Administrators acting on a tip from another teacher determined that Jack Marlow gave answers to test questions after his students had completed the science part of the exam but before the rest of the testing was finished.

Students will not be able to retake the test. Science scores will be missing from test results mailed to parents this week, and a note explaining the reason why will be included in the student’s permanent record.

Although school districts and teachers face greater pressure to boost test scores, administrators said there is no evidence that Marlow gave the answers to help students cheat.

“I personally don’t believe that,” Hammack said. “I personally believe we had an educator who didn’t use good judgment.”

Marlow received a letter of reprimand from the school. He also apologized to his students.

This is the first time a Defense Department school has invalidated standardized test scores due to testing violations in the past three years, according to Janet Rope, a research administrator in Arlington, Va., who oversees TerraNova testing for the Department of Defense Education Activity worldwide. She did not offer statistics for earlier years in an e-mail forwarded to Stars and Stripes.

Attempts to reach Rope by phone were unsuccessful.

TerraNova is a major standardized testing program used by schools throughout the United States. In addition to assessing how students fare against other students nationwide, the results serve as a report card on schools and teachers. Defense Department schools in the past have scored higher than most public school systems.

The testing infractions at Ramstein have been the source of rumors and speculation over the past couple of months among teachers as the school year ends and students break for summer.

After a short note to parents and staff in March explaining that the scores would be thrown out, Hammack sent out a second letter this month to parents to “set the record straight” and “allay any concerns.”

About 700 students at the middle school took the tests over the period of four days in March.

Stars and Stripes reached Marlow at his home on Friday night.

The 12-year DODDS teacher said two students in two different classes said they were stumped by a question and asked Marlow the answer. He gave them what he thought were the correct responses. He denied initial allegations that he inappropriately coached students on specific aspects of the test.

Reviewing answers to the exam — whether it is before or after testing — is a violation of the strict guidelines that teachers and test proctors must follow. Because the test is taken over several days, students could have gone back to the other sections and changed their scores. However, administrators said there is no evidence that students did that.

“The possibility is there for somebody to go back and to change their answers,” said Frank O’Gara, a DODDS spokesman in Europe.

“So that’s an inappropriate practice to do when you’re in the middle of a test. You simply cannot do that.”

Kaiserslautern District Superintendent Archie Bates said he didn’t know if any students cheated, but because the testing procedures were not followed it was important to invalidate the scores and report them to TerraNova officials.

‘If we provided information to [TerraNova] with information that was invalid, then it means we’re not being honest,” Bates said. “We want to always maintain a certain level of integrity with our publics, and we're going to do that.”

Marlow expressed regret for what he called “an absolute honest mistake” and agreed with the decision to invalidate the scores.

“I think it was the correct thing to do,” he said. “It upholds the integrity of the test.”

TerraNova test critical to measuring achievement

Schools are relying increasingly on standardized tests to see how well their students measure up against other students.

TerraNova tests are among the most widely used standardized exams schools use to assess performance. Defense Department schools typically test students over a period of three to four days and mail the results to parents soon after the tests are graded.

CTB/McGraw-Hill publishes 20 million achievement tests annually, according to the company’s Web site. The program can show how an individual student fares in such subjects as mathematics, science and writing.

Kaiserslautern Schools District Superintendent Archie Bates said the TerraNova test is an important teaching tool.

“The testing is important in that it provides us with information as to how well our students are performing against their counterparts in the United States,” Bates said.

“This is a standardized test and you’re looking at national norms, so that helps gives us an idea how are students area doing.”

In the past several years, the test has become an important measuring stick for school district performance. It helps administrators examine strengths and weakness of both schools and teachers.

Many districts use the test results in job evaluations of both teachers and school administrators, putting great pressure on educators to make sure their students do well on the exams.

— Scott Schonauer

Stripes in 7

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