- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2001

An investigation into testing violations at Silver Spring International Middle School has been extended one week because officials want to follow up on what they learned in meetings with some of the schools teachers.
In a letter to members of the Board of Education on Monday, Deputy Superintendent James A. Williams said the investigation into testing violations would continue as a result of meetings held last Friday with five teachers.
"I have requested and received permission from Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, to follow through on information learned from the meetings and to pursue additional avenues of the investigation as necessary," wrote Mr. Williams, who has been heading the investigation. Further findings and recommendations will be available next week at the earliest, he said.
Last week, Mr. Weast put the schools principal and six staff members on administrative leave with pay after the investigation found there had been multiple violations of test security for the sixth-grade Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills in math given in March this year.
Mark Simon, president of the countys largest teachers union, said the school system should have waited to hear the teachers side before removing them, and added that he hoped the extended investigation will result in "fair and balanced" recommendations.
"The information released earlier was released prematurely and was incomplete. We will have to wait till a more well-rounded picture emerges," he said.
School officials say that teachers photocopied the tests and passed them out to students before the exams were given. Mr. Simon says the teachers did not intentionally violate rules because they didnt know the tests they had passed out were copies of the actual test.
Meanwhile, parents at the school vowed to continue their fight against what they say is the school systems "harsh" action.
The parents have been meeting almost every day since last week and said they would continue to protest against the removal of the principal and teachers through letter campaigns to elected officials, meetings of the schools Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and fact-finding projects.
Groups of parents have been standing outside the school every morning, handing out tea, cupcakes and fliers. Others, said PTSA Vice President Linda McHugh, are busy looking into the superintendents background and talking to people within the school system "to show that Mr. Weast took a very serious, bad, sad, unsettling situation and wholly disrupted a school."
"People are going to keep being angry," said parent Theo Brown. "There is a strong sense that [Mr.] Weast and others are doing this as an example. But hundreds of families are being harmed by this, not to mention that lives and careers of the teachers are being destroyed."
Brian Porter, spokesman for Montgomery county public Schools, said Mr. Weast had declined to comment on the subject until after the investigation.
Last week, State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said the county may have to pay the state an estimated $600,000 for the testing violations because the entire sixth-grade math test would have to be replaced. Last year, the Harford County School System had to pay $200,000 after it lost a computer disk of a test required for high school graduation.
Mr. Porter said the money would have to come out of next years budget, which already was facing a potential shortfall of $26.4 million.
"We dont know where the money will come from — it is not budgeted," said Mr. Porter, adding that the amount could exceed $600,000.
The money, he said, was the equivalent of 18 teachers pay. He said he did not know if that would mean cuts in teaching jobs next year. "I dont know how it will be allocated. We will have to take a little bit from here and there," he said.
Mr. Simon said the $600,000 amount was only "speculation about what the possible consequences could be if the county and state have to re-create that version of the test."
He said that while his union took violations of test security very seriously, "what teachers intended and didnt is very important."


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