- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

One of seven faculty members removed from Silver Spring International Middle School is defending her role in reporting a cheating scandal there and demanding that the Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent put her back in the classroom and take steps to restore her reputation.
"The minute I realized there was a testing violation, I reported it, despite the fact that I knew it would have serious consequences," math teacher Toby Bastas, 26, said while appearing in Rockville yesterday with her attorneys.
"All [Superintendent Jerry Weast] has to do is apologize," said Timothy Maloney, whose law firm is representing Miss Bastas.
But schools spokesman Brian Porter said the superintendent will not respond until the investigation is complete, probably in seven to 10 days.
Mr. Porter said the security breach began when the head of the schools math department photocopied part of the California Test of Basic Skills and distributed the copies to math teachers.
The state is likely to invalidate math scores on the test for more than 300 sixth-graders because of the breach. Individual scores on the test are not reported, but aggregated to assess the school and the school system.
Placed on administrative leave because of the incident are school Principal Renee Brimfield, an assistant principal, the math department head, and four math teachers, including Miss Bastas.
Four other teachers received disciplinary letters.
Miss Bastas said she was told to look over her copy and make sure she taught concepts behind the questions. She said she was already familiar with the concepts in the test and didnt use the copy to make up practice questions, as she said Mr. Weast told school board members in a letter.
But two teachers did use test questions directly in the classroom, Mr. Porter said.
Miss Bastas said she didnt know anyone had leaked questions to students until two pupils raised their hands while they were taking the test and told her theyd seen the questions in class.
She said she immediately told her supervisor and that they confronted a teacher who then admitted he had shared test questions with students. All this was relayed to the principal and "up the chain of command," Miss Bastas said.
Mr. Porter said employees at the Silver Spring school did "incomplete reporting and follow-through" in an effort to "minimize" the matter.
Mr. Maloney said Mr. Weast knew about the incident for at least 50 days before he reported it to the school board May 8, and that if anyone was doing damage control, it was the superintendent.
Mr. Porter said state regulations prohibit teachers, other than a coordinator responsible for making sure enough complete copies are on hand, to even see the test.
So, he said, teachers shouldnt have accepted test copies the math department head gave them in February, even if they did not use them and kept them under lock, as Miss Bastas said she did.
But Miss Bastas said she had no idea her supervisor wasnt authorized to distribute the test or that shed done anything wrong in accepting it.
"Ive never been trained in test administration or testing," Miss Bastas said.
Such training is "handled locally, on a school by school basis, [and] we have said there was incomplete training at [Silver Spring International Middle School]," Mr. Porter said.
Miss Bastas said the schools vice principal gave her about "five seconds" to read and sign a one-page nondisclosure agreement on the first day of the test in March. She said the vice principal didnt review the agreement with her or give her a copy.
Recommendations for discipline recognize that there were different levels of culpability, Mr. Porter said. Those recommendations call for firing the team leader, suspending for a year teachers who used test questions, and suspending for the rest of the year teachers, such as Miss Bastas, who had copies of the test.
A vocal contingent of parents and teachers have rallied around the sanctioned faculty members, criticizing Mr. Weasts actions as a rush to judgment.
State Superintendent of Schools 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.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide