Janesville, Beloit schools flagged for possible cheating

Administrators say erased answers came from students doing the right thing

The state flagged two Janesville and Beloit schools for possible cheating on standardized tests, although district administrators say it’s because of good test-taking advice to students.

McGraw-Hill, the company that provides the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams, also analyzes them and notified the state about “abnormal” numbers of erasures on some students’ answer sheets.

Janesville’s Franklin Middle and Beloit’s Robinson Elementary were among just 29 schools flagged out of 2,000 schools statewide. The erased answers came from students going back over their tests to check their work, district administrators said.

“We don’t find that necessarily unusual, given the fact that we’ve asked kids to work very carefully and make sure they go back and re-check their work,” said Kim Ehrhardt, Janesville’s curriculum director.

Ehrhardt said only eight of 575 Franklin middle schoolers were part of McGraw-Hill’s report. The state was satisfied with Janesville’s response, and the case is closed, he said.

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In a May 15 letter, the state Department of Public Instruction told the schools that erasing wrong answers and filling in the correct ones may be “coincidental” or that “inappropriate interventions or testing practices may have taken place.”

The state’s letter won’t result in follow-up punishment for the districts, said Patrick Gasper, a DPI spokesman.

In Beloit, a district spokeswoman also blamed the high number of erased answers on students checking their work.

Robinson Elementary’s 95 test-takers included many special education and English-as-a-second-language students, said Melissa Badger, the spokeswoman.

Those students get unlimited time to finish their tests and that resulted in many of them erasing answers, she said.

“In the almost 10 years I’ve been here this hasn’t happened,” Badger said. “Just like the principal of Robinson, I’m pretty confident that teachers wouldn’t go and change anything.”

Badger said she didn’t know how many students’ answers drew the state’s attention.

The state has flagged one other Janesville school, Marshall Middle, in the three years since test analysis began, Ehrhardt said.

No changes to test-taking procedures will happen as a result of the state’s inquiry, both administrators said.

The state’s standardized test will become an online exam in spring 2015, as the state rids of the paper-and-pencil model.

Below is a full list of schools flagged for abnormal erasures:

Ashland High School, Ashland
Robinson Elementary School, Beloit
Boscobel Elementary School, Boscobel Area
Brown Deer High School, Brown Deer
Bruce Guadalupe, Bruce Guadalupe
Nettie E Karcher School, Burlington Area
Crandon Middle School, Crandon
Lannon Elementary School, Hamilton
Independence Independence Elementary School, Independence
Franklin Middle School, Janesville
Dimensions of Learning Academy, Kenosha
Grant Elementary School, Marshfield Unified
Carson Academy, Milwaukee
Eighty-First Street Elementary School, Milwaukee
Grantosa Drive Elementary School, Milwaukee
Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language, Milwaukee
Riley Elementary School, Milwaukee
Lakeview Elementary School, Muskego-Norway
Northland Pines-Land O’ Lakes, Northland Pines
Paris Elementary School, Paris J1
Jerstad-Agerholm Elementary School, Racine Unified
Richfield Elementary School, Richfield J1
Rawson Elementary School, South Milwaukee
Hewitt-Texas Elementary School, Wausau
Franklin Elementary School, West Allis-West Milwaukee
Wilson Elementary School, West Allis-West Milwaukee
Decorah Elementary School, West Bend
Winter Elementary School, Winter
Vesper Community Academy, Wisconsin Rapids