Testing irregularities

This section describes the different types of irregularities that can occur before, during, and after testing. Testing incidents are categorized as serious violations or procedural irregularities. This section includes examples of both types of irregularities, as well as incidents involving student cheating. It is important for district testing personnel to understand the different types of irregularities so that each type of irregularity may be properly reported and addressed. 

Serious testing violations

Conduct that violates the security and confidentiality of a test and is considered a serious testing violation includes:

  • directly or indirectly assisting students with responses to test questions
  • tampering with student responses
  • falsifying holistic ratings or student responses
  • viewing secure test content before, during, or after an administration unless specifically authorized by TEA or by the procedures outlined in the test administration manuals
  • discussing or disclosing secure test content or student responses
  • scoring student tests, either formally or informally
  • duplicating, recording, or electronically capturing confidential test content unless specifically authorized by TEA or by the procedures outlined in the test administration manuals
  • responding to secure test questions
  • fraudulently exempting or preventing a student from participating in the administration of a required state assessment
  • receiving or providing unallowable assistance during calibration activities (e.g., taking notes, providing answer sheets, or sharing answers)
  • encouraging or assisting an individual to engage in the conduct described in the items listed above or in any other serious violation of security and confidentiality
  • failing to report to an appropriate authority that an individual has engaged in or is suspected of engaging in conduct described in the items listed above or in any other serious violation of security and confidentiality
  • failing to implement sufficient procedures to prevent student cheating
  • failing to implement sufficient procedures to prevent alteration of test documents by anyone other than the student

Any incidents involving alleged or suspected testing irregularities falling under the category of a serious violation must be reported to TEA's Student Assessment Division as soon as the district coordinator is made aware of the situation. Testing personnel should contact TEA if they are unsure whether an irregularity has occurred or if they are unclear regarding what constitutes a serious violation. The Serious Testing Violation form is available in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) under Administration and Security Forms.

Procedural testing irregularities

Procedural testing irregularities are less severe, more common, and typically the result of minor deviations in testing procedures. Routine training is the best way to avoid procedural irregularities. This section provides examples of specific types of procedural irregularities. The Procedural Testing Irregularity form is available in TIDE under Administration and Security Forms.

Accommodation errors

Accommodation errors typically involve providing appropriate accommodations or designated supports to ineligible students or not providing appropriate accommodations or designated supports to eligible students. Many accommodation errors, when identified in a timely manner, can be resolved with minimal impact to students. Testing personnel should be instructed to immediately notify their campus or district coordinator if they discover an accommodation error. If the error is not detected until after the assessment is complete, the district must determine if the assessment should be invalidated or submitted for scoring. If the district decides to invalidate a student’s test, the district should notify the student’s parent or guardian. District coordinators should contact the Student Assessment Division for guidance in resolving accommodation errors.

Examples:

  • A student was provided an unallowable accommodation.
  • A student, not approved for an accommodation, was provided the accommodation.
  • An allowable and approved accommodation was not provided to a student.
  • An allowable and approved accommodation was not properly administered or applied.
  • The district failed to get the required TEA approval for an accommodation.

Accounting errors

Improperly accounting for secure materials typically involves late, lost, or missing materials; failure to maintain the security of the materials; or improperly accounting for students’ tests, responses, and results. A majority of the situations that involve the loss or late return of secure materials results from not establishing or implementing basic inventory procedures (e.g., not reconciling the number of students scheduled to test against the number of answer documents submitted; not using materials control documents; not following check-in/check-out procedures; not accounting for items that were issued to test administrators at the end of each day, including test booklets, answer documents, test tickets).

If testing personnel locate any secure materials that were not returned after an administration, contact the Student Assessment Division immediately. District coordinators should always question why materials were returned late or how these materials were discovered in order to determine whether the items were kept secure or if there was a breach in confidentiality.

For all incidents where secure materials were left unattended, districts are required to provide a determination on an online incident report form of whether the secure materials were accessed and confidentiality was breached.

Examples:

  • Testing personnel lost or misplaced test booklet(s), answer document(s), or other secure test materials.
  • A test administrator did not return secure test materials following each day’s administration.
  • Secure test materials were left unattended, or secure online assessments were left open and visible.
  • Secure test materials were destroyed.
  • Secure test materials were not returned to the testing contractor by the published dates.
  • Scorable materials were found after test materials had been returned to the testing contractor.
  • A student was issued test materials (e.g., test booklet, answer document, test ticket) belonging to another student.
  • A student’s responses, holistic ratings, or observable behaviors ratings were submitted incorrectly (e.g., wrong subject or domain, wrong student).
  • A TELPAS writing collection was not submitted in accordance with required assembly criteria.
  • Students' test results or test performance was improperly shared (i.e., a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA] of 1974).

Eligibility errors

Eligibility errors typically involve administering the incorrect test to a student, not testing an eligible student, or testing an ineligible student. Many eligibility errors, when identified in a timely manner, can be resolved with minimal impact to students. Testing personnel should be instructed to immediately notify their campus or district coordinator if they suspect a student is being tested or has been tested incorrectly. District coordinators should contact the Student Assessment Division for guidance in resolving the issue.

Examples:

  • A student was administered an incorrect test (e.g., wrong grade level, wrong language, wrong version).
  • A student was administered a paper version and an online version of the same test.
  • A specific test was administered on the incorrect day (e.g., administered a reading test on the mathematics test day).
  • An eligible student was not administered a test (e.g., English learner [EL] whose parents waived district English as a Second Language [ESL] services was not administered the assessment).
  • An ineligible student was incorrectly administered a test (e.g., a student who has completed only the first part of U.S. History was administered the STAAR U.S. History test).
  • The district or campus failed to submit STAAR Alternate 2 student responses, TELPAS holistic ratings, or TELPAS Alternate observable behaviors ratings.
  • The district failed to properly account for all eligible testers.

Monitoring errors

Monitoring errors are some of the most common types of testing incidents but can be limited with appropriate and annual training. Improper monitoring can be detrimental to students. For example, accepting a blank answer document may result in a student not receiving credit for a test that student took. Other monitoring-related errors might lead to breaches in confidentiality that could place students’ test scores in question.

Districts should evaluate incidents involving improper student behavior and decide whether testing personnel were or were not actively monitoring testing. If active monitoring caught the improper student behavior, an online incident report form is not necessary. If improper or inactive monitoring occurred, an online incident report form must be submitted.

For all incidents where students were left unattended and unmonitored, districts are required to provide a determination on an online incident report form of whether the irregularity compromised the validity of the students’ assessments and the students' tests were invalidated.

Examples:

  • A test administrator
    • left a room unmonitored while students were testing; 
    • did not monitor students during a break from testing;
    • reinforced test-taking strategies;
    • did not provide the appropriate ancillary materials (e.g., dictionaries, calculators, reference materials);
    • did not properly prepare a testing environment or a device for testing;
    • did not use the test administrator manual during testing, did not read the "SAY" directions to students prior to testing, or deviated from the scripted directions;
    • did not properly complete the required seating chart; or
    • did not give students the correct amount of time to complete the test, including allowing students to continue testing another day without proper approval.
  • A test administrator did not actively monitor students and did not
    • detect when a student went back and worked on the previous day’s test or went ahead to the next test;
    • ensure that students worked independently during testing;
    • prevent students from using cell phones or any other electronic device to take pictures, share postings, or send messages;
    • verify that students recorded their responses and accepted blank answer documents from students; or
    • confirm that students submitted online tests.

Training errors

Training errors involve mistakes in training, calibration, or security oaths.

Examples:

  • Personnel were permitted to administer tests, monitor test sessions, relieve a test administrator during a break, or handle secure materials even though they were not properly trained or did not sign the appropriate Oath of Test Security and Confidentiality.
  • Raters for TELPAS did not follow proper training or calibration procedures.

Incidents involving student cheating

Most of the irregularities district coordinators address involve occurrences in which adult testing personnel bear responsibility for what happened. In some cases, however, students may cheat or attempt to cheat. Districts are required to have procedures in place to prevent cheating through the use of cell phones and personal electronic devices during test administrations. If a student photographs, duplicates, posts, or transmits secure test content or disseminates this information using an electronic device, the Student Assessment Division must be contacted immediately.

Student cheating on state assessments, either by providing or receiving assistance, requires action by the campus or the district coordinator. After investigating the incident, if the district determines that a student has been involved in cheating on a state assessment, the district is required to

  • invalidate the student’s test (as required by TAC, §101.3031(a)(4)) by marking the score code “O” for “Other” on the student’s answer document or in the online form for the corresponding test and 
  • complete the Locally Determined Disciplinary Action (LDAA) form to report any disciplinary action taken against students who participated in the cheating incident.

An online incident report form should be submitted only if the district determines that adult testing personnel contributed to, caused, or failed to detect the cheating. The district should submit a procedural irregularity if it determines that a testing error (such as inadequate monitoring) contributed to the cheating. The district should submit a serious violation only if it determines that testing personnel contributed to the cheating.

Incidents that are not necessarily testing irregularities

The following events may not be considered testing irregularities and may not need to be reported on an online incident report form.

  • Student moving into another section of the test—if a test administrator is properly monitoring a student working in a subject-area assessment other than the scheduled assessment for that day, an online incident report form is not necessary. Districts or campuses should investigate to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the event and should call the Student Assessment Division for guidance. If it is determined that the student was cheating, districts should follow the procedures concerning students cheating on state assessments.
  • Unexpected disruptions in testing—disruptions in testing generally involve unplanned situations that are not the result of an error on the part of adult testing personnel. Districts should refer to the Planning for possible testing disruptions section and contact the Student Assessment Division for additional guidance.
  • Violation of district cell phone policy—districts are not required to report events involving the use of cell phones or other electronic devices unless a student photographs, duplicates, posts, or transmits secure test content or disseminates this information using an electronic device. Contact the Student Assessment Division if further guidance is needed.

District coordinators should evaluate the circumstances of these types of occurrences and determine whether any adults bear the responsibility for what happened. If the district determines that no error was committed by district personnel or any other adult, the district should keep local documentation of what occurred. Districts should contact the Student Assessment Division if additional guidance is needed.

How to avoid testing irregularities

Despite how well prepared or well trained testing personnel may be, the possibility still exists that a mistake will be made. Some suggestions on how to avoid testing irregularities are listed below.

How to avoid serious violations

  • Provide thorough and annual training to test administrators so they will understand the penalties for engaging in conduct that violates test security and confidentiality.
  • Ensure test administrators understand how to address students who might request assistance or drift off task during an assessment. Ensure testing personnel have a reliable means to request assistance if they encounter an issue which they are uncertain how to handle.
  • Stress that test content should not be viewed or discussed even after the test administration has been completed (e.g., in the classroom with students, in a faculty or team meeting). This applies to discussions regarding the specific content of tests. It is acceptable for teachers to talk with their students about their testing experience or the test in general as long as the conversation does not become specific.
  • Reinforce to testing personnel the proper procedures for conducting an oral administration (including level of reading assistance, test booklet form, etc.), particularly procedures that prohibit test administrators from solving test items or discussing secure content or student performance.
  • Discuss with test administrators the proper way in which students should be prompted to mark responses on their answer documents. Erasing stray marks or darkening response circles by someone other than the student is strictly prohibited. In addition, adjusting responses to griddable questions to account for proper decimal placement is strictly prohibited.
  • Verify that any scratch paper, graph paper, or reference materials written on by students during the test, as well as any recordings, test tickets, and online test session IDs are collected and destroyed after completion of the test administration.
  • Verify that campuses designate a sufficient number of testing personnel to adequately monitor the test administration.

How to avoid accommodation errors

  • Before a test administration, verify with the appropriate campus personnel that you are using the most up-to-date information regarding the testing requirements and accommodations for students. Confirm this information also for any newly enrolled students.
  • Ensure that all Personal Needs and Preferences (PNPs) are in place for students taking an online assessment with designated supports.
  • Establish procedures for communicating to the appropriate individuals at the campus level (e.g., language proficiency assessment committee [LPAC]; admission, review, and dismissal [ARD] committee; Section 504 Plan placement committee; response to intervention [RtI] team; student assistance team) those testing decisions that are in conflict with state assessment requirements or procedures.

How to avoid accounting errors

  • Emphasize to test administrators that some materials are preassigned to specific students. Train test administrators to carefully verify that students are issued their corresponding materials and to note students assigned to the same session who have the same or similar names.
  • Emphasize that test administrators are not allowed to leave unattended secure test materials or open online tests.
  • Verify that all student test tickets are collected at the end of a test session.
  • Verify that all test booklets are accounted for daily by using the Materials Control Form.
  • Ensure that no answer documents were left inside test booklets, and keep completed answer documents separate from other materials, such as scratch paper, etc.
  • Confirm that the contents of each box match the return shipping label and are not mixed between administrations.
  • Check boxes to make sure that no voided or completed answer documents are returned with nonscorable materials.
  • Keep test materials from the same test administration together—do not mix them with any other test administration materials.
  • Properly label boxes according to directions provided by the testing contractor and prepare for return (e.g., 1 of 5, 2 of 5). Identify and track for your records which boxes contain which materials in case boxes are lost in transit or questions arise regarding the return of these materials.

How to avoid eligibility errors

  • Ensure you have identified and accounted for all students, including newly enrolled students or students whose assessment requirements might have changed just prior to an administration.
  • Verify the registration file is accurate and includes any updates to students’ testing information.
  • Verify the grade level and testing status of all enrolled students, especially newly enrolled students.
  • Verify appropriate online test sessions have been created.
  • Verify your roster(s) to confirm where students are supposed to be testing.
  • Establish procedures for ensuring that all students are present in or directed to the correct testing location.
  • Establish a process to confirm that all students are administered the correct assessments.
  • Establish a process to confirm that all students take the test only once per administration.

How to avoid monitoring errors

  • Make certain that campus coordinators have verified that all test administrators are in possession of the appropriate test administrator manuals and resources on the days of testing.
  • Make sure that campus coordinators have verified with test administrators which ancillary materials are allowed or required for each subject and for each test.
  • Emphasize that test administrators are not allowed to leave students unattended with secure test materials.
  • Clearly establish which test administrators will be relieved for breaks and by whom (all individuals who work as test administrators or as relief test administrators must be trained at least once and sign a security oath).
  • Periodically check test sessions to ensure that test administrators are actively monitoring testing.
  • Instruct test administrators to immediately notify the appropriate testing personnel when improper student behavior has been detected.
  • Monitor test session start times to anticipate when they should be concluding. Campus coordinators should consider checking on test administrators during the final hour of testing to remind them that limited time remains. This should help test administrators remember to tell students to record all their responses on their answer documents.

How to avoid training errors

  • Notify campus testing coordinators and test administrators which personnel are trained and authorized to transport secure test materials or to monitor or relieve test administrations.
  • Confirm that a sufficient number of staff have been properly trained in test administration procedures.
  • Confirm that all personnel involved in testing are trained and sign the appropriate security oath.
  • Verify that testing personnel were provided the correct resources (e.g., test administrator manuals) in advance of training so they may read them thoroughly.
  • Establish a process for ensuring that rater training and calibration procedures are followed.

On this Page