Investigating and reporting testing irregularities

The superintendent in each school district, the chief administrative officer of each charter school, and any private school administering tests must ensure that the TEA Student Assessment Division is notified of any conduct that violates the security or confidential integrity of a test. Each person participating in the assessment program is responsible for reporting any violation or suspected violation of test security or confidentiality. Campus staff should notify their campus or district testing coordinator if they witness an irregularity or suspect that one has occurred. Districts must ensure that all testing personnel are aware of their obligation to report testing irregularities and can easily access local reporting procedures. Failure to properly report that an individual has engaged in conduct that violates the security or confidentiality of a test or failure to cooperate with TEA in an investigation is itself a violation under TAC, §249.15(b)(6) and (b)(8).

When testing irregularities occur, it is important to have procedures in place to help ensure that all the necessary information is gathered in a timely manner and evaluated so the district can make a clear determination about the incident. The district coordinator is responsible for investigating all testing violations, whether confirmed or alleged.

The district coordinator is responsible for ensuring that all confirmed testing irregularities are reported to TEA via an online incident report form. Reporting requirements differ based on the severity of the confirmed or alleged violation; therefore, district coordinators must determine whether the incident is a serious violation or procedural irregularity. Districts must submit the required information and documentation for irregularities within 10 working days of becoming aware of the violation. If more time is needed, district coordinators should contact the Student Assessment Division to request an extension of the deadline.

To ensure that state investigations, sanctions, and corrective actions are conducted in a fair, expeditious, and equitable manner, the Student Assessment Division has implemented a standardized set of procedures for processing testing violations. All incident reports and supporting documentation are assessed for completeness to make certain that the required information has been submitted for each irregularity. Reports are then carefully reviewed, and a determination is made by test security staff regarding the disposition of each incident. Correspondence is subsequently generated to notify the district of TEA’s findings.

Additionally, the Student Assessment Division will periodically audit a district to verify that plans of action submitted in response to reported testing irregularities have been implemented.

Student assessment staff are experienced in assisting districts with handling and reporting testing irregularities and are available to provide guidance for district personnel. Do not hesitate to contact the division if you have questions about an incident that occurred in your district, its severity, or the correct way to report it.

Investigating procedural testing irregularities

Because procedural testing irregularities are often the result of minor errors that do not generally represent severe breaches in test security or confidentiality (refer to the Procedural testing irregularities section), they require only the submission of a Procedural Testing Irregularity Report Form that includes (1) a summary of events, and (2) a plan of action. The summary of events must include an overall description of the incident, and the plan of action should describe the district’s plan to prevent reoccurrence of the incident. Both of these pieces of information should be entered directly into the online incident report form. For procedural testing irregularities, the district’s reporting obligation is fulfilled once the online submission has been completed. Documentation collected by the district during the investigation of a procedural irregularity should be kept locally. If more information is needed, the Student Assessment Division will contact the district coordinator.

Investigating serious testing violations

District coordinators must notify the TEA Student Assessment Division as soon as they are made aware of any alleged or suspected violations that fall under the category of a serious violation.

The nature of serious testing violations (refer to the Serious testing violations section) requires a prompt investigation by the district so that all necessary evidence is gathered while the individuals involved in the violation are still available to interview and able to recall details. Depending on the nature and severity of the issue, TEA may request that the district take certain actions, such as interviewing students or reviewing test materials.

The investigation of the serious violation should include the following steps:

  • Note at what campus the incident occurred and during which administration (month, year, program, grade level, subject area or course, etc.).
  • Determine whether state-mandated testing procedures were violated.
  • Determine exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it was discovered.
  • Prepare a timeline to establish when events occurred.
  • Obtain separate, typed, signed, and dated statements from all individuals who were involved in or may have information about the incident.
  • Verify that each statement includes:
    • name, title, contact information, and role during testing;
    • how the individual was responsible for or involved in the incident;
    • a description of the incident from the individual’s perspective;
    • the individual’s signature; and
    • the date the statement was signed.
  • Obtain statements from all students who were involved in or may have information about the incident. Student statements may be handwritten or recorded and transcribed. If the district records a student’s statement, written consent from the student’s parent must be obtained as required under TEC, §26.009. Contact information for each student should be maintained at the local level as the Student Assessment Division may require it at a later date.
  • Determine who is responsible for the serious testing violation.
  • Inform individual(s) implicated in a serious testing violation of the allegations being made and request that he or she respond directly in writing to all allegations.
  • Address and resolve any discrepancies that may exist in the information provided by the individuals involved.
  • Determine if the testing violation compromised the validity of the students’ assessments and the students’ tests should be invalidated.

Submitting a testing irregularity form

To complete the process of submitting an online testing irregularity incident report form, district coordinators must provide all of the required information. For both serious testing violations and procedural testing irregularities, the summary of events must include the following information.

  • Note at what campus the incident occurred and during which administration (month, year, program, grade level, and subject area or course, etc.).
  • Make certain the incident documentation includes the district’s summation of its investigation detailing what happened; the sequence of events; why it happened; how the error was addressed, remedied, or resolved; and a determination of who was responsible for the error.
  • Include a plan of action that describes the district’s plan to prevent reoccurrence of the incident.
  • If TEA was contacted for guidance, document when the contact was made and with whom you spoke. If the district was granted permission to take a certain action or instructed on how to remedy an error, include that information in your report.

The Procedural Testing Irregularity form and Serious Testing Violation form are available in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) under Administration and Security Forms. The online testing irregularity forms do not permit users to correct or update information once the form has been submitted and an incident identification number has been issued. Submitters are strongly encouraged to have all information available regarding the incident before starting the reporting process. If information needs to be updated or changed once a form has been submitted, contact the Student Assessment Division, and reference the incident identification number.

Submitting a procedural testing irregularity form

To fulfill the state’s requirements for reporting a procedural testing irregularity, the district must submit a Procedural Testing Irregularity form that includes (1) a summary of events and (2) a plan of action.

Submitting a serious testing violation form

In an effort to minimize the burden on districts, supporting documentation is required only for serious testing violations. Districts should upload supporting documentation into the Serious Testing Violation form so that all reporting requirements can be fulfilled in one step. All supporting documentation should be scanned or converted into an electronic format so it can be easily attached during the submission process and then stored locally to meet retention requirements. It is preferable that the documentation be combined into only one scanned file.

To fulfill the state’s requirements for reporting a serious testing violation, the district must submit:

  • a Serious Testing Violation form
  • a summary of events 
  • a plan of action
  • a determination of who was responsible for the violation
  • any disciplinary action that was taken locally against the accused individual(s)
  • a decision to score or invalidate students’ tests if the testing violation compromised the validity of the students’ assessments
  • typed, signed, and dated statement(s) from individuals involved (students and adults)
  • a copy of a signed Oath of Test Security and Confidentiality from the accused individual(s)
  • contact information the accused individual(s)
  • the last four digits of the accused individual(s) social security number

For assistance and tampering violations, districts also need to submit:

  • class rosters with Texas Student Data System (TSDS) identification numbers
  • seating charts
  • Materials Control Forms

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