Investigating and Reporting Testing Irregularities

The superintendent of each school district, the chief administrative officer of each charter school, and the leadership of any private school administering assessments must ensure that the TEA Student Assessment Division is notified of any conduct that violates the security or confidentiality of an assessment. 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 coordinator if they witness a testing irregularity or suspect that one has occurred. District coordinators 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 an assessment and failure to cooperate with TEA in an investigation are violations under Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §249.15(b)(6) and (b)(8).

It is important to have procedures in place to gather and evaluate in a timely manner all information necessary to the investigation of an incident so that the district coordinator 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 a testing irregularity form in TIDE. Reporting requirements differ based on the severity of the confirmed or alleged testing irregularity; therefore, district coordinators must determine whether the incident is a serious violation or a procedural irregularity. District coordinators must submit the required information and documentation for irregularities within 10 working days of becoming aware of the incident. If more time is needed, district coordinators should contact the TEA 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, TEA follows a standardized set of procedures for processing testing irregularities. All testing irregularity forms and supporting documentation are assessed for completeness to make certain that the required information has been submitted for each irregularity. Test security staff carefully review testing irregularity forms and documentation before making a determination regarding the disposition of each incident. TEA subsequently notifies the district coordinator of its findings.

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

TEA Student Assessment Division staff are experienced in assisting district testing personnel 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 a testing irregularity that occurred in your district, its severity, or the correct way to report it.

Submitting a Testing Irregularity Form

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

  • the name of the campus and the test administration (month, year, program, grade level, and subject area or course, etc.) during which the incident occurred;

  • the district coordinator’s summation of his or her investigation detailing:

    • what happened;

    • the sequence of events;

    • why it happened;

    • how the error was addressed, remedied, or resolved; and

    • who was responsible for the error;

  • a plan of action describing the steps the district coordinator intends to take to prevent recurrence of the testing irregularity;

  • if TEA was contacted for guidance, documentation of when the contact was made and the name of the TEA contact; and

  • if the district coordinator was granted permission to take a certain action or instructed on how to remedy an error, what permission was granted or instruction given.

The Procedural Testing Irregularity and Serious Testing Violation forms are available in TIDE under Administration and Security Forms. Users will receive an email from TIDE acknowledging the submission of the form and providing an incident identification number. Because the online testing irregularity forms do not permit users to correct or update information once the form has been submitted, submitters are strongly encouraged to have all information available regarding the testing irregularity before starting the reporting process. If information needs to be updated or changed after a form has been submitted, contact the TEA Student Assessment Division and reference the incident identification number.

Reporting 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, they require only the submission of a Procedural Testing Irregularity form that includes a summary of events and 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 recurrence of the testing irregularity. Both of these pieces of information should be entered directly into the Procedural Testing Irregularity form in TIDE. It is acceptable to submit one form per error regardless of the number of students affected; however, district testing personnel should indicate the number of students affected within the summary of events. For procedural testing irregularities, the district’s reporting obligation is fulfilled once the online submission has been completed. Documentation collected by district personnel during the investigation of a procedural testing irregularity should be kept locally. If more information is needed, TEA 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 incidents that fall under the category of a serious violation.

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

The investigation of a serious violation should include the following:

  • the name of the campus where the testing irregularity occurred and which test administration (month, year, program, grade level, subject area or course, etc.) was affected;

  • a determination of whether state-mandated testing procedures were violated;

  • a determination of exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it was discovered;

  • a timeline establishing when events occurred;

  • notification to educators implicated in a serious testing violation of the allegations being made and a request that they respond directly in writing to all allegations;

  • separate typed, signed, and dated statements from each individual who was involved in or may have information about the testing irregularity;

  • verification that each statement includes:

    • name, title, contact information, and role during testing,

    • how the individual was responsible for or involved in the testing irregularity,

    • a description of the incident from the individual’s perspective,

    • the individual’s signature, and

    • the date the statement was signed;

  • statements from all students who were involved in or may have information about the testing irregularity. Student statements may be handwritten or recorded and transcribed. If district personnel record a student’s statement, written consent from the student’s parent must be obtained as required under Texas Education Code (TEC) §26.009. Contact information for each student should be maintained at the local level, as the TEA Student Assessment Division may require it at a later date;

  • resolution of any discrepancies that may exist in the information provided by the individuals involved;

  • a determination of who is responsible for the serious testing violation; and

  • a determination of whether the testing violation compromised the validity of the students’ assessments. If so, the students’ assessments should be invalidated.

Reporting Serious Testing Violations

In an effort to minimize the burden on districts, supporting documentation is required only for serious testing violations. District coordinators 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, preferably in one file that can be easily attached during the submission process and then stored locally to meet retention requirements.

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

  • a record of the district coordinator’s decision to score or invalidate students’ assessments (if the testing violation compromised the validity of the students’ assessments, the students’ assessments should be invalidated);

  • a typed, signed, and dated statement from each individual involved (students and adults);

  • a copy of a signed Oath of Test Security and Confidentiality from each accused educator;

  • a record of any disciplinary action that was taken locally against each accused educator;

  • contact information for each accused educator; and

  • the last four digits of the social security number for each accused educator.

For assistance and tampering violations, district coordinators also need to submit:

  • class rosters with Texas Student Data System (TSDS) identification numbers;

  • required seating charts; and

  • Materials Control Forms, as applicable.