In the wake of the resignation two weeks ago of a District 97 elementary school principal after her staff tampered with state standardized tests administered to students, the district is considering ways to improve staff training on testing protocols at every elementary and middle school in Oak Park.
Nimisha Kumar, principal at Mann School, 921 N. Kenilworth, resigned on March 22 after a district investigation discovered that some of her staff mishandled testing materials used by students while administering the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in early March.
Staff members were found to have erased stray marks left by students after they turned in their tests, as well as giving students extra time to answer questions missed for such reasons as booklet pages being stuck together, among other violations of state testing procedures. The violations were committed by “a handful of staff,” according to district officials, affecting the tests of about 20 third- and fourth-graders.
Kumar will stay on through June 30. The staff members involved in the violations could face some form of disciplinary action as early as next week, according to district officials. Supt. Albert Roberts called what happened a “lapse in judgment” by some staff, who did not properly following state testing procedures, and that it was not done intentionally to give D97 students an unfair advantage, based on the findings of the district’s investigation. The administration has not said how many staff members were involved in the violations.
Chris Jasculca, D97’s spokesperson, said the district trains its “ISAT coordinators” annually each February. Those coordinators are “the individuals assigned to oversee the administration of the test in each building. They include principals, assistant principals and student support specialists,” Jasculca said.
“While we believe this training properly prepares our staff to fulfill their responsibilities in conjunction with the test,” he added, “we are currently considering what additional steps we can take to ensure that all future tests, assessments and standards are administered in accordance with the Illinois School Code.”
Jasculca said those steps could include creating additional, supplement information for staff concerning proper testing protocols as outlined by the Illinois State Board of Education.
With Kumar’s resignation, the district will search for a replacement or consider an interim principal.