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State Investigation Clears LEUSD Of Alleged Wrongdoing

The investigation stems back to an Oct. 26 allegation sent to the California Department of Education.

An allegation that the Lake Elsinore Unified School District fudged state test results is unfounded, a California Department of Education investigation has revealed.

According to a May 2 letter from the office of Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Schools, the matter is closed.

“Based upon the evidence available at this time, there does not seem to be any evidence that supports the allegation,” Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah V.H. Sigman wrote in the letter to LEUSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Passarella. “… please accept my thanks for your patience and diligence in resolving this difficult issue.”

The investigation stems back to October when an email was sent to the CDE alleging the district was fraudulently assessing and reporting STAR test data. The allegation claimed that students tested "Proficient" or "Above" while in the LEUSD, but when these same students transferred out of the district they tested "Below" in their new schools.  

The allegation also claimed that only 60 percent of LEUSD students were made available for STAR tests because the district dropped and then reenrolled students. 

The state investigation did point out that the district had not always been timely in reporting students who transfer within the district, but noted that appropriate actions were taken.

“We understand the district has made changes in their organizational structure to prevent this discrepancy from reoccurrence,” Sigman stated in her letter.

On Dec. 1, the CDE put the LEUSD on notice of an investigation into the allegation. According to a news release from the district, “exhaustive records, and verification of internal procedures” were provided to investigators as a result.

The allegation also claimed there was a conflict of interest “or the appearance of such” because LEUSD Assessment and Accountability Administrator Doug Wells is married to Dr. Shannon Wells, CEO of Key Data Systems, a company that verifies STAR test data.

Based on the May 4 letter, there were no irregularities found regarding Dr. Wells work, and the district news release stated that Doug Wells played a key role in providing state investigators with requested information.

Although the investigation is officially closed, Sigman said the CDE retains the right to re-examine the decision if new information becomes available.

The May 4 letter came at an opportune time. That same day, six LEUSD elementary schools were honored in Ontario during the 2012 California School Recognition Program Honoring Great Schools. Cottonwood Canyon, Elsinore, Rice Canyon, Tuscany Hills and Wildomar were all honored as 2012 California Distinguished Schools. Wildomar was also honored as a 2012 Title l Academic Achievement School, and William Collier was honored as a 2011 National Blue Ribbon School.

The LEUSD is now ranked third in Riverside County in terms of overall API scores, trailing only behind Temecula and Murrieta school districts.

5/8/12 UPDATE: Dr. Shannon Wells said neither she, nor anyone at her company verifies STAR test data. Verification of test data can only be done by the California Department of Education (CDE) and Educational Testing Service (ETS), she said. "Neither me, nor anyone from my company has ever worked for or been contracted to do work with CDE or ETS," she said.

Wild Omar Teach May 08, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Say what? Dr. Shannon Wells. LMAO! I bet you she bought her degree from the same online university as our "Dr". Passarella. Pretty soon all our board members, directors and their assistants will have that title as well. Congratulations to LEUSD, we dodged the bullet on this one. Now replace Doug so he doesn't put us in the same situation. He is a data analyst and his wife gets the business if this is not conflict of interest then what would you call it? Thank you Mr. and "Dr". Wells, we're all refreshed and challenged by your unique points of view on conflict of interest.
Anon May 08, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Dr. Shannon Wells??? Really? STOP STEALING MY TAX DOLLARS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Warner Huxtable May 08, 2012 at 10:40 PM
So after all the accusations the district is cleared of all wrongdoing. That's pretty funny! Now, how much you want to bet that the people who said the district was juking test scores will just say the state was too stupid to catch them, or that the state was complicit, or come up with some other convenient excuse to condemn the board and the superintendent.
Titan Mom! May 09, 2012 at 09:00 PM
That just means they didn't have enough evidence. The district Doctor records.
ElsinoreParent May 10, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Online university? Check your facts: http://www.keydatasys.com/AboutUs/ExecutiveTeam.aspx
Michele Bush May 27, 2012 at 08:10 AM
Well, Dr. Wells says she has not verify the tests results for CDE or ETS, but Key Data Systems where she works has recently entered into a contract with LEUSD in the amount of $75,000 to collect and compile their test scores to be submitted to the state in the future. in the amount of $75,000 to compile and record the test results
Put the children 1st May 30, 2012 at 06:12 PM
U.S. Citizen, Go to the California State Controller's website and locate and read the LEUSD Audit Report Standardized Testing & Reporting Program dated Sept. 2010. This Audit was for 1997-2004. The California State Auditor denied LEUSD thier total amount claimed for expenses in the amount of $1,615,942 because the District claimed unsupported or ineligible costs. The District did not have any supporting documentation for claiming this reimbursement from the state. So it is easy to surmise that if they haven't been keeping documentation of their testing procedures as required, then the recent findings of the investigation into the tests score allegations was that they could not find evidence as you had suggested, it doesn't mean they are innocent. Shouldn't their tests scores be disqualified if they have not been keeping the required documentation ?
Put the children 1st May 30, 2012 at 06:29 PM
U.S. Citizen, Here is another thought to consider. The current Riverside County Superintendent Kenneth Young who overseas LEUSD, was employed before 2004 with LEUSD as the Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Superintendent of Fiscal Services and Director of Facilities. In 2012 he was appointed to be a member of the State's Public Schools Accountability Act Advisory Commitee as an Advisor to both the State Superintendent & School Board of Education on Academic Performance Index (API). It probably wouldn't look good for him or his office if the testing allegations against LEUSD were substantiated. Again evidence can't be found if there is no documentation. So my question is why is LEUSD not currently in API when they have reported they are?

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