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.