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Eraser marks spark Arizona standardized test investigation

PHOENIX — Investigators at the Arizona Department of Education have released details of an investigation into several Arizona schools with questionable standardized test scores.

The seven schools in question had a higher-than-average number of 2014 AIMS tests, with incorrect answers erased and then later changed to correct answers.

“The common thread is that they are wrong to right erasers,” said Charles Tack, spokesperson with the Department of Education. “So if a student selects ‘A’ on their test and that’s the wrong answer and the correct answer is ‘C,’ this wrong to right eraser is when they’ve erased ‘A’ and marked ‘C.'”

While changing answers from wrong to right is not necessarily suspicious, Tack said the high quantity of students doing it was alarming.

“That’s what we flag because that to us shows an irregularity,” he said.

Department officials have invalidated the test scores in question and have also asked the Attorney General’s Office to look into the matter.

“So they can do a review and make any determination that may be appropriate under the circumstance,” Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction said.

The state’s top education leader said anytime there is an unusual trend in test scores the Department of Education needs to take it seriously. She pointed to the 2009 standardized test cheating scandal in Atlanta where several educators were later convicted of racketeering and inflating test scores.

“There were very serious repercussions,” Douglas said. “I certainly hope that, whatever the Attorney General decides to do, that bears no fruit in Arizona and that it’s just an anomaly.”

If there is intentional wrongdoing discovered, the seven schools could be in jeopardy of losing student success funding. The Department of Education is already considering reevaluating those schools’ academic performance grades.