Louisville Male principal, staffers could face disciplinary acti - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville Male principal, staffers could face disciplinary actions

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David Mike David Mike
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Male High School Principal David Mike and two other school staffers could face disciplinary actions at the hands of the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board following the results of an investigation into allegations of cheating on a standardized test.

The Kentucky Department of Education investigation released Monday says several violations occurred as a result of Mike and the other staffers’ failure to “ensure the security” of ACT Compass exams given last fall.

Students “received assistance from teachers and (other) students” while taking the test, among other violations outlined in the report.

The violations “increased the number of students” attaining test scores designating them as “college ready ” – thus, improving Male’s standing for state accountability purposes, the department of education found.

The other Male staffers implicated are counselor Rhonda Branch and teacher Debbie Greenberg.

In a cover letter on the July 3 report, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said violations are referred to the Education Professional Standards Board when “evidence exists that the violation could be intentional.”

The standards board has received the education’s department investigation, said Alicia Sneed, the board’s director of legal services.

Cases can take months or even years to unfold before the board, which has the power to revoke teaching certificates under Kentucky law in the most egregious cases, she said.

In addition to referring the case to the board, the education department recommended that Mike, Greenberg and Branch receive “ethics training.” The three are “not to have any involvement” in administering ACT tests, according to the report.

The report also says Greenberg is “no longer allowed to access, oversee or administer” any state-required assessment without written approval from the department.

Greenberg retired effective July 1, while Branch remains employed, JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said.

Mike was reassigned last month to administrative duties in Jefferson County Public Schools’ central office. The school system said it would begin its own investigation into the ACT Compass situation once the Kentucky Department of Education finalized its report.

“JCPS is closely examining the Kentucky Department of Education’s findings as part of our own investigation,” Jackey said in a prepared statement. “JCPS takes the recommendations in this report very seriously and will ensure the employees mentioned follow these directives so that student learning and achievement remain the focus of their efforts.” 

Findings allege cover-up by Mike

Among 43 “investigative findings” of the report are that two staff members “indicated that Mr. Mike and/or Ms. Greenberg tried to coach them as to what to say to the investigators when questioned” and a student “indicated she felt intimidated or bullied by Mr. Mike into lying for him about the Compass cheating.”

The report also says that Mike instructed a teacher, Sarah Graziano, to destroy student notebooks that were later found to have contained Compass test questions.

Graziano brought Mike the notebooks after the principal had already provided ACT with all student notes relating to the Compass test at the start of the investigation in December, the report said.

Mike told Graziano to “wait until the end of the year and put (the notebooks) in a bag, close it up, take the notebooks home and dispose of them,” the report said. Instead, Graziano turned the notebooks in to investigators from ACT and the state department of education.

Mike’s instructions to Graziano came despite the fact he had signed a statement for ACT saying he had “personally ensured” all notes relevant to the ACT Compass test had been collected and sent to the organization, the report said.

Compass was given to seniors at Male whose scores on the traditional ACT did not meet certain benchmarks for “college readiness.” The computerized exam is a way for students to certify their readiness for college English, writing and math.

In November, at the direction of Mike, a version of the Compass test software was installed in a computer lab at Male, according to the report. Students used the software to “practice” taking the test before taking the Internet-connected version that actually recorded their scores for state accountability purposes.

In a February letter to Mike, ACT said Male did not have authorization to use the software version of the test. There is no “practice” exam, an ACT official told WDRB.

Despite that, students at Male were allowed to take the “practice” test as many times as they wanted, and it was only after they could attain a passing score on the “practice” exam that Greenberg would allow them to take the actual exam, the report said.

One student said he or she took the test “about 15 times,” according to the report. Some students did more than one “practice” test before taking the real test, all on the same day, the report said.

Investigators determined that there was “significant overlap” between the two versions of the test and that the students’ notes – including the notebooks that Mike told Graziano to get rid of – “consisted of ‘live’ Compass test items.”

ACT’s “statistical evidence” showed a “significantly large increase in students’ Compass scores for fall 2013 when compared with scores from previous years,” the report said. The results were “compromised” by the fact that students were exposed to actual test questions via the “practice” test, the report said.

Both versions of the test were given in the same computer lab and “there was a lot of movement and interaction among students and staff in the lab while students were working on the ‘practice test’ and taking the actual” exam, the report said.

Students reported they received help and answers on the Compass test from Mike, Greenberg and Branch, according to the report.

“Greenberg told them if they needed help she ‘will not give answers, but if they raised their hand she would give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down,’” the report said.

Another finding: Greenberg and Branch “manufactured a story” that a student was sick to get ACT to “omit” the student’s second and final Compass test, thus giving the student a third opportunity to take the exam.

Mike has declined to comment since WDRB began asking about the Compass test situation in May. He did not immediately return an email Monday. Greenberg did not immediately return a Facebook message seeking comment. Branch could not be reached. Male’s central office staff said she is on break until later this month.

Information began to surface about the Compass test situation this spring after Mike angered some students, parents and teachers by designating several staff members as “overstaffed” – meaning they could be forced to transfer to another school.

The report released Monday notes that the staff members who said Mike “and/or” Greenberg tried to coach them as to what to say to investigators “did not come forward or share knowledge of the incidents until the issue with overstaffing occurred.”

Ben Wyman, a parent and outspoken member of Male’s School-based Decision Making council, said Monday he is “happy that the justice process is progressing as it relates to David Mike and others. 

“I am anxious though, because there is much to clean up.  We have unresolved budget and staffing issues that cannot wait.”


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