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Teachers cause API scores to be scrapped

Two Orange County teachers who violated state rules for administering standardized tests in spring 2012 were responsible for the invalidation of their schools' Academic Performance Index scores and were disciplined, according to district records.

Carolyn Lambert, a former fifth-grade teacher at Garden Grove's Peters Elementary School, and Leslie Michihira, a second-grade teacher at Westminster's Willmore Elementary, were found to have given their students a competitive advantage when they administered the Standardized Testing and Reporting exams, according to disciplinary records released in response to a Register information request.

The state does not assign API scores to schools in which more than 5 percent of students are exposed to an "adult irregularity" during testing.

Lambert and Michihira did not return messages left for them at their schools.

Three other O.C. schools have had their API scores invalidated over the past decade – Tustin's Barbara Benson Elementary in 2010, Newport Beach's Newport Elementary in 2007 and Orange's Richland Continuation High in 2004.

Lambert asked her students at least three science questions directly from a testing booklet in the days leading up to the exam's administration, according to Garden Grove Unified School District records.

The impropriety was discovered on a day Lambert was absent, when Lambert's substitute attempted to find her lesson plans, according to the district's investigative summary. Another teacher who was asked to assist the substitute saw sticky notes affixed inside an actual exam booklet that had yet to be administered.

"I asked (the students who found the booklet) if this was what they used on Friday, and they both said yes," the teacher said in a written district statement. "I immediately went back to Room 95 and told (Lambert's substitute) that he could not use any questions from the test booklet and that I would try to help him find an alternative."

Lambert, a Garden Grove Unified teacher for 22 years, received a 15-day unpaid suspension June 1-21, according to district records. The district also confirmed to the Register that she was transferred to another school in the district, Skylark Elementary in Garden Grove, and assigned to teach a grade level that does not take STAR tests.

Lambert also was reported to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, although the district wrote a letter asking that she be allowed to keep her teaching license. Lambert holds a valid credential.

"She has had outstanding evaluations on her performance and has been an excellent employee," Joli Armitage, Garden Grove Unified's assistant superintendent for personnel services, wrote in the Oct. 26 letter. "It is our strong belief that Carolyn made a mistake for which she has paid the consequences."

During language-arts testing at Willmore, Michihira read multiple passages and questions out loud to her students, providing a leg-up on an exam that was designed to test, in part, students' reading-comprehension skills.

Michihira admitted to Westminster School District officials that she had read one passage out loud, according to records.

"Your failure to follow these state laws and regulations not only brought into question the accuracy of your students' test data," Principal Robert McKane wrote in Michihira's reprimand letter, "but has also resulted in the invalidation of Willmore School's Academic Performance Index score for 2012, and has rendered Willmore ineligible for state and federal awards programs, such as Blue Ribbon Schools and California Distinguished Schools Program for the 2012-13 school year."

Westminster district officials also reported that Michihira had improperly reviewed with her class a previous day's test that a substitute teacher had administered. Students, however, were not allowed to change their answers after the review, officials said.

In her reprimand letter, Michihira, who remains employed at Willmore, was barred from administering state exams and district benchmark exams. She was instructed, though, to remain in her classroom during testing so a proctor could "demonstrate proper administration" to her.

Michihira has been working in the Westminster district since 1996, according to district records.

The school districts reported the testing irregularities to the state in May.

Peters reported that 97 of the 857 students tested were affected. Willmore reported that 22 of the 263 students tested were affected.

Students at the affected schools, however, still received individual score reports, and the schools received raw test scores.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7802 or or Twitter: @MartindaleScott

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