Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Supreme Court refuses to hear suspended teacher's appeal

The Supreme Court of Ohio today, in a 4-3 vote, declined to hear the appeal of a teacher who had her teaching licensed suspended by the Ohio State Board of Education for alleged violations of R.C. 3319.151(A).

At issue in the case was a teacher with 25 years teaching experience. In March 2006, she served as a proctor of the Ohio Achievement Test. During the reading test administration, the teacher created a practice worksheet for the math portion of the test. Certain questions on her practice worksheet requested that the student "solve for the value of X." Later, while flipping through the test booklet for another matter, she noticed the instruction in the test booklet, "solve for X." Believing instruction in the test booklet to be "much more clear" than her own instruction, the teacher changed the instructions on the practice worksheet to "solve for X."

Upon completion of the practice worksheet, the teacher distributed the worksheet to other teachers in her grade level, purportedly telling them to "not let the students take this home" and "destroy it when you are done." This made the other teachers uncomfortable and they did not believe that the distributing teacher was joking. Only one other teacher, besides the author, distributed the practice worksheet.

Later that same week, during the administration of the mathematics portion of the test, one of the teachers who had received the practice worksheet noticed similarities between some of the questions on the practice worksheet and some of the problems on the test. The teacher was questioned later by the school principal and the matter was picked up by the Ohio Department of Education.

The Ohio Department of Education gave the teacher notice that it intended to determine whether to suspend her teaching certificates. Pursuant to the Revised Code and the U.S. Constitution, the teacher elected to have a hearing on the matter.

As a result of the hearing, the hearing officer determined that the teacher violated R.C. 3319.151(A) by revealing to students a specific question known by the teacher to be part of an Ohio Achievement Test to be administered later that week. Specifically, the hearing officer found in his Report and Recommendation that three of ten questions on the practice worksheet were "significantly more similar" to, or almost identical, to questions on the actual Ohio Achievement Test. The hearing officer recommended the teacher's license be suspended for one year. The Ohio State Board of Education adopted, by resolution, the Report and Recommendation of the hearing officer.

The teacher appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which found that there was substantial, reliable, and probative evidence to support the Board's decision to suspend the teacher's license.

The teacher appealed to the 11th District Court of Appeals, which upheld the decision of the trial court. The appeals court found that R.C. 3316.151(A) is violated not just by the verbatim revealing of specific questions, but also the revelation of questions "that the person knows is part of a test."

The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case could signal that R.C. 3316.151(A) will be broadly construed. School teachers and administrators would be well-served by not looking at any portion of the Ohio Achievement Test and ensuring that any practice worksheets or tests that they create are made far in advance of the administration of the Ohio Achievement Test.

1 comment:

  1. We were always told to never ever look at the OAT or OPT test questions. We are there merely to distribute the booklets, ensure kids do not cheat, and read directions. No help allowed in any way. Any test preparation materials should be made well in advance, especially not as the teacher is "flipping" through the test booklets. There is no need for the teacher to be flipping through the booklets to begin with!