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FCAT security breach at Fort Pierce Westwood invalidates 78 students' tests
From: Erica Absetz <eabsetz () opensecurityfoundation org>
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2013 08:58:42 -0600


FORT PIERCE — Before the FCAT writing exam was administered on Feb.
26, some of the 78 sophomores at Fort Pierce Westwood High’s Marine
and Oceanographic Academy knew what subject they would be asked to pen
essays on, according to information released by district officials

Superintendent Michael Lannon said staff at the school made a mistake
and gave students copies of the writing section of the Florida
Comprehensive Assessment Test a couple of days before they were
scheduled to take it.

“They put the test out before it should have been. They didn’t do it
maliciously,” Lannon said of school staff. “However, they did not
follow the procedure and that resulted in a student just turning a
page and seeing the prompt.”

Because test security was compromised, all 78 students’ tests were
invalidated, district officials said.

Once they learned of the breach, district officials told the state
about it immediately.

On Feb. 28, Kathleen Dailey, St. Lucie County School District’s
director of assessment and accountability, sent a three-page letter to
the Florida Department of Education outlining some of the steps the
district took. Dailey wrote in the letter that on Feb. 25 a student
reported to her English teacher that students at the marine academy
located at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic
Institute knew the writing prompt.

“We are distressed that this has happened as a result of poorly
informed decision-making at our school, and are committed to defining
the extent of the breach and to establish safeguards that will be
effective in preventing any future security breaches,” Dailey wrote.

Parents were notified about the security breach by automated outbound
telephone calls and written notification from the school.

In a letter sent home to parents Tuesday, Fort Pierce Westwood
Principal Mallissa Hamilton wrote the invalidation would “not impact
your child’s promotion, graduation, and/or transcript in any way.”
High-school students must pass the 10th grade reading FCAT to graduate
high school. Students are also required to pass end-of-course exams in
math and science but there is no writing test requirement.

While Lannon said invalidating the tests didn’t impact students, he
said it could impact the school’s grade. For high schools, scores on
FCAT and end-of-course exams make up 50 percent of their state issued
school grade.

“It’s just a case of unfair advantage and to be fair to every other
student all around the state we turned ourselves in and said ‘we did
this and it’s contrary to the procedures,’” Lannon said. “We’re taking
the appropriate internal steps to strengthen our procedures.”

In her letter to the state, Dailey wrote the district would “take
disciplinary action and issue written warnings for all teachers and
administrators involved in this security breach.”
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