EDITORIAL: Accountability bubble

Public education has an accountability problem, and Kelly Elementary School is the latest example.

In April, the Nevada Department of Education and the attorney general’s office completed an investigation into standardized testing irregularities at Kelly in 2012 and determined that cheating had occurred. There was no direct evidence to identify the responsible party — no smoking-gun email, for example — but there was a pile of circumstantial evidence that pointed to wrongdoing by school personnel. First, the school did not follow proper testing security protocols. Second, an unusually high number of student answer sheets had erasures that changed incorrect answers to correct ones. Third, the low-achieving school’s test scores spiked in 2012, then sank the following year.

Yet the school district’s own investigation of the irregularities, completed this month and discussed by the School Board, declared there was no evidence to support the state’s conclusion that cheating occurred — while acknowledging the high number of wrong-to-right erasures, the large one-year swing in scores and the fact that the school’s testing security procedures weren’t sufficient.

In fact, Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky recommended that the school’s principal and assistant principal be disciplined for having such poor testing security, and he did not call for Kelly’s inflated 2012 test scores to be reinstated. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Trevon Milliard, Mr. Skorkowsky said there also wasn’t evidence to show that cheating did not occur.

“There was not enough proof to lay blame on any one person,” School Board Trustee Carolyn Edwards said. And as a result, Trustee Linda Young wants to restore $200,000 in support, including a federal grant, to the campus. “Let’s move on,” she said. Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the district’s administrators union, said the entire Kelly inquiry was a “serious injustice.” It was an injustice — for the public.

When top-level administrators and elected stewards so willingly move past obvious wrongdoing, they shouldn’t be surprised when the public doesn’t trust them to fix much larger problems across the system — and doesn’t trust them with more money to do the job.

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