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OPA Investigator Finds No Basis for Cheating Allegations

A charter school's independent review found "no credible evidence" for claims which came from two sources, one of them anonymous.

After checking into allegations of cheating on standardized testing, a local charter school announced Wednesday night that its hands are clean.

Oxford Preparatory Academy, the controversial charter school that posted the county’s second highest academic score in its first year, came under fire from unknown sources who complained to the Capistrano Unified School District earlier this month that .

However, “[n]o credible evidence” was found that the testing was compromised, according to an executive summary written by the third-party investigator OPA hired to look into the allegations.

A copy of the summary can be found in a PDF file above.

After the district received the complaints, a left-leaning blog published the accusations and deemed them true without naming its sources.

An OPA parent spoke out at Wednesday’s school board meeting, saying he was very disappointed that the allegations would get leaked in such away and right in the middle of an election.

“It smacks of the worst pandering, political dirty tricks,” said Robert Reidel.

Turns out, Capo Unified officials never named the sources either, according to OPA’s report.

OPA and CUSD officials clashed over which agency should have taken the lead on the investigation. CUSD is also conducting an investigation of its own.

Several times in OPA’s report, Hollis Peterson, the San Diego attorney OPA hired, said she tried to get the district to join forces, but her requests were rejected.

CUSD did reveal that the accusations came from only two sources, and one of those was anonymous, according to the executive summary.

With much prodding, the district’s hired attorney provided the written accusations on Oct. 16. They are:

  • Parents of lower performing students were encouraged by OPA staff to waive their children from taking the STAR test
  • OPA teachers were walking around during the STAR testing and pointing to correct answers on the test
  • Parents observed OPA staff erasing testing marks and filling in the correct answers on the STAR test

A fourth accusation, that OPA Executive Director Sue Roche herself inappropriately coached students during the test, was communicated verbally.

In each area, Peterson reported she could find no evidence to substantiate the claims.

The investigation included interviews with 28 parents, teachers and staff members, including every current and former  OPA teacher involved in the May exams.

Seven students opted out of all STAR testing, while an eighth did not take the math, according to the report. Peterson talked to the parents, and only one indicated there may have been pressure on her child to skip the test.

That student, according to the report, was doing poorly and math and had to be put back a grade level. There was some confusion as to what grade level the student would test.

That parent left the school, having a unhappy experience, the report said.

The other parents were adamant that the accusations were false, according to the report. In fact, they felt pressure to have their children take the test.

One parent, whom Peterson only briefly interviewed, said the district’s investigator had already visited her at her home, and mentioned that she may be “subpoenaed” in the future, according to the report. That parent was distressed, and the conversation was cut short.

Erica Cox October 27, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Amen Robert!
Erika Schulte October 28, 2012 at 01:25 AM
I think it is also important to note that the 1 teacher who was involved in administering the test and refused to speak to the investigator **is a CUSD teacher** and NOT an Oxford employee. Very telling, in my opinion!
Capo Parent October 28, 2012 at 04:07 AM
FF It's one thing to investigate when credible charges are made. Per CUSD, only two persons made claims of cheating, one made the charges anonymously, which means the charges are worthless. As for the other person, CUSD failed to ID the person so the independent investigator could interview the person. Gotta love the hide the ball tactics of CUSD. Sarah You don't know what you're talking about. What OPA did in hiring an independent investigator is SOP. Since you claim to be in SVUSD, why are you commenting on a CUSD story. Remember, CUSD has better test scores than SVUSD. :)
Capo Parent October 28, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Erika Is this CUSD teacher an alleged cheater?
Robert Reidel October 28, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Yes, I heard about that. If they'd set it up to go somewhere, it didn't by the time I tried it, and it's not currently. I've found that if some can't get the votes on their merits of the issue, they'll try tricking some into giving them the votes they want. A sad state of affairs.

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