OAKLAND — Redwood Heights Elementary normally boasts some of the highest test scores in the city, but when the state's 2010 Academic Performance Index comes out this fall, it won't have a number. Its score has been invalidated.

An Oakland school district inquiry found that a teacher reviewed the answers on students' state reading and math tests, checked off incorrect answers in pencil or on sticky notes and returned the booklets to the children to fix.

About 18 children in second and third grades were in the teacher's class, said John Boivin, of the California Department of Education's testing division, which signed off on the district's report.

Skyline High, another school in the Oakland hills, also came under investigation this year. Staff concluded that a ninth-grade biology teacher allowed his students to "use their textbooks to find answers they didn't know," Boivin said.

Boivin said the biology teacher also neglected to cover up the science materials in the classroom, a requirement to ensure students aren't given an unfair advantage, according to the report.

The science scores of about 75 Skyline students were affected. But, according to Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint, that's not a high enough percentage of test-takers to invalidate Skyline's Academic Performance Index, or API, a score between 200 and 1,000 based on a battery of state tests.


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The state education department receives at least 150 reports of testing problems each year, Boivin said. About half of those cases are determined to be irregularities, but only a handful of teachers each year are caught in what appears to be an act of cheating. The Redwood Heights and Skyline cases, he said, appear to fall into that category.

The school district also investigated a third testing problem in Oakland: a teacher at Bret Harte Middle School allowed students to take the writing test over two days, instead of one. Flint said the district concluded that the violation appeared to be an "honest accident."

Flint said further investigation and any disciplinary action would take place after the summer break.

Adam Gubser, a Redwood Heights parent, was concerned about how the allegations — and their consequences — would affect the school and the neighborhood. A school's API isn't all that meaningful, he said, but it does matter. "It's the score that everybody looks at," he said. "Rightly or wrongly, it's important."

Gubser said he hoped the teacher's side of the story was, or would be, taken into account.

"I think the allegation and the concern is incredibly real. It definitely has to be something that's taken seriously," he said.

Still, he added, "I'm not sure if the whole picture's out."

Read Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog at www.ibabuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/katymurphy.