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Gove Elementary in Belle Glade receives ‘Incomplete’ grade, facing investigation

Gove Elementary, which received an Incomplete rating for its school grade this year, is under investigation for irregularities on some of its tests that could point to the possibility of cheating, a district official said Thursday.

The Belle Glade school’s third-grade reading FCAT results were flagged by the state for having an unusual pattern of wrong-to-right erasure marks — where a wrong answer is erased and replaced by a correct one — said Mark Howard, the Palm Beach County School District’s director of research, evaluation and assessment. Therefore, the school’s A-to-F letter grade is being withheld until the investigation is complete.

Howard confirmed the investigation but declined to offer more details, citing the open investigation.

Janis Andrews, the district’s chief academic officer, said other Palm Beach County schools have had cheating probes in the past and been cleared of wrongdoing. “We’re hopeful that it’ll happen in this situation, as well,” she said.

Indeed, Wynnebrook Elementary in West Palm Beach was also flagged this year for a statistical anomaly, Howard said, but an investigation cleared the school of any improprieties and it received its grade — an A — along with the rest of the elementary and middle schools when they were released Wednesday.

And last year, Glade View Elementary in Belle Glade received an I, also because of an unusual pattern of wrong-to-right erasure marks on 33 of its students’ answer sheets. An investigation later cleared the school and it eventually received an A for that year.

The other elementary school to receive an I-grade for the 2011-2012 school year was Roosevelt Elementary in West Palm Beach. But that school’s grade has been withheld because some of its tests were accidentally delayed, Howard said.

Howard said 69 students’ third-grade math FCAT tests were packed up incorrectly after the tests were taken, meaning those materials arrived late to the scoring center. If a school doesn’t test at least 90 percent of its students, it receives an I grade; without those 69 tests, Roosevelt was listed as having tested only 87 percent of its students.

The 69 delayed tests have now been graded and those students have received their scores. The school and the district will have to follow an appeals process to have those scores included in the school’s grade and to have the grade released, Howard said.

A similar situation occurred at Lantana Elementary, Howard said. In that instance, though, 47 third-grade reading FCATs got delayed, which made it seem that only 92 percent of its students were tested. Lantana Elementary has received a B. It’s unclear whether the addition of the 47 tests will affect its school grade.

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