March Edition
Investigating Testing Irregularities
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Investigating testing irregularities is an important part of the test security process that allows a testing program to confidently determine the truth of a testing irregularity.
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Investigating testing irregularities is an important part of an overall test security quality assurance process. The purpose of conducting investigations is to enable the state to confidently determine the truth around a testing irregularity, including its complete scope and context. Clear procedures need to be in place to guide the collection of credible evidence that documents the scope of an incident and any breach of secure materials, deviance from established policies, or individual misconduct. Any evidence gathered should be carefully preserved and reported to support further actions on the part of the local education agency or SEA involved. Test security investigations may include interviews with stakeholders of interest, including teachers, administrators, and potentially students. Interviews often shed the most light on the specific causes of irregularities and can help the state determine the circumstances surrounding a test irregularity. Specific protocols must be in place to guide any interviews during an investigation, particularly those that may involve students.

When exploring the context of reported testing irregularities, states should have procedures to identify when experienced third-party professional investigators should be engaged to conduct a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation.
The results of irregularity investigations often provide important feedback about test security policies, training, and practices both at the local and state levels.  Investigations may uncover areas where existing policies may need to be refined or clarified to eliminate identified vulnerabilities.  Investigations can also inform the scope and content of training and identify schools where future monitoring may be required, or pinpoint areas for more targeted data forensics analyses. States should clearly identify the requirements for reporting testing irregularities as well as the scope and manner of any investigations and how the state will store and analyze all related evidence and report findings. States should have access to a secure, Internet-based digital platform for schools and districts to promptly, completely and accurately report testing irregularities in accordance with state laws and testing policies, and store. The platform should allow for the classification of irregularities by severity and provide immediate notifications to the state when severe irregularities are exported. The platform should also provide automated analytics of all irregularity data and allow for configurable summary reports to be generated by type, classification, and resolutions.
Test irregularity investigations must be designed to obtain credible evidence that will enable the state to confidently determine the complete scope of the conduct at issue and identify all involved persons. Evidence gathered for this purpose should be collected, preserved, and reported in a method that will enable the state to take appropriate action in accordance with state policies and law.

States should work with their vendor(s) to develop an investigative procedure to identify and review all information reported in relation to an irregularity, as well as all data obtained during monitoring of assessment administrations at the school historical testing data, including, if available, data forensic analysis of test response data. Processes should also be in place to identify school staff testing roles and room assignments, as well as related student identifying data.