principal Nimisha Kumar has resigned after allegations surfaced that school staffers may have altered Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) forms after they were submitted by students, Oak Park Elementary School District 97 announced Friday.
According to the district, "a few" unidentified staffers reviewed testing booklets and answer documents after they'd been turned in by a small number of Mann third, fourth and fifth graders. The staff members were looking for "stray marks and missing answers after they had been turned in by students" during administration of the tests, which took place March 5 through March 16. Also among the allegations:
• Staff members erased stray marks on the test booklets and answer documents
• Students were given extra time to transcribe answers from the test books to the answer sheets
• Students were given extra time "to answer questions that they may have missed or skipped for reasons that include pages being stuck together"
“While members of our staff clearly exercised poor judgment in this situation," District 97 Supt. Al Roberts said in a statement, "I want to emphasize that they did not act with malice, nor did they intend to provide anyone with an unfair advantage on the test. Mann is an exemplary school with an extraordinary staff that is dedicated to meeting the needs of the families we serve. However, standardized assessments, such as the ISAT, are governed by a strict set of rules and guidelines that must be followed at all times. It appears that we failed to do so in this case, and we must accept the consequences.”
In a press release, District 97 officials say no test irregularities have been found at any other Oak Park public grade schools. In the wake of the allegations, Kumar stepped down. She'll resume her duties until June 30.
For the past seven years, I have had the privilege of serving as the principal of Horace Mann Elementary School. During my tenure, I have had the opportunity to work alongside a group of extraordinary staff members and parents/guardians whose strong commitment to our students, our school and this community has been an inspiration for me.
I am also incredibly proud of what we have accomplished together, including enhancing the educational experience for our students through the integration of cutting-edge technology into everyday instruction, the steady increase in parent engagement and involvement at all grade levels, and the development of innovative enrichment opportunities before, during and after school—all of which have helped our children be successful both in and out of the classroom.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed my career here in Oak Park, and greatly appreciate all of the support I have received from my staff and the families we serve, now is not the time for reflection. There is still much to be done prior to the end of the school year, and I look forward to continuing the important work we do each and every day here at Mann.