Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso has released his 2012 message to the district on testing integrity, as the school system gears up to begin administering the Maryland School Assessements to students in grades three through eight on March 12.

A story on Monday outlined the district's efforts this year to continue its heightened scrutiny during the testing season, a measure Alonso began last year by hiring more than 200 external monitors to act as an extra set of eyes, ears and troubleshooters in schools giving the exams.

Alonso took the extra steps to quell any doubt that the city's 2011 test scores were clean--overall scores dropped, deeply in some individual schools after the increased monitoring--amid ongoing  confirmations that test tampering has occured during his tenure.

The flurry of cheating scandals, three in two years, has seen at least one city school principal stripped of her teaching lesson and another currently going through a legal battle with the district to save their career.

In this year's message to the district, found by clicking here, Alonso said there could be more city principals facing the same sanction, publicly acknowledged that he had testified in recent weeks in favor of stripping a principal of their teaching license just last week. He also said he will testify in another case of suspected test tampering.

“If there is anybody that is thinking about any kind of gaming or irregularity, they’d better understand that their entire professional livelihood is on the line," Alonso said. "We're not talking about termination, I am not talking about a transfer. I am talking about, possibly losing a professional license.”

The schools chief also said in his message that cheating was the exception, and the vast majority of schools administer the assessments honestly and without issues.

He also outlined all of the steps that schools can take to ensure there are no perceived or real improprieties. He also encouraged school leaders to contact the district in case of any questions, telling them, "if you have any doubt about what is acceptable or not, please call...it makes a difference whether I hear from you, or someone else.”

“This is so important that our kids achieve and that everybody in the city, the state, the nation and the world understands what our kids can do," he told the district.  “Nothing is harder than this... but there is no place for dishonesty in our system. Those who believe that there is, are playing with their livelihoods. We are so on this.”

The schools chief began his video by opening with how important standardized test scores are, and what they have illustrated in the last four years. The school system administers the Stanford 10 tests to students in grades 1&2; MSAs to grades 3-8; and the High School Assessments, a state graduation requirement, to grades 9-12.

“These tests together have shown tremendous progress in student achievement….they have pointed out the incredible potential of our students and the hardwork and commitment of you, and they suggest that your hard work, the reforms of recent years, are paying off,” Alonso said.

“They also serve to point out where we could be doing a better job of educating our kids," he continued. "As much as they’re a measure of student achievement, these tests area powerful reality check, an accountability moment for us, the adults charged with ensuring our students’ success at school."

Meanwhile, the president of the city's principal union told the school board last week that he believes the outcome of an ongoing administrtive hearing will shed light on flaws in the district's process for investigating cheating claims, and its recent moves toward pay-for-performance.

He also called for the system to hold off on 16 current investigations, the district had only publicized 12, pending the outcome of that hearing--suggesting that the union expects to be victorious.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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