An inquiry by Arlington school officials into possible misuse of a standardized test by Washington-Lee High School teachers turned up no rule violation, but it did highlight some problems with test administration, Superintendent Arthur W. Gosling said last night.
Gosling announced the results of the investigation at a School Board meeting attended by numerous foes and proponents of a plan to allow high school seniors to leave campus during lunch. Gosling urged the board to accept the plan, which would alter a 1983 decision to gradually bring "closed campuses" to the county's four high schools.
School officials began the inquiry into competency testing last week after hearing allegations that teachers received copies of the Virginia Minimum Competency Test before they should have, used them to coach students prior to the test, and gave students a break during testing in violation of state exam rules.
"I find no evidence of impropriety in the competency test administration at Washington-Lee High School," Gosling said. "I do conclude that improved test management could . . . have alleviated misperceptions and misunderstandings."
More than 400 Washington-Lee students took the test, which they must pass to graduate, on Feb. 4 and 5. John L. Crowder, program assessment specialist, distributed the tests to school guidance directors Jan. 29, and Washington-Lee teachers received them over the next two days, according to Principal William Sharbaugh.
In the future, Gosling said teachers should receive the tests no earlier than noon of the day before testing.
School officials found that teachers did not coach students with actual test questions, but with commercially prepared practice exercises, which is allowed. Some teachers did allow students to leave the room for a break, which is not prohibited but is "irregular," Gosling said.
Teachers who administer future tests will be told to schedule breaks only in accordance with test instructions and not to conduct special drills or reviews within 30 days of testing, he said.
Later in the meeting, parents, local residents, administrators and board members continued the vociferous debate that has surrounded the issue of open campuses for years.
In 1983 the board voted to exclude freshmen from the policy allowing students to leave campus at lunchtime. That board, responding to complaints that the open campus policy encouraged delinquency and class cutting, agreed to extend the ban on leaving at lunch to sophomores the following fall and to juniors the year after that. Under that plan, no students would be allowed to leave at lunchtime beginning this fall.
A group of high school students has proposed keeping the open lunchtime privilege for seniors, arguing that it would increase students' sense of responsibility and would not result in disorder.
Several citizens who live near Arlington schools complained angrily last night that open campus privileges for seniors would prompt littering, loitering, vandalism and delinquency.
"We've suffered from trespassing, obscenity, verbal abuse, physical abuse . . . overused streets, underused sidewalks," said Robert Beskind, a retired Navy captain who has lived near Wakefield High School for 13 years. "We're mad and we're not going to take this anymore."
Gosling acknowledged the policy "is an issue about which we cannot achieve consensus," but he urged the board to support open lunch privileges for seniors, saying "the majority of our students need to start making some choices about their time."
The board is scheduled to vote on the issue next week.