District 150 attorney & SAC parents weigh in on controversial investigation

By WEEK Reporter

January 14, 2014 Updated Jan 14, 2014 at 10:14 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The fate of the principal at Peoria's Charter Oak Primary School and four staff members now lie in the hands of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The matter at hand -- so called testing misconduct. And the punishment could be as harsh as stripping away the parties' teaching licenses. It started with a big difference between ISAT and MAP scores. Special Ed teachers were suspicious and reported their concerns to District 150. An investigation shows student's reading and math scores fell significantly on the ISAT when they left Charter Oak, but their MAP scores remained parallel. Experts say MAP scores should predict ISAT performance more than 80 percent of the time. And-- the two should mirror each other.

A 29 page investigation report, made public Monday night, includes teachers admitting to controversial testing practices, dating back to 2008. For example, pointing out concepts on posters during exams and erasing answers on test forms.

"The teachers admitted to violating certain protocols that allowed that to happen," said District 150 legal counsel Stan Eisenhammer. "We also found that there was a lack of institutional supervision of the special ed teachers at Charter Oak."

The district lawyer says ISAT testing accommodations are stated clearly for each special needs' student. Some charter oak teachers also indicate they had no ISAT training or notice of their students' testing needs before the exam.

The district's findings have some parents outraged. They claim the investigation is incomplete and biased.

Parent in the Charter Oak Special Action Committee (SAC) are still backing up their school principal and their teachers, despite the investigation. The committee release a statement today indicating the findings of the investigation may be twisted.

"Nobody violated any testing protocols," said Charter Oak SAC parent Brenda Wilson.

Parents at Charter Oak Primary School are sticking to their guns. In a District 150 hearing Monday night district 150 explained their investigation's findings.

"For a span of three years test from about 1200 kids were looked at," said SAC parent Amy Bjornstad. "Of those tests, 26 special education kids there were discrepancies between the testing they did in middle school compared to the test results they got in primary school."

The district is pointing fingers at Principal John Wetterauer and four teachers. Investigators say the group spoke to them about what they did.

"There were no confessions. I believe that they were taken out of context," said Wilson.

Documents indicate teachers admitted to helping students during exams, erasing answers, and more.

"They're calling it something that it's not," said Wilson. "When they are calling it cheating, they may be talking about something where the kid is needing help and needs to have something read to them."

The district says Principal Wetterauer failed to train teachers properly. However, these parents disagree who is responsible.

"The leader of our district has a history of not giving the special education teachers the training that is necessary when dealing with special education kids," said Bjornstad. "We plan on holding Granita Lathan accountable for this and for other incidences that may have happened."

They are not done asking questions.

"This doesn't sit right with any of the Charter Oak parents, and we're just trying to make sure that all the information out there is shared," said Bjornstad.

Some parents also question why Wetterauer is the only principal on administrative leave. District officials say they will no longer actively investigate. Parents on the special action committee say they will continue to do their own research on the matter. They say this investigation is far from over.

The state board of education is reviewing the district's investigation. It can accept it, conduct its own, or dismiss the entire case. What we do know is District 150 will *not lose any funding. So, taxpayers will not be punished.. only those accused of wrongdoing.