PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Five Palm Beach County schools this fall lost appeals filed with the state over cheating on the 2011 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Despite a difficult burden of proof, the schools had challenged invalidated scores on behalf of a total of 24 students.
But the state Department of Education rejected the claims from Suncoast, Royal Palm Beach and Seminole Ridge high schools; and from Pine Grove and Palmetto elementary schools, according to Palm Beach County school testing officials.
Those campuses were hardly alone in dealing with exam cheats.
In June, state officials tossed out nearly 7,000 FCAT results from schools across the state, citing students with extremely similar test answers. Those included the scores of 407 Palm Beach County students in 58 schools.
State testing contractor Caveon Test Security reportedly used a very conservative threshold, invalidating scores where the chance of two or more tests being so similar while taken independently is one in a trillion.
The five schools that appealed anyway had insisted there were no improprieties or violations of procedures, said Marc Baron, the district's testing chief.
On Sept. 28, the state issued a denial of the appeals because "we determined that, when weighed against the statistical detail provided by the department, the evidence provided does not warrant the release of the score."
The cheating cases involved a very small percentage of the more than 4 million standardized exams in math, reading, science and writing taken by about 1.8 million Florida students in third through 11th grade. More than 110,000 Palm Beach County district students completed the exams in March and April.
A separate case of suspected cheating this year, involving Glade View Elementary in Belle Glade, had a favorable outcome.
In June, state officials withheld the school's letter grade because of a highly unusual amount of erasure marks leading to correct responses in fourth-grade reading and fifth-grade math. Yet an investigation over the summer found no "hint of wrongdoing," and Glade View ultimately received an A rating.