HIGHTSTOWN: Teacher cleared of alleged NJASK security breach

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
A third-grade teacher has been cleared of leaking confidential information about a state assessment.
The East Windsor Regional Board of Education discussed the results of the alleged New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Grade 3 (NJASK 3) security breach during its meeting Monday night.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Thomas Gialanella said the investigation dates back to 2013.
“One of our staff members was accused of giving out information during the state assessment,” said Mr. Gialanella. “That was turned over to the state when we found out about it.”
The allegation of the test breach was lodged against a certified and tenured third-grade teacher who served as an examiner during the 2013 NJASK 3 in the East Windsor Regional Public Schools at Perry L. Drew Elementary School. The investigation was prompted after the teacher, whose name was redacted, sent an email to two third-grade teachers at Fountain Woods Elementary School (Woods) in the Burlington Township School District, according to the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) investigative summary.
On May 9, 2013, the teacher sent an email that contained the following, “Hi, Took it this week. We had an expository and speculative prompt. Don’t tell anyone I told you! Enjoy your day.”
The teacher signed the email, according to the OFAC investigative summary.
The two teachers at Woods who received the email immediately notified Helen Saul, school test coordinator, who then notified John Johnson, principal, and James Mills, district test coordinator. Mr. Mills notified the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Office of Assessments (OA), which instructed him not to open the email. The OA contacted the Mercer County Office of Education to begin the investigation at Drew where the emails were sent. The OA also contacted the Burlington County Office of Education to conduct a parallel investigation at Woods, according to the OFAC investigative summary.
Mr. Gialanella said that the OFAC conducted the investigation and found no sensitive documentation or sensitive material was exchanged.
“They basically found that the teacher was innocent of any serious wrongdoing by the state,” he said.
The NJDOE Information Technology Office reviewed the emails sent by the teacher and determined they did not contain hidden attachments or separate links that may have contained confidential testing information. The types of prompts on the NJASK were common knowledge among administrators and examiners, so the information did not provide a testing advantage to the receiving examiners, according to the OFAC investigative summary.
“We dealt with it internally,” Mr. Gialanella said.
On June 25, 2013, based on the results of the preliminary investigations conducted by Mercer and Burlington counties, the district submitted a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to the OA for approval. The district withheld one year of pay for the 2013-14 academic year from the teacher and placed a letter of reprimand in her personnel file, re-assigned her to second grade (a non-testing grade) and removed her from further NJASK testing.
Mr. Gialanella said that even though it was a “not guilty determination” the board still had to report it in public.
“The letter from OFAC will be on the (East Windsor Regional School District) website for the next month as we are supposed to do by regulations,” Mr. Gialanella said. 