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Hillsborough charter school cleared after investigation into state testing concerns

A lengthy investigation by the Florida Department of Education has found no sufficient evidence to support an allegation that Legacy Preparatory Academy personnel inappropriately altered answer sheets for students taking the FCAT in spring 2014.

Questions first arose in the department's routine independent review of tests for any form of cheating. Caveon Data Forensics identified 37 schools including Legacy Preparatory, which was known as Mount Pleasant Standard Based, for statistically relevant similarities in responses on the math exam. All received "incomplete" for their 2014 school grade.

After conducting a second level review, the department removed the "incomplete" from all but three of those schools, including Legacy Preparatory. The department then asked its Office of Inspector General to look more closely at the remaining group.

After two months of interviews, starting in April 2015, the OIG found that six students confirmed some handwriting on their tests did not belong to them. It had conflicting statements on who had access to the tests. As a result, the department said it had insufficient evidence to conclude anyone at the school changed the answer sheets.

The department issued some recommendations to help avoid similar situations in the future:

"The OIG recommends that the School Board of Hillsborough County and Mount Pleasant Standard Base provide additional training regarding test administration supervision to anyone involved in the administration and coordination of the FCAT. ... Additionally, it is recommended that Hillsborough County staff assigned to monitor schools transport the testing materials from the schools on the day of testing. Materials should be securely stored with district personnel throughout the length of the testing schedule, and no testing materials should be left at the schools."

The school accepted the OIG findings, according to the state report. The district did not respond.

For more details, read the full report.