Identifying Testing Improprieties, Irregularities, and Breaches

Test security incidents, such as improprieties, irregularities, and breaches, are behaviors prohibited either because they give a student an unfair advantage, compromising the validity of inferences from student test results, or because they compromise the secure administration of the assessments. Whether intentional or accidental, failure to comply with security and administration rules, either by staff or students, constitutes a test security incident. Improprieties, irregularities, and breaches must be reported in accordance with the instructions in this section for each severity level.

Some incidents may require that an Appeal be submitted to reset, reopen, restore (if a test had been reset in error), provide a grace period extension, or invalidate a test. LEA CAASPP coordinators or CAASPP test site coordinators can make the determination by reporting the incident using the online CAASPP STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS.

After a user has submitted the details of the incident, TOMS will prompt the filing of an Appeal during the STAIRS/Appeal process, if that is the appropriate action. A system email will be sent confirming the incident that was submitted and indicating whether any action is needed.

The STAIRS/Appeals Process

The online STAIRS/Appeals process, which is available in TOMS and described in the CAASPP and ELPAC Security Incidents and Appeals Procedure Guide, must be used by LEA CAASPP and CAASPP test site coordinators to report a confirmed test security incident or other testing issue that interferes with the administration and completion of the assessment. Testing incidents must be reported within the LEA’s selected testing window and should be filed with enough time for students to finish testing after an Appeal has been granted.

LEA CAASPP coordinators and CAASPP test site coordinators must ensure that all test security incidents are documented using the STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS within 24 hours of the incident.

After the incident is reported, TOMS will immediately prompt the filing of an Appeal if that is the appropriate action. A system email will be sent that describes the submittal and includes the case number that can be used for searches in TOMS. This email will be sent to the submitter (and to the LEA CAASPP coordinator, if the STAIRS case or the Appeal is submitted by the CAASPP test site coordinator).

LEA CAASPP coordinators must view the announcements and to-do list in the “MyTOMS at a Glance” section of their home page in TOMS. TOMS sends an automated notification to the LEA if there are any STAIRS cases that have a Draft status and need to be submitted shortly before the LEA’s testing window closes.

STAIRS cases with any status—draft, partial CDE approval, partial CalTAC approval, pending CDE approval, pending CalTAC approval, and completed—are searchable in Search STAIRS in TOMS. Appeals with any status—approved, pending, pending approval, rejected (Appeals rejected by the CDE or CalTAC), rejected by system, swap approved, and withdrawn—are searchable in Search Appeals in TOMS.

Incident Definitions and Action Steps

Refer to the CAASPP and ELPAC Security Incidents and Appeals Procedure Guide for details about the incident reporting process and a detailed description of the STAIRS process.

After an incident has occurred, the CAASPP test site coordinator is responsible for immediately notifying the LEA CAASPP coordinator of any security breaches or testing irregularities that occur before, during, or after summative testing. The CAASPP test site coordinator reviews and verifies the incident and then either contacts the LEA CAASPP coordinator or submits the incident using the STAIRS/Appeals process, if that is the procedure established for the LEA (and a STAIRS case has not already been opened). However, if the incident is a breach, the LEA CAASPP coordinator should be informed immediately; it is the LEA CAASPP coordinator who will initiate action.

If the LEA’s procedure is that the LEA CAASPP coordinator reviews , verifies, and submits the incident using the STAIRS/Appeals process, then it is the LEA CAASPP coordinator who opens the STAIRS case. However, if the incident is due to social media exposure on the part of a student or adult or to media coverage of an administration, the LEA CAASPP immediately contacts CalTAC by phone at 800-955-2954 to report it.

The LEA CAASPP coordinator will also respond to and assist the CDE and test security personnel, as requested. Any documentation associated with the incident should be kept for at least one year.

The online data-entry screens used during the STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS prompt the user through the steps necessary to submit a STAIRS case. The CAASPP and ELPAC Security Incidents and Appeals Procedure Guide lists the incident types and any action to be taken.

Impropriety

An impropriety is an unusual circumstance that has a low impact on the individual or group of students who are testing and has a low risk of potentially affecting student performance on the test or of impacting test security or test validity. These circumstances can be corrected and contained at the local level. An example of an impropriety could be if student(s) were making distracting gestures or sounds or talking during the test session that creates a disruption in the test session for other students, or a student or students left the test room without authorization.

The steps to process an impropriety are as follows:

  1. Local administrators or staff take corrective action, where necessary, and notify the site coordinator.
  2. The incident is mitigated as necessary by school staff, and the LEA CAASPP coordinator is contacted for assistance with mitigation as necessary.
  3. The CAASPP test site coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator reports the impropriety using the online STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS within 24 hours.

Irregularity

An irregularity is an unusual circumstance that impacts an individual or group of students who are testing and may potentially affect student performance on the test or impact test security or test validity. These circumstances can be contained at the local level. An example of an irregularity could be that student(s) were assigned an incorrect designated support or accommodation, or student(s) cheated or provided answers to each other.

The steps to process an irregularity are as follows:

  1. Local administrators or staff take corrective action and notify the site coordinator.
  2. The incident is mitigated as necessary by school staff, and the LEA CAASPP coordinator is notified for assistance with mitigation.
  3. The CAASPP test site coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator reports the irregularity using the online STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS within 24 hours.
  4. The coordinator submits an Appeal request through STAIRS, if prompted.
  5. The submitter (and the LEA CAASPP coordinator, if the submitter was a CAASPP test site coordinator) receives an email summarizing the STAIRS case.
  6. The CDE or the ETS LEA Administrator reviews the STAIRS case and approves the Appeal, if necessary. The coordinator retains the STAIRS response email for the record.

Breach

A breach is a test administration event that poses a threat to the validity of the test. These circumstances have external implications for the CDE, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or both, and may result in a decision to remove the test item(s) from the available secure bank.

Breaches require immediate attention and escalation by calling CalTAC at 800-955-2954 if the breach is due to social media exposure on the part of a student or adult, or media coverage of a test administration, the LEA CAASPP coordinator contacts CalTAC. Following the call, the CAASPP test site coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator must report the breach using the STAIRS/Appeals process within 24 hours.

Examples may include such situations as exposure of secure materials, a repeatable security or system risk, a test administrator modifying student answers, or test items were shared on social media. These circumstances have external implications.

The steps to process a breach are as follows:

  1. Local administrators or staff mitigate the incident as necessary and immediately report the breach to the CAASPP test site coordinator, LEA CAASPP coordinator, or both.
  2. LEA staff members investigate the security risk and alert the LEA Success Agent or CalTAC for social media breaches and stand ready to receive further guidance on the dispensation of the event.
  3. The LEA CAASPP coordinator immediately calls the LEA Success Agent or CalTAC to report the breach. Following the call, the CAASPP test site coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator reports the breach using the online STAIRS/Appeals process in TOMS within 24 hours.
  4. The coordinator submits an Appeal request through STAIRS, if prompted.
  5. The submitter (and the LEA CAASPP coordinator, if the submitter was a CAASPP test site coordinator) receives an email summarizing the submittal.
  6. The CDE reviews the STAIRS case and approves the Appeal, if necessary. The coordinator retains the STAIRS response email for the record.

Appeals Submission

An Appeal must be filed before the end of the selected testing window and with enough time to complete testing the student within the selected testing window.

If an Appeal is warranted for an incident and the case is submitted, the STAIRS process creates the Appeal. An Appeal is processed within four business days of its receipt. Users will receive an email verifying that the Appeal has been processed. Ensure that communications generated by the email address ca‑assessments@ets.org are not automatically sent to a junk mail or spam folder.

The CDE may review a STAIRS case to determine whether the testing issue requires additional action by the LEA.