A fourth-grade teacher at Ocean Charter School in Mar Vista has stepped down from her position days after it was discovered that irregularities occurred during state mandated testing in her class.

The California Department of Education informed the school that the May 7 incident occurred in Ashley Gossett’s class during California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exams.

Ocean Charter’s administrators subsequently sent a letter to parents May 17 apprising them of the situation.

“Dear Ocean Charter parents and guardians:

We regret to inform you that on the second day of STAR testing last week, Ocean Charter School administration was informed by the California Department of Education that a potential ‘testing irregularity’ had occurred in the fourth grade classroom proctored by (Gossett) on the first day of STAR testing,” wrote Ocean Charter School Executive Director Stephanie Edwards and North Campus Director Kristi Mack-Fett.

“‘Testing irregularity’ is the term used to describe situations in which testing protocols are not accurately followed. This irregularity was immediately investigated and verified. The investigation revealed that the irregularity involved only some of the students in the one classroom,” the letter continued.

According to Edwards and Mack-Fett, another teacher was placed in the room for the remainder of the testing period after Gossett’s removal, and another training was conducted for all the proctors on the required testing protocols.

“Appropriate disciplinary steps were taken, and the irregularity was reported to the California Department of Education Testing Office, the LAUSD Charter Division, and the Ocean Charter School Board of Directors,” Edwards and Mack-Fett wrote.

In a May 16 letter to her students, Gossett wrote that her decision to leave the school was due to an out of state job offered to her husband.

“It was my full intention to finish with the class through the end of the school year, but as I am learning more and more lately, life sometimes has different plans in store for us,” the ex-teacher wrote. “In short, (my husband) recently received news that his start date has been pushed up to less than two weeks from now, and so we find ourselves needing to make this transition much sooner than we originally anticipated.

“Therefore, my resignation from the school will take effect immediately.”

An email from the administration was sent to parents the day before the letter acknowledging the testing irregularity, but made no mention of what had reportedly transpired during the standardized test.

Edwards and Mack-Fett’s letter states that “the scores of students involved in the irregularity will not be affected. Parents of these students will still receive the same STAR results letter that all other students will receive from the state.”

They also wrote that it was unclear if the “irregularity” may impact Ocean Charter ’s score on the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Academic Performance Index (API).

Schools involved in testing scandals run the risk of losing their API scores, which measure the academic performance and growth of schools on a variety of academic measures, if they are suspected of cheating.

The score could be invalidated if more than 5 percent of the students who took the test scores were affected.

Calls to Mack-Fett and Edwards to learn what “disciplinary action” was taken were not returned by Argonaut press time.

Last year, Short Avenue Elementary School in Del Rey had its 2010-11 scores tossed out by state education authorities after three teachers were implicated in allegations of cheating on standardized tests. Los Angeles Unified School District officials conducted an internal investigation after the cheating was discovered and notified the state education department.

An internal report stated that a student admitted that she had not been able to perform exercises on her mathematics test but correct answers appeared in her test booklet.

“In the principal’s office, she was unable to perform a basic addition and subtraction problem,” the report stated. “Most students were advised by the teacher as to which questions were incorrect, and then the teacher instructed students to return to their seat to correct their answers.”

Gossett, according to a person knowledgeable about the incident, circled the correct answers in pencil for some of the children who had marked them incorrectly.

The ex-teacher’s reported conduct was discovered after a parent at the school learned the student knew how many wrong answers were on the test.

Ocean Charter’s administration appears to think this was an isolated incident.

“Let us state clearly and simply that Ocean Charter School does not condone or tolerate any STAR testing irregularities. We are confident that the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that this incident will not be repeated in the future.”

Tina Jung, a spokeswoman for the state education department, said the incident is currently being handled at the local district level.

The charter school’s fourth through eighth grades share facilities with Walgrove Avenue Elementary School but Ocean Charter was offered several classrooms under Proposition 39 at Playa Vista Elementary School, which will open in September.

Prop. 39 is a 2000 voter approved ballot initiative that grants charter operators space at traditional schools where their school districts determine if there are vacant, unused or underused rooms.

A charter school sharing facilities with a traditional school is called colocation, which has led to tension and animosity at some campuses on the Westside, including Walgrove and Ocean Charter. That uneasy situation led LAUSD Board Member Steven Zimmer to offer a land lease proposal for a 2-acre parcel of unused land at Walgrove last year.

LAUSD’s Facilities Management Division recommended Ocean Charter’s application for the site, but the school board, including Zimmer, voted against the proposal March 20. The school’s kindergarten through third grades are housed at the site of a Christian church in Del Rey.

In a post on a website called “Keep Ocean Charter at Walgrove” last year, Gossett invited the public to see how the school educates children. “Step into a classroom for just five minutes and you will see why Ocean Charter School should remain on the Walgrove campus…I guarantee it!” the former teacher wrote.

An LAUSD spokesman responded to an email inquiry saying, “The district was informed and we responded,” without elaborating on what the response entailed.

Zimmer, who represents schools in Mar Vista, Westchester, Venice and Del Rey, did not return calls for comment.

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