May 2012 Issue
April 16, 2012

New Test Security Unit to protect whistleblowers

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

As the State Education Department's new Test Security Unit begins its work, NYSUT made it clear that there are protections for members who report possible security breaches.

Tina Sciocchetti, a former federal prosecutor, will oversee about five to 10 lawyers and investigation staffers in the new office. The TSU is charged with establishing an online incident reporting system, investigating allegations and prosecuting moral character cases, if necessary.

After receiving a critical report by special investigator Henry "Hank" Greenberg (a former counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo), the Regents approved the new unit and a series of other recommended reforms to be implemented in the next year. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch noted the initiative was not in any way a sign of concerns about widespread cheating, but a proactive measure to ensure the integrity of the state's testing system.

The Regents agreed that if a security breach is suspected, all educators should become mandated reporters — not just principals, as currently required. NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira noted there will be whistleblower protection so those who report security breaches are safeguarded from retribution.

The Regents in March endorsed all of Greenberg's recommendations:

  • Give local districts clear and detailed written guidance, including specific examples, on what constitutes a security breach and explicit warnings on the penalties for misconduct;
  • Require every adult involved in the administration and scoring of an assessment to take a security oath affirming they understand their test security obligations and acknowledge potential sanctions for violations;
  • Institute an online incident reporting process and data gathering system;
  • Increase the frequency and use of data forensics;
  • Retain tests for up to five years, up from the current one year;
  • Conduct frequent and comprehensive audits at multiple levels;
  • Investigate cases involving serious allegations and more aggressively pursue Part 83 moral character cases where appropriate; and
  • Institute annual public reports of the unit's activities.