Security breach will delay release of CST results

July 18, 2012

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The public release of this year’s California Standards Tests results will be delayed two weeks, until Aug. 31. Blame it on the students who took cell phones into test sites in April, and then posted photos of exam questions on Facebook and other social media.

ETS, the contractor for administering tests, and the state Department of Education have determined that the breach of security didn’t affect test results, Paul Hefner, spokesperson for Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, said Tuesday. But the effort it took to reach that conclusion – looking for patterns of irregularities in answers – has led to the delay, Hefner said.

Mainly high school students posted 441 photos from test sites on social media over about a 10-day period, Hefner said, but only 36 – less than 10 percent – were photos of actual test questions. The rest were shots of desks, closed exam books, and words that students created by filling in bubbles (clearly not the correct answers) on answer sheets. What worried ETS was the possibility that more photos were shared but not posted on the Internet.

Some schools apparently disciplined students who posted photos from the exams, but the Department of Education has not decided what, if any, action to take against districts that violated the no-phones protocol, Hefner said.

John Fensterwald is the editor of EdSource Today. You can contact him at

Facebook and other media sites cooperated when asked to take down the photos as a violation of copyrighted material, Hefner said.


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