Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Test Security Procedure
The security of state administered assessments is of the utmost importance in regard to the
Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) assessment and accountability system. This
document outlines the state’s expectations and procedures on test booklet security, test
administration security, and the identification and reporting of test security violations.
Breaches in test security must be quickly identified and reported to PDE. This document
and its accompanying PSSA Test Security FAQ will explain to participants at various levels—
school, district, and state—how to identify breaches in test security and what actions should
be taken in response to those breaches.
Test Booklet Security
District assessment coordinators, administrators, and teachers are responsible for the
security of the assessment materials from the time the district receives them to the time
they are packed and shipped back to the contractor for scoring. When not being used, the
assessment materials must be stored in a secure location with access given to authorized
personnel only. The following is a list of cautions to remember:
1. Assessment materials must not be in any way reproduced, in whole or in part
2. No one may have test booklets without authorization from the district assessment
3. Teachers or other staff members may not show any items in the test booklets to
anyone not administering the assessment.
4. Teachers may not use any specific items in the secure booklets to help prepare the
students for the assessment.
Test Administration Security
Building administrators and/or district assessment coordinators are to review the testing
procedures with the teachers and other staff members who will be administering the
assessment. During the administration of the assessment, the following are allowable:
1. Teachers and other staff members who are administering the test may give words of
encouragement and general instructions to the students.
2. Teachers and other staff members may answer questions concerning ONLY the
directions for each test session.
3. Teachers and other staff members may give accommodations or modifications that
are consistent with the student’s IEP, 504, or LEP Plan and that are used in the
normal delivery of instruction with the exception of those indicated as not allowable
in the Accommodations Guidelines.
4. Breaks may be given at the discretion of the district as long as the length of the
break does not affect the integrity of the assessment.
5. Teachers and other staff members may point out to a student items that were left
blank (i.e., accidental skipping of an item response grid or response space).
During the administering of the assessment, the rules listed below must be adhered to:
1. During the testing period, teachers and other staff may not assist any student with
any item in any way that would aid the student in answering the question.
2. Teachers and other staff may not encourage any student to edit their responses in
3. Do not leave any student alone while taking the assessment.
4. Do not allow any student to take a test booklet and/or answer document out of the
testing area without proper supervision.
Reporting of Test Security Violations
The Test Security Procedure for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)
establishes guidelines for dealing with breaches in test security. Breaches may include
student impropriety, test violations, educator misconduct, or the mishandling of test
materials. In order to maintain the integrity of the test, there must be strict adherence to
the rules and procedures for administering the test.
Breaches in Test Security
The following are examples that illustrate characteristics of possible breaches in the security
of the PSSA:
Word-for-word duplication or partial duplication of a response from a student.
Use of the same incorrect formula to come to the same incorrect answer from
Use of the same correct formula to come to the same incorrect answer from multiple
Use of materials other than those that are provided during the administration of the
School personnel transcribe student’s response and student errors have been
corrected. Please note that transcription by a proctor is a permissible
accommodation, but the response must be transcribed without editing by the
Two obviously different handwritings in the same response. Exceptions are
transcription or dictation to a proctor as an accommodation. This accommodation
must be recorded in the student answer booklet.
Word-for-word duplication or partial duplication of responses with the same
Student states in answer that the teacher provided all or some of the answer.
Student indicates bubbles were filled in when test was first handed out to the
Student indicates that the teacher pointed out correct and/or incorrect answers.
Procedure for solving problem is written at top of response space in a different
Reporting and Investigating Test Security Violations
A. Any identification or suspected violation of defined testing procedures must be reported
immediately. If a student suspects a breach in test security, the student should report the
alleged incident to a teacher or administrator. If a teacher, parent, assessment
administrator, or school administrator suspects a breach in test security, he or she should
report the alleged incident in writing to the district’s superintendent or contact PDE’s
Division of Assessment.
B. In the case of a test contractor suspecting a breach in test security, the suspected tests
should be “flagged.” The contractor’s scoring director and project manager will then review
the flagged tests and determine whether a test security breach has occurred. The test
contractor should immediately notify PDE’s Division of Assessment of any test security
breach and send them a summary file of the flagged student work.
Please note that neither the Department of Education nor the readers for the contractor
have access to individual student identification information. Student identification is
separated from the student response sheets prior to scoring and is not available to anyone
other than the test contractor’s project manager.
The test contractor will also send copies of the flagged papers to the appropriate school
district’s superintendent along with two letters through registered mail. The first letter
should indicate the procedure used in identifying the flagged work. The second letter will
instruct the superintendent, or designee, to investigate the concerns and complete a report
on the findings and the actions taken.
C. As soon as a suspected test security breach has been verified either by the test contractor or
PDE, a district superintendent, or designee of the investigation, will have 45 days to
complete a report. The report will be sent to PDE’s Division of Assessment indicating the
The details of the investigation
The action taken by the school, administrators, and/or district, if any
Upon completion of the report, the superintendent should return any student answer
documents involved in the incident to the contractor with the other student answer
Consequences of Test Security Violations
School districts are responsible for conducting the investigation and taking appropriate
actions in response to breaches in test security. PDE may, at the discretion of the Division
of Assessment, initiate a formal educator misconduct investigation that may result in
disciplinary action under 24 P.S. §§ 2070.1a through 2070.18a of the School Code. In
addition, PDE may, at the discretion of the Secretary of Education, invalidate any or all test
scores involved in the investigation and/or retest the students. Invalidation will not impact
a district’s participation rate for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The district will receive credit
as if a student had earned the lowest valid score.
PSSA Test Security FAQ
For More Information:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Bureau of Assessment and Accountability
Division of Assessment
333 Market Street, 8th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126
Voice: (717) 787-4234
Fax: (717) 783-6642
Content Last Modified on 11/21/2005 4:10:12 PM