AUGUSTA — The principal at Farrington Elementary School gave the go-ahead to put mathematics reference materials into classrooms where third-through-sixth graders would be taking standardized math tests on computers, the union representing teachers said Tuesday.

The Augusta Education Association called a news conference in response to questions raised following the news that the state will not count results of 212 math tests taken by 106 students at Farrington and in the wake of Principal Lori Smail’s resignation.

“The mistake was that the principal, after giving permission, my understanding is, later on found out that they were not supposed to have stuff available and didn’t get around to telling staff, ‘Oh, hey, we have to move that stuff,” said Jeff DeJongh, president of the Augusta Education Association and science department chairman at Cony High School.

Smail did not immediately return a call seeking comment about that on Tuesday afternoon.

Previously, she said that “the error that was made was unintentional.” A state Department of Education report on the testing irregularities concluded that teachers intentionally placed the posters and reference sheets in rooms where tests were administered.

DeJongh said the news conference was called “to set the record straight and to support the exceptional teachers of Farrington School.”

“Having the teachers’ personal and professional integrity questioned has resulted in undue scrutiny and extreme stress throughout the Farrington School community as well as the Augusta school community in general,” said DeJongh, who also noted that his wife is a teacher at Farrington and his son attends school there.

State Department of Education officials said the math test scores from Farrington were invalidated following an investigation by local administrators, because posters and reference sheets containing math facts were placed intentionally in classrooms where standardized tests were administered to students between March and May.

On Monday, two dozen teachers from Farrington, wearing light blue T-shirts with a message on the back that said, “FARRINGTON RESPECT: RESPECT YOURSELF, RESPECT OTHERS, RESPECT OUR SCHOOL,” flanked DeJongh as he read a prepared statement in a second-floor classroom.

The Farrington teachers themselves did not speak to the press and were not going to answer questions about the testing or the students’ reactions, DeJongh said, because the state investigation into testing irregularities is ongoing.

“In preparation for the recent testing, teachers asked and were given permission to move reference materials from classrooms into testing rooms to keep the atmosphere as normal as possible for the students taking the test,” DeJongh said, saying specifically that the permission came from Smail, the principal.

He said the music classroom and the classroom for gifted and talented were used at Farrington for what he termed “high-stakes tests” in the Smarter Balanced Consortium testing platform.

He also said the procedures for setting up a testing environment were unclear.

“Information regarding the testing environment wasn’t found on the test administrator portal, and one principal was provided the testing environment information only from a colleague in another school district,” DeJongh said.

Augusta School Superintendent James Anastasio said the testing irregularities were uncovered May 8 and reported to the state Department of Education by Smail, who resigned May 12.

Anastasio said the posters were placed in two testing rooms before the testing by several teachers.

Joan Morin, a director of the Maine Education Association, said she heard the students would be retaking the tests.

However, in response to an email sent after the news conference, Anastasio said, “The testing window is closed. They will not be asked to retake the tests.”

DeJongh also said, “It would be ridiculous to have these kids take this test over again and lose even more educational time for a test that is going away.” DeJongh was referring to a legislative committee’s vote to require the Department of Education to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced consortium and not use its statewide assessments in the future.

He also noted the short time remaining in the school year, which ends next week. A letter from Nancy Godfrey, acting assessment coordinator for the state Department of Education to Anastasio, said the testing irregularities gave students an unfair advantage during the mathematics assessment, and the scores were thus declared not valid.

DeJongh said he was involved on behalf of the Farrington staff during the Augusta School Department’s internal investigation.

“It was clear to me that there was no intentional wrongdoing, and from what they relayed to me, I didn’t see how there could be any real unfair advantage given,” DeJongh said.

Gary Trice and Cindy Fabbricatore, two parents of Farrington students, attended the news conference. Both said they supported Farrington teachers and were saddened to lose Smail as principal.

Trice, who has a third-grader at Farrington, said he respected Smail’s decision to resign.

“As a community, I think we feel very saddened that we’ve lost a real advocate and a real strong educator in Augusta,” he said.

Fabbricatore, whose son attends kindergarten at Farrington, said she too was saddened.

“I feel badly for what the teachers and staff have gone through and actually am really upset about losing our principal,” she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.