For nearly a decade now, people have talked about alleged cheating at Cesar Chavez Academy in Pueblo.
The rumors persisted even as the charter school grew into a network, with schools in Pueblo, Denver and Colorado Springs. Now, a state-commissioned audit of CCA's practices for the Colorado Student Assessment Program test has sorted fact from fiction.
Yes, CCA did break CSAP rules — inappropriately giving huge numbers of students extra time to complete the test in 2007, 2008 and 2009 — an accommodation reserved for children with special needs.
"For example," a Colorado Department of Education press release noted, "86.9 percent of fifth-grade students at CCA who took the math portion of CSAP in 2008 were provided with extra time. Statewide, just 4.8 percent of fifth-graders were provided with extra time. In 2007, 77.5 percent of CCA third-grade students were provided extra time for the writing portion of CSAP. Statewide, just 6.5 percent of students were provided that accommodation."
The chance that all those kids actually needed special accommodations? Less than one in one trillion.
The revelation was a victory for Pueblo City Schools, which charters CCA and has pushed the state to investigate the school for years. PCS is considering a range of actions, from invalidating certain CCA test scores to levying sanctions against CCA administration.
Meanwhile, CCA board members have released statements expressing remorse, and seemingly blaming top administrators they recently fired, including Lawrence Hernandez, Chavez founder. Hernandez and company responded through a lawyer, stating they believed the audit had "vindicated" CCA, and that they couldn't imagine why everyone was focusing on "the limited negative findings."
CCA and its sister school, Dolores Huerta Preparatory High, were cleared of other cheating-related allegations, except that the audit firm, Caveon Test Security, noted improper assistance may have been given to CCA students on an individual basis.