After three separate investigations by the state, a state contractor and the , Mar Vista High School may lose its as a result of a student taking pictures of a standardized test, a California Department of Education spokeswoman said Friday.
Released last month, API, or Academic Performance Index, shows how a school is performing in comparison to others and is based on results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program and California High School Exit Exam.
Mar Vista was one of two schools in San Diego and 12 statewide where students took pictures of test questions and answers, said Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company contracted by the state to conduct the tests.
An investigation by the company found that across California 442 images of taken by students have been documented. California Standardized Tests and high school exit exams in April.
"Most of those are either kind of stupid postings of a closed test booklet or answer document where someone colored in the bubbles to write a message to someone," said Pam Slater with the Department of Education.
About 35 of the photos taken included live test questions.
"Those are the photos that are most troubling to us," Slater said.
Though ETS testing officials believe the leak did not impact test scores, since one of the photos was taken in Imperial Beach, the school may not receive an API score.
"The technology caught up with us," she said. 2012 was the first year that photos of tests being leaked was documented by the state, Slater said.
"Students are going to continue to receive their STAR scores but whether schools receive API scores is still to be determined," she said. "Schools who did not cover up bulletin boards or had testing materials left overs or other little irregularities didn't receive API so that's not new."
Before standardized tests are administered, state policy is for teachers to instruct students to put anything with a camera into their backpacks or lockers. After it was discovered that students posted photos online on sites like Facebook and Instagram, teachers collected student's phones until after tests were finished.
ETS did not return calls for comment.
Initially Sweetwater Union High School District officials said they weren't confident that ETS or the state got their facts straight, in part because a mistake has happened before.
When test breaches were discovered this spring, the district was told one was found at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, said Grave Sevilla.
"The problem is it ended up being at Terra Hilltop High School or something like that in another county," she said.
The Mar Vista photo was not discovered by district officials in April or shared with the district until last week.
"We keep getting mixed messages from them," Sevilla said. "We were told Tuesday that nothing was invalidated, that it wasn't at that level."
Disciplinary actions may still be taken against the student who took the picture, she said.
"We have to wait until school's back in session and see if we can bring the right people in for questioning," she said.
Classes resume at Mar Vista High School Wednesday.