NC no longer requires proctors. But some schools still want them for test ‘security.’

North Carolina public schools are still scrambling to find volunteer proctors for end-of-year exams even though the state no longer requires this additional level of test security.

Unlike past years, the state Department of Public Instruction is now leaving it up to individual schools and districts whether to have proctors in classrooms monitoring teachers and students during state exams. The state’s two largest districts are taking different approaches, with Wake County no longer requiring the proctors in most cases but Charlotte-Mecklenburg saying it’s not making any changes.

“CMS chose not to change our testing regiment in order to maintain the integrity and security of our testing environments,” Renee McCoy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school spokeswoman, said in an email Wednesday. “These decisions were made after careful consideration and deliberation with our Learning Community Superintendents.”

Testing security is the reason why for years public schools around North Carolina have begged parents and other community volunteers to serve as proctors.

The state exams the proctors monitor help determine if students are promoted to the next grade level, principal pay, teacher bonuses and letter grades that label each public school as high- or low-performing. There have been high-profile test cheating cases in other states.

Proctors are legally required to keep an eye on faculty to make sure they’re not breaking rules, The Charlotte Observer previously reported. The job is important enough for the state to provide a 12-page guide for proctors.

To ease the stress, State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced in January several changes to the state exam process. This included making proctors optional and shortening the length of the exams.

“Proctors are no longer required by the state — we trust you!” Johnson said in this year’s state testing guide. “Also, we have reduced the state requirements restricting schools from allowing students to leave classrooms when they complete exams.

“Your school leaders will be able to put their own systems in place for this.”

The response to the increased proctor flexibility has varied across the state.

Districts like Durham and Union County are still planning to have proctors.

“Durham Public Schools has made a local decision to continue the use of proctors in end-of-year assessments,” Chip Sudderth, a district spokesman, said in an email. “We are using ‘roving’ proctors who monitor assessments in a few classrooms as needed.”

The roving proctors are also being used in Union County, where the district expects to have a slightly lower number of volunteers than last year, according to Tahira Stalberte, a district spokeswoman.

“We like where we’ve been having proctors and it’s been a good practice for us having that quality testing environment for all of our students,” Stalberte said.

Durham issued a call on Twitter on May 9 looking for proctors. Union County issued its own pitch on May 12.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system hasn’t decided yet if proctors will still be required, according to Jeff Nash, a district spokesman.

In Wake County, the school district has made proctors optional in most cases for state tests, according to Sara Clark, a district spokeswoman. She said proctors are still required where there’s only one student in a room taking a test or where the test administrator is reading the test aloud to students.

If proctors aren’t being used, Clark said it’s strongly recommended that the school increase the number of hall monitors to ensure test security is maintained.

At Rolesville Middle, the school put out a request on Twitter for 106 proctors, telling people that “we can guarantee you a few hours of quiet in a crazy world.”

But Thaddeus Sherman, Rolesville Middle’s principal, said that number is still less than needed from prior years. He said also many people will be asked to serve as hall monitors, which doesn’t include the training required for proctors.

”We’re very much looking forward to the flexibility that’s being given,” Sherman said. “It’s definitely taken some pressure off of us.”

Charlotte Observer reporter Bruce Henderson contributed to this story.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.