Did students cheat on state test? Highland reprimands teacher

News-DemocratMarch 28, 2014 

AP GRAPHICS

Highland Community Unit School District 5 Board of Education reprimanded a teacher for allegedly helping students cheat on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test last school year. The teacher has not been identified by the district.

Highland School District concluded its internal investigation into the allegations that were brought to the district's attention earlier this month by students. Highland Schools Superintendent Michael Sutton said the district will forward its findings to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Highland School Board unanimously approved a notice of remedial warning Monday, which states if the teacher's unprofessional conduct and performance isn't corrected, it will be cause for the teacher's dismissal. Sutton said the teacher continues to teach students in the district.

According to the letter from the district to the teacher, the teacher is accused of directing students to change their answers on the extended response and/or multiple choice questions on the Illinois Standard Achievement Tests administered in March 2013, which violates the Illinois State Board of Education's instructions for the administration of the test.

The letter says the teacher denied the allegations. However, 11 students accused the teacher of such conduct.

"Without any logical explanation as to why these students would fabricate such serious allegations against you, coupled with the fact that all students consistently reported the same actions, the administration finds the students' testimony to be more credible than yours due to the fact that you did have a motive to engage in such conduct," the letter states. "Specifically, the motive is for the students to receive better scores to create the impression that it was a result of your teaching abilities."

The letter goes on to say by providing students with answers to questions on the ISAT, the teacher failed to uphold the high standards and integrity the school board expects of its employees.

"The Board of Education concluded that these deficiencies are sufficient reason and cause for your dismissal as a teacher in this district if you do not correct and remediate them immediately," it states in the letter.

In order to remediate the unprofessional conduct, the teacher must participate in training on the procedures for implementing standardized tests and review board policies regarding grading, curriculum and the administration of standardized tests.

The letter states the teacher's performance will be supervised and monitored by Sutton.

"The complete report of the investigation will be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, and we will await a response as to whether they will be taking any action," Sutton said. "Highland Community Unit School District No. 5 takes the integrity of ISAT testing seriously and will cooperate with the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure that the testing was done appropriately in the past."

Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said Friday afternoon ISBE had not received a report from Highland School District.

If ISBE receives a report, the assessment division will review it and determine if scores are legitimate or if they must be suppressed. Once a decision is made, a letter is sent to the district.

If the assessment division believes there was some possible foul play involved, Fergus said they will send the case to ISBE's educator licensure division for its review and to determine whether action should be taken to suspend the licenses of any teacher involved.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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