Miss. considers more cheating probes

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright is considering other investigations into schools whose statewide assessment scores raised red flags.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/1luWPHS) Wright's comments came Monday in response to questions from lawmakers at an Education Summit at the state Capitol in Jackson.

"When we get done with Clarksdale, we might have to add another investigation," Wright said. "We're already looking at other areas of the state."

Although she wouldn't discuss specifics, Wright said the decision on where to look next will be make jointly with Caveon Test Security.

The state hired Caveon in May after a Clarion-Ledger investigation revealed claims of widespread cheating at Heidelberg Elementary School in Clarksdale based on highly irregular test scores and teacher and students interviews.

Caveon's contract ended Monday, but the investigation hasn't yet concluded. Wright says the investigation should be finished by the time classes resume in August.

"I take test violations very seriously," Wright said, adding that educators could face licensure and job loss if the cheating allegations prove true.

They should face fines and jail time, too, said House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, who supports legislation requiring severe punishment for educators who intentionally violate testing protocol.

"This is absolute fraud," Moore said, because it denies students the right to accurate academic performance indicators and it swindles taxpayers who fund the public school system.

Educators shouldn't bear all the blame, said state Rep. Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, who argued that teachers face enormous pressure to raise test scores at all costs and may feel coerced into cheating by an unfair system.

"The measure of a great teacher is not a test, but their jobs are based solely on the QDI and the MCT," Espy said, referring to the Quality Distribution Index and the Mississippi Curriculum Test, both of which determine a school's accountability rating — and, sometimes, a teacher's job security.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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