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Two teachers suspended; testing irregularities probed

MONTICELLO — Two Lawrence County teachers were suspended withpay Tuesday pending the results of an investigation of statetesting irregularities.

“We’re investigating the irregularities, and we expect a dueprocess hearing to take place soon,” said Superintendent RussellCaudill.

The Lawrence County School District Board of Trustees met inexecutive session Tuesday night to discuss the allegations.

Caudill declined to explain the nature of the irregularities,but said they allegedly occurred while the school was administeringthe Mississippi Curriculum Test during the first week of May.

“We don’t want to jeopardize the case, but there were someirregularities and infractions for sure,” Caudill said.

According to one school official, who preferred to stayanonymous, the teachers are accused of presenting the students withpractice problems to work the day before the tests wereadministered, and the students were allowed to take them home tocontinue practicing. Those problems were later determined to be thesame as the ones presented on the MCT.

“I think we have here an isolated incident where something wentamiss,” said Sharon Dungan, the district’s testing coordinator. “Wewant to be very fair to everyone involved, teachers and students.If there was a reason that caused this to happen, we want to findit.”

The teachers have been suspended until the investigation iscomplete and the school board can make a decision on their fateafter the due process hearing, Caudill said.

The hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 9 at thedistrict’s central office. It can only be opened to the public atthe request of the teachers, he said.

The MCT is directly connected with the accreditation level of aschool through the State Accountability Model for the No Child LeftBehind Act. The tests are administered to all students in grades2-8 in reading, language and math, Dungan said.

Additionally, grades 3 and 7 are considered benchmark grades.Students must pass the tests in those grades to be promoted to thenext grade.

Test results often are returned after the district has begun thenext school year, however, so the student is usually held at thenext grade until the test is passed, Dungan said.

There is no direct benefit to teachers for their students topass the test because Mississippi does not have a merit pay system.However, administrators do get the results of the test broken downinto several categories, such as by class, and the scores can bepart of an evaluation of a teacher’s performance.

Caudill said the irregularities may have some minor impact onthe school’s accreditation level, but could not say what thatimpact might be.

“We’re not sure right now,” he said. “The State Department iswaiting on us to finish the investigation. We are following the lawand school policy. A copy of the report will be sent to the StateDepartment and the District Attorney’s Office and they willdetermine how we proceed from there.”