Dallas Elementary School Rocked by Cheating Scandal

Dallas Independent School District officials have discovered teachers at Umphrey Lee Elementary School cheated in an effort to raise the school’s ratings.

“We know teachers did something with the scores to inflate the grades,” said DISD Superintendent Mike Miles.

An investigation last fall showed teachers had been feeding answers while students took the state’s STAAR tests, which hold a direct link to school’s ratings.

Five teachers and an instructional coach resigned from their positions at the school at the conclusion of the investigation.  After their dismissal, students’ STAAR results dropped dramatically, causing the school’s rating to plummet.

Despite this, parents were never informed of the situation, nor was any tutoring or remedial help offered to the children.

“Wow, I never heard anything. I never received a letter,” said Carol Williams-Burnett, whose daughter attended the school in Red Bird. “It is a disservice because they aren’t given everything they need. If you don’t get what you need from the previous grade, then it will be really hard in the next grade.”

According to the district, officials were waiting for state action before telling parents.  Just last week, they admitted this move to be a mistake.

“We’ve determined that some things probably could have been handled better,” said spokesman Jon Dahlander. “A situation like this in the future … should call for parents to be notified, both by a letter and likely a meeting with parents to explain the situation. We need to do this as we move forward.”

The school was initially flagged after a computerized analysis system detected student scores not near the norm.  Aaron Ware, the district’s director of local assessment, told Jeffrey Weiss for The Dallas Morning News that the system looks at each individual student’s test scores for two years, and then estimates their score for the following year.  When multiple students score much higher than the estimation, the school is flagged for problems and an investigation occurs.

In all, 198 students are believed to have been affected in the scandal.

A similar situation is facing the Atlanta Public School district where it is currently week two of jury selection in the largest cheating trial in the nation’s history.

The 12 defendants, all former teachers, are accused of changing answers on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in 2009.

The trial is expected to see 72 students and 100 current employees of APS testify.

APS Board Chairman Courtney English says if during the trial, something comes out involving misconduct by any current employees, the district will “act decisively to make sure it doesn’t impact the lives of the children.”

“This entire time serves as a reminder of what can happen when you place the needs of adults over the interests of kids,” said English.