Teacher Certification Fraud Ring Leader Sentenced to Prison, Fine

A federal case concerning a teacher certification test fraud scandal has come to an end.

Four of the 40 people caught in the scandal, which affected students in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee have agreed to stop teaching. Ringleader Clarence Mumford admitted to being paid $3,000 by aspiring teachers to have someone else take the Praxis certification tests for them. He also created fake driver's licenses for those he hired to take the exams. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and will have to pay a fine in excess of $167,000.

Would-be teachers used the exam results to attain positions at public schools in the three states. Nine Mississippi districts referred to those teachers hired through the scheme as "low performing."

Mumford, a former guidance councilor and assistant principal for Memphis City Schools as well as other school systems, ran the scheme from 1995 to 2010, making around $120,000 in total, after paying test-takers $600-800 per test. Investigators uncovered about 100 tests taken for around 50 people, some of whom had repeatedly failed the exam prior to taking part in the plot. One teacher had failed 11 times.

Among those involved were Mumford's own son, Clarence Jr., and Cedrick Wilson, a former NFL player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who worked as a substitute in Memphis.

Some teachers sought Mumford out, others he found through an online search for teachers with expiring temporary licenses, as well as by tutoring teachers who were about to take the exams.

According to two of the teachers caught in the scandal, they had refused to participate at first but eventually agreed when Mumford told them they would lose their jobs.

Prosecutors said the full extent of the scandal will never be known because Mumford burned boxes of paperwork implicating him after test proctors became aware of the illegal test takers in 2009.

US Attorney Ed Stanton described what Mumford coordinated and others participated in as a "tragic scam" that "cheated the honest and dedicated teachers in our communities and tragically, the parents and children who deserve qualified teachers in their classrooms."

According to prosecutors, thousands of students who were taught by unqualified teachers were affected over the 15-year scheme. The students were found to be below proficiency levels in basic subjects, or currently working below their grade level.

A total of 10 basketball coaches and nine football coaches plead guilty to the scandal and were offered diversion agreements in lieu of jail time.

As a result of the federal case, 13 participants have been convicted of felonies, and 10 were sentenced to time in prison. An additional 40 teachers were offered deals to pay restitution to the school districts where they were employed and to no longer teach. Under the deal, the 40 former teachers are not allowed to apply for employment in the education field for at least five years.

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