A cheating scandal at two Houston Independent School District Elementary School deepened on Thursday, May 8, as the HISD Board of Education terminated five teachers from Jefferson Elementary School accused of “improperly assisting” students on statewide standardized tests, including the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.
The five dismissals come after the Board voted to terminate three teachers from Atherton Elementary School last month.
Eleven more teachers from Jefferson remain under investigation in the probe, which was conducted for HISD by Martin, Desiere, Jefferson & Wisdom law firm.
“We take these findings very seriously. It is imperative that we have access to reliable and unbiased test results, as testing helps the district measure the degree to which students are learning,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier in a press release. “We will continue our investigation and the other teachers will remain reassigned until the investigation concludes.”
Lawyers from several of the accused teachers continue to argue that the teachers did nothing wrong,
Chris Tritico, an attorney for three of the Jefferson teachers, told the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday that he was “absolutely unconvinced that anything wrong happened … other than a whole bunch of teachers working very diligently to improve.”
The three Atherton teachers are appealing their dismissal to the Texas Education Agency as well.
In at least one recent incident, an HISD dismissal for cheating has not stuck—in 2013 an administrative law judge found principal Mable Caleb of Key Middle School not guilty of allegations of overseeing student cheating.
The scandal is one of several that have struck public schools throughout the country as districts rely more on standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and students. Perhaps the most high-profile is a Washington D.C. case, where in 2013 investigators examined dozens of schools unusually high test scores and suspicious erasures from controversial education leader Michelle Rhee’s tenure as Schools’ Chancellor.