Education chief: Make teachers pay for cheating
Published 4:20 pm, Saturday, August 6, 2011
HARTFORD -- School employees found helping students cheat on state standardized test shouldn't only lose their jobs, they should pay to clean up the mess, acting Commissioner of Education George Coleman said Wednesday.
Faced with having to shell out $20,000 or more to pay for an investigation into allegations of cheating at an elementary school in Waterbury, Coleman told the state Board of Education state statutes need to be stronger to level penalties to recoup the costs incurred as a result of testing improprieties.
Costs involve not only an investigation, but retesting students and hiring substitutes.
"There are many levels of costs ... as a token of how incensed I am, I am hoping that the board can adopt or support the department to develop legislation that enhances the liability of professionals who engage in this kind of work," Coleman said.
The comments come after 17 teachers and administrators at the Hopeville School in Waterbury were placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted into alleged tampering of the Connecticut Mastery Test given last March. It was determined that some answer sheets had correct answers over erasures.
Daniel Murphy, legal director for the state Department of Education, suggested the drafted resolution make it clear that it would be a personal liability if any violation of ethics is such that teachers resort to cheating.
Coleman said the cost of the investigation is not something his department, already hurting from state budget cuts, has readily available. He said he wants the investigation to be thorough, but completed as quickly as possible.
Coleman said he doesn't care why the cheating occurred.
"These people are professionals. They have responsibilities; frankly I don't know that there is a reason for doing it that would create a sympathy from me," he said. "It makes me angry."
How youngsters score creates an entitlement to correct and improve achievement. Disguising bad scores does students no favors since it hurts their chances to improve, Coleman said.
"These are the poorest communities often where this kind of cheating occurs," he said. "These are communities that least afford to pay double for a cadre of 12 to 17 professionals."
Although cheating has been uncovered a few times in the recent past, this is the first that seems to involve such a widespread portion of a school. In 1996, a cheating scandal at Fairfield's Stratfield School led to the resignation of the principal, Roger Previs, who took answer sheets for a locally given standardized achievement test -- later determined to have been tampered with -- home with him. He steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Contact Linda Lambeck at 203-330-6218 or email@example.com. Follow her at twitter.com/lclambeck