Education News

Houston School District Settles With Teachers Fired In Cheating Scandal

Attorney for several teachers says they will get one year’s salary to resign.

 

Last year, the Houston Independent School District launched an investigation into cheating at Jefferson Elementary.

Test scores had posted double digit gains from one year to the next, raising suspicion.

The probe led the school board to fire several teachers accused of cheating.

Now HISD is paying those teachers to walk away.

Chris Tritico is an attorney representing some of the teachers, who were about to start a legal battle over the firing.

He says his clients will be paid a year’s salary — about $50,000 each — to resign and not fight to keep their jobs.

“What this one year’s pay is to me is a complete capitulation by HISD that these teachers didn’t do anything wrong.”

Tritico says that settlement money is the same amount as if they had continued fighting and won their case.

He believes the district lacked evidence.

“All of these kids were saying, ‘No one cheated!’ There wasn’t any cheating that went on at Jefferson. What happened at Jefferson is what we expect our education professionals to do. They put their nose to the grindstone. They taught these kids and they did a good job.”

Last year, 100 percent of the English-speaking third graders at Jefferson passed the state standardized exams in both reading and math.

Some still see those test scores as troubling.

Anna Eastman is the school board member representing Jefferson. She says the investigation was worth it.

“I think the data was pretty clear when you went from very low rates of achievement to drastically higher rates of achievement back to lower rates of achievement — that there was something amiss.”

There’s a lot of pressure for schools to post good test results. Scores can impact teachers’ evaluations and bonuses as well as school rankings.

In a statement, HISD says it will continue to be “vigilant” and make sure the integrity of the testing system is not compromised.

But some say the cheating scandal has already compromised Jefferson Elementary.

On the north side of Houston, it enrolls mostly Hispanic and low income students.

One parent, Roberto Mejia, says he’s happy for the teachers. But he’s still worried about the education of his two boys.

“To me, the school is just really, really damaged and it’s going to take a long time a lot of work to get it back, I would say, to a satisfactory way.”

He says instruction has suffered since so many teachers were removed from the classroom and new ones came in the middle of the year.

Despite that, Mejia says he’s keeping his sons at their school. 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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