Education News

Cheating Scandal In Houston Schools Not Over Yet

While the state reviews HISD’s investigation, three teachers want their jobs back.

The cheating scandal in Houston schools is not over yet.

Three teachers from Atherton Elementary in the Fifth Ward are still fighting the charge that they helped students cheat on standardized tests.

“The next step is to get a judicial authority to order HISD to do what’s right and that is to clear my clients’ public name based upon the evidence that HISD knows is true,” said Larry Watts, their attorney.

Watts says his clients are innocent.

One of them says in an interview that he passed a lie detector test. He also says his two students who took state exams maintain they didn’t get any extra help.

Meanwhile, the Texas Education Agency is reviewing the investigation done by HISD.

The state also analyzed the answer sheets from the two schools suspected of cheating.

The results for Atherton Elementary have not been made public.

As for Jefferson Elementary, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier says that report shows students changed their answers four to five times more than the state average.

At the same time, Grier says it made sense for HISD to settle with teachers fired from Jefferson. He says would have been very costly to keep fighting them on their contracts.

Grier defends the district’s actions, saying student tests are important.

“We need to really have a clear picture of where they are academically and what we need to do to have them improve. That’s the whole reason we should be testing in the first place.”

Student test scores are also tied to teacher evaluations and bonuses in Houston.

Grier says his staff had an obligation to check out any reports of cheating.

“What would you do? Would you just say, ‘No, I don’t care, it doesn’t matter if they cheat, I’m not going to investigate it.’ I think you have an ethical obligation to look into it.”

To that, the attorney Watts has a sharp reply:

“He may have an obligation to investigate but there’s a heck of a lot of difference between investigating and hanging and what he did is hang!”

In total, 20 teachers were removed from their classrooms when the probe started.

The HISD board fired eight of those teachers.

Three of them from Atherton are still trying to get their jobs back.

Four others from Jefferson settled and got paid one year’s salary. And another one resigned and got a job elsewhere.

As for the remaining 12 teachers initially suspected of cheating, some of them are still working for HISD. And some are teaching in other districts. 

 

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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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