TAAS Probe Update

Houston Independent School District last week asked a principal and three teachers to resign for alleged TAAS testing irregularities, which were the subject of a recent Houston Press investigative series ["The Fix Is In" and "Adding It All Up," by Shaila Dewan, February 25 and March 4].

On April 1, HISD requested resignations from Margaret Jefferson, the principal of Kashmere Gardens Elementary, and three teachers, from Kashmere Gardens, Alcott and Frost elementary schools. Jefferson has been relieved of duty.

The February 25 Press article focused on allegations of cheating at Jefferson's Kashmere Gardens school and sharply questioned HISD's effectiveness in enforcing TAAS rules and disciplining violators.

On March 5, HISD fired Frankie Garner, a long-term substitute from Kashmere Gardens. District officials claimed they had evidence that she changed TAAS answers.

At that time, HISD officials also reprimanded Jefferson and Cullen Middle School principal Nobleton Jones for failing to maintain adequate security during testing.

In the Fort Bend Independent School District, principal Raymond Whitley and one teacher have resigned after a similar TAAS investigation.

HISD has announced new measures to guard against test-tampering, including encouraging employees and students to report cheating to the HISD Alert Line, reporting irregularities to the TEA, and educating teachers and principals about proper testing procedures.

At schools with a higher than normal number of erasures, the HISD statement says, special "TAAS integrity monitors" will watch testing, and answer documents will be removed and held under security at the district office at the end of each day of testing.

At press time, neither the HISD teachers nor Jefferson had submitted resignations. According to HISD spokesman Terry Abbott, "appropriate action will be taken" if the resignations are not submitted.

-- Shaila Dewan

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