TEA Says Key, Kashmere "Academically Unacceptable"

The Texas Education Agency has declared Key Middle School and Kashmere High School "Academically Unacceptable" following an investigation into the standardized test cheating and other employee shenanigans at the schools.

The TEA is reporting that "actions by some campus staff ...compromised the integrity of the 2008-09 results."

The Houston ISD had launched its own investigation into the operation of both schools, allegations that Key staff members "provided assistance to students via the unauthorized viewing, copying and distribution of confidential 2009 grades 6 and 7 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) mathematics test content," and provided assistance to students taking the sixth, seventh and eighth grade modified math tests.

Kashmere Principal Mable Caleb (who was formerly at Key) turned in her retirement notice, effective August 31 (although she denies any wrongdoing), and Dolores Westmoreland, the dean of instruction at Kashmere, resigned.

The TEA investigation found "unexpectedly high passing rates" of 16 students who took the June 2009 TAKS grade 8 mathematics retest and found that "the students may have been provided assistance on the test and/or that some of their responses had been altered."

The investigation also found that "the staff allowed miscoding" on students leaving both Key (from 2006 through 2009) and Kashmere (2007-2009).

Norm Uhl, HISD spokesman said the news was "what we expected," and pointed out this is a separate issue from one of accreditation (with its ratings of "exemplary," "recognized," etc.)

A school district can either be accredited, not accredited, accredited warned or have its accreditation put in the pending column, he said. HISD is in the pending category, Uhl said. The good news is that now, the district has a solid basis for an appeal to open Key a week early along with the eight other schools (all part of the Apollo 20 schools in trouble recovery project), he said. The state had turned down Key since last year it was a "recognized" school, he said. That has now changed.

Criss Cloudt, TEA associate commissioner of education, went out of her way to compliment the HISD for self-reporting the problem, even though it resulted in "negative accountability consequences."

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