Back in 2014, in Mississippi’s Clarksdale Municipal School District, teachers noticed that their students, whose standardized test scores were through the roof, weren’t performing like superstars in the classroom.
“The irregularities are very clear,” said Oakhurst teacher Alberto Aquino. “I am not saying there is cheating going on (at Heidelberg). I am saying that the scores are not matching up, and every teacher in this school knows it. Every teacher in this district knows it.”
Heidelberg Principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones denies any cheating occurred on the Mississippi Curriculum Test, called the MCT2. She attributes her students’ success to the positive attitude and rigorous teaching that occurs at her school, which this year runs from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade.
That’s not what one of the students said:
One former Heidelberg student told The Clarion-Ledger her English teacher, Frances Smith, had read the answers aloud to the class during testing last year.
“She would say, ‘C for cat. D for dog. B for ball. A for apple,'” the now sixth-grade Oakhurst student said, describing how Smith provided students the correct multiple-choice response to each question.
In December of 2015, that principal, Lowanda Tyler-Jones, was charged in connection with the cheating scandal. She temporarily lost her teaching license as did a couple of the teachers at her school.
While in the midst of her disciplinary hearing with the Mississippi Department of Education, executive director of student assessment and accountability Walt Drane made this stunning revelation about what Tyler-Jones told him over the course of the investigation:
[Tyler-Jones] told a state education official that a dramatic increase on test scores was due to prayer.
“She indicated to me during an interview that she anointed the desks, the pencils, the doorways and also the students’ heads with holy water,” said [Drane].
So… Tyler-Jones was saying she didn’t break the law by cheating; she broke the law by pushing her religion on the students. Which is a dumb excuse since if the students didn’t learn what they were supposed to learn, no amount of supernatural intervention was going to save them. It was also an admission that Tyler-Jones didn’t have faith in her teachers. If she did, there would be no need to seek supernatural help.
There’s finally an update to this story: Tyler-Jones has been given a 20-year ban on teaching and serving as an administrator in the state.
The state Department of Education commission voted unanimously Thursday to deny Lowanda Tyler-Jones application for license renewal and barred her from reapplying for the next two decades, saying she violated state statute by directing teachers and other employees to cheat on state assessments.
It’s the longest suspension ever handed down by the Education Department. And God’s not around to listen to her appeals.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)