- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi education officials have filed administrative charges against a Clarksdale elementary school principal, saying she took part in cheating on standardized tests at her school in 2013.

The Mississippi Department of Education on Wednesday filed the complaint against Heidelberg Elementary School Principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones.

The Associated Press was unable to contact Tyler-Jones Wednesday evening and it wasn’t immediately clear if she had a lawyer to respond to the charges. She has previously denied doing anything wrong.

The department wants to revoke her administrator’s license issued in 2011.

“Principals are charged with ensuring that all of the students in their schools receive a quality education,” State Superintendent Carey Wright said in a statement. “Cheating by a principal undermines the integrity of the school, deprives students of an opportunity to learn, and puts students behind academically.”

The director of the Division of Educator Misconduct, Michael Martin, swore out the complaint according to a draft copy provided by the department. It alleges that Tyler-Jones “participated in, directed, aided, counseled, assisted in, encouraged or failed to report” cheating on tests in violation of state law, although it provides no details.

Tyler-Jones, previously an elementary school teacher, was named as Heidelberg’s principal in January 2012. Test scores from her first semester at the school rose so much over the previous year that the school’s letter grade in the state rating system rose from a D to a B. After 2013, the year that the allegations focus on, the letter grade rose again from a B to an A.

Those test score increases were flagged by the state as statistically unlikely, and the Mississippi Department of Education asked Clarksdale Superintendent Dennis Dupree to investigate. His cursory inquiry reported nothing wrong though. Dupree has not been charged.

It wasn’t until The Clarion-Ledger reported that test results were falsified at the school in May 2014 that the state began its own investigation, led by consulting firm Caveon. That inquiry found that teachers were coaching students on right answers.

Two teachers were charged earlier. Frances Smith-Kemp gave up her teaching license for two years, while the state’s teacher licensure commission suspended the license of Tetra Winters for five years.

Tyler-Jones’ hearing is set for Jan. 18 in Jackson before the state teacher licensure commission.

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