- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi education officials say that Tuesday’s admission by a Clarksdale teacher that she cheated on state tests won’t be the last action in the case.

The state Department of Education, in a statement released after Frances Smith-Kemp agreed to give up her teaching license for at least two years, said officials plan to file additional charges “in the near future.”

“We will not tolerate cheating by educators in Mississippi classrooms,” state Superintendent Carey Wright said in a statement. “As this first case demonstrates, there will be serious consequences for educators who are caught cheating.”

In the agreement, hammered out after settlement talks Monday and Tuesday between lawyers for Smith-Kemp and the state, she admitted wrongdoing under state law and agrees to cooperate with the investigation. However, Smith-Kemp did not admit criminal liability.

Smith-Kemp agreed not to petition for her license to be reinstated after one year. However, the department agreed to recommend to the teacher licensure commission after two years that Smith-Kemp be allowed to teach again, if she cooperates “faithfully.” An agreement outlining Smith-Kemp’s cooperation and an affidavit with her admissions were filed in secret.

When asked why the state was willing to recommend Smith-Kemp’s reinstatement, department lawyer Raina Lee answered, “That’s how these agreements work sometimes.”

The deal was approved 3-0 by a panel of the licensure commission. Smith-Kemp and her lawyer, Preston Rideout, declined comment after the settlement was announced.

It’s the first penalty assessed against anyone connected with suspicious test scores at Heidelberg Elementary School in 2013. Testimony Monday indicated Smith-Kemp looked over students’ shoulders while they took multiple-choice exams in math and language arts, telling them to “check your work” when the student had chosen a wrong answer. Testimony also indicated that Smith-Kemp and another fifth-grade teacher, Jennifer Lutts, had communicated by phone and text during the tests to determine correct answers to test questions. Rideout sought settlement talks after that testimony.

The state had detected unusually large jumps in test scores and unusually similar answer patterns among students in a statistical analysis. But after Clarksdale Superintendent Dennis Dupree reported no wrongdoing in a brief internal investigation, the state took no further action until students and teachers told The Clarion-Ledger about cheating in 2014.

It’s not clear who else might be a target of the inquiry in the Clarksdale school district, which won a $10 million federal grant to finance improvements in 2013. Lutts, listed as a witness against Smith-Kemp, hasn’t been charged so far.

Dupree gave Smith-Kemp a hug when she emerged from the hearing room. The teacher had been offered a contract to continue working in Clarksdale in the coming school year. Lowanda Tyler-Jones remains the principal of Heidelberg, while Dupree said Lutts left the district.

Dupree said he was present because he had been subpoenaed.

“We’re just here to testify and see how it goes,” he said.

___

Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide