Second Los Angeles School Suspected of Cheating

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Koreatown campus that is one of the fastest-improving middle schools in Los Angeles has become the latest to be penalized over suspected cheating on the state's standardized tests.

Virgil Middle School's misfortune brings to 23 the number of schools in California that have lost their important Academic Performance Index rating because of suspected cheating, other misconduct or mistakes by teachers.

But in this instance, officials are concerned that the suspected actions of one teacher could cost the school a state grant worth more than $3.5 million over the next three years. The money, which pays for about a fourth of the teaching staff, requires schools to meet improvement targets that are linked to the API scores.

Virgil is the second affected campus within L.A. Unified, the state's largest school system. The other is high-performing Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey, where three teachers are suspected of improperly coaching students, changing answers on tests or both.

The accused teacher at Virgil was a veteran algebra instructor who spoke about her case but asked that her name not be used because allegations haven't been proved and she wants to protect her reputation. The instructor, who acknowledged that she'd been under pressure to improve her teaching, defended both her integrity and her effectiveness.

Officials have accused her of scanning the test into her computer, then preparing a review sheet for students based on actual test questions, according to documents submitted to the California Department of Education.

"It was egregious," said L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, adding that the district moved to dismiss the teacher, who opted to retire.

One of the teachers at Short Avenue also has retired.

The Virgil teacher suggested that either she was framed or that campus administrators, eager to push her into retirement, jumped to hasty and mistaken conclusions.

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