Kara Kenney, WRTV, January 15, 2019
Seven teacher licenses are now suspended following what the Indiana Department of Education is calling the largest ISTEP cheating case the state has ever seen.
The state’s investigation began when the test’s vendor Pearson alerted the Indiana Department of Education about irregularities at Frankie W. McCullough Academy for Girls in Gary following the 2017 ISTEP.
ISTEP, or Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, is administered to students in grades 3 through 8 to measure skills like reading, writing and math.
The investigation found McCullough staff failed to follow prescribed testing protocols and did not maintain a secure testing environment.
IDOE spokesperson Adam Baker said the agency’s investigation showed students changed their answers from wrong to right up to 13 times, when the typical number is one time.
“One of the most interesting things is we had a 3rd grader who took ISTEP and their portion for the average third grader was 4-6 hours but she took it in 18 minutes,” Baker said. “When we are looking at things like that that are almost screaming to get caught. It’s just blatant.”
IDOE also found some McCullough students opened sessions of their exam on one day, and finished it another, which is not allowed.
Baker said the educators involved in the McCullough case have not provided a motive or explanation to how the irregularities happened.
Baker said there was a one in a billion chance that McCullough’s test results could have occurred naturally without answer manipulation by someone.
The state recently took over Gary Community schools amid massive debt and academic failures.
Two people voluntarily agreed to have their teaching licenses suspended, records show:
• Pearl Prince, principal, license suspended for three years
• Amelia Villanueva, teacher, license suspended for two years
IDOE had a two-day hearing on Nov. 29 and 30.
An administrative law judge issued findings against five educators:
• Denine Scott, teacher, license suspended for two years
• Gina Hannah, teacher, license suspended for two years
• Nina Peterson, teacher, license suspended for two years
• Rita Jackson, teacher, license suspended for two years
• Bridget McFadden, teacher, license suspended for two years
Records show the district blamed technological difficulties for the irregularities.
A recent Call 6 Investigation found since 2012, the Indiana Department of Education has revoked or suspended the licenses of 108 educators including teachers, counselors and administrators.
[Editor’s Note: According to this site, Frankie W. McCullough Academy for Girls is 94 percent black, 3 percent “two or more races,” and 2 percent Hispanic.]