State hires firm to probe cheating allegations

news_education_greenJACKSON (AP) – The Mississippi Department of Education has hired a national firm to investigate cheating allegations at Heidelberg School in the Clarksdale Municipal School District.

Dr. Carey Wright, superintendent of education, says Utah-based Caveon Test Security will probe allegations made against Heidelberg.

The department’s investigation comes after The Clarion-Ledger published a story alleging that teachers at Heidelberg Elementary School were rigging test results from the Mississippi Curriculum Test. The newspaper said some Heidelberg students could barely read or write when they moved up to Oakhurst Intermediate School – just three months after those same students had passed the MCT.

Several former Heidelberg students also admitted violations in state test practices at the school.

“I want this investigation to be conducted in an efficient, orderly, and systematic manner in order to ensure due process and allow for outcomes that are accurate, fair and beyond reproach,” Wright said in a news release Monday.

Superintendent Dennis Dupree told The Clarksdale Press Register that his principal and teachers have done nothing wrong, and he’s confident the state’s investigation will clear the school, which was heralded two years ago after it improved 83 points on a state scoring system then in use. The school made some of the biggest gains of any school in the state.

“The allegations made against Heidelberg are serious and demand a full investigation. However, the MDE will not prejudge the outcome. We will reserve comments about potential consequences for the school or district until the investigation is complete,” Wright said.

Caveon was involved in several high profile investigations of testing irregularities and possible cheating including work performed in 2010-11 for the State of Georgia and the Atlanta Public Schools, and work performed in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 for the District of Columbia Public Schools.

The Clarion-Ledger reports the department will release Caveon’s findings after the investigation is completed.

If the allegations prove true, the school could be put on accreditation probation which would affect the accreditation of the entire district, the Press Register reports.