Community Concerned About Accreditation

By: Tametria Conner Email
By: Tametria Conner Email

Meridian Public Schools' drop in accreditation status has raised community concern, but local officials have been tight-lipped about an alleged testing violation that caused it.

Mississippi Department of Education spokesman Pete Smith has confirmed that the Meridian High School test coordinator reported the test violation to MHS principal Vicki Hood, and Hood failed to report it to the district test coordinator. But Meridian superintendent Charlie Kent says otherwise.

"The principal has been cleared of those allegations at the high school," said Kent.

When asked as of what date, Kent said, "I don't know the exact date, but it was early last week. There were some things that were done and there was a meeting. And that's as far as I can go."

Smith confirmed that the situation involved a teacher copying a 2007 English II test and using it to prepare her students for the test administered in 2008.

Officials say all of the teacher's students did remarkably well. During an investigation, a copy of the test was found in the teacher's classroom.

School officials confirm that the Meridian High School test coordinator resigned and the district test coordinator resigned. It is unclear what, if any, action has been taken against the teacher and principal.

Hood declined an on-camera interview but answered a question at a community forum regarding if any laws had been broken regarding this incident. Hood said, "I think the answer to that question is no. That particular situation is under investigation."

But according to Mississippi Code, it is against the law to copy a test, give students access to test questions and fail to report it. This is a misdemeanor, and if convicted, a person could be fined or face jail time and even lose administrative or teaching credentials.

State education officials sent a letter to Kent and it states, in addition to the district being placed on advised status for the 08-09 school year, Meridian High School's annual performance will be labeled as a "school in violation of test security."

"The plan has been submitted and accepted by MDE. We have done everything that MDE has asked us to do," Kent said.

Documents confirm this will remain on record until cleared by the Office of Student Assessment. School Board president Edward Lynch confirmed the attorney general's office is also investigating and the board will take appropriate action based on recommendations from the administration.

A hearing will be held in Jackson, however a date has not been set. The commission's next regularly scheduled meeting is in August.

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