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Testing concerns raised at Kemp Elementary

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Public Schools officials have opened an investigation into whether cheating may have taken place at Edwin S. Kemp Elementary School, during the administration of the Criterion-Reference Competency Test (CRCT) last month, Superintendent Edmond Heatley confirmed on Wednesday.

The superintendent would not give details of what allegedly happened at the school. He did, however, admit during a news conference that the district had received a complaint that some "inappropriate conduct" occurred during the school's administration of the exam. The test is used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status.

Kemp is one of two schools in the district that only serves third-graders through fifth-graders, because it has a neighboring primary school, which serves the younger grade levels.

"There has been an allegation of some wrongdoing during testing," Heatley acknowledged. "We're investigating that, and that's as much as I can tell you right now, because it becomes a personnel matter, but let me go on to say this: If there was cheating done, we will deal with it swiftly, and appropriately ... An investigation is ongoing, but as soon as the findings are done, they will be given to me, and I will deal with it."

The allegation against Kemp Elementary comes at a time when there is increased statewide scrutiny on how schools administer the CRCT, due in large part to a widespread cheating scandal in nearby Atlanta Public Schools.

Last year, the state released the findings of an investigation into questionable erasure marks during the 2009 administration of the CRCT at every elementary school in the state. Kemp was not among the schools that the Governor's Office of Student Achievement raised "serious concerns" about. However, two other schools, the Lewis Academy of Excellence, and North Clayton Middle School were.

A district investigation into North Clayton and Lewis Academy cleared North Clayton, but continued to raise concerns about Lewis Academy, a charter school in the county that has since closed its doors.

Heatley did not specify who filed the complaint against Kemp. School System Spokesman Charles White said the complaint did lead to district-level officials directly overseeing the administration of CRCT retests at the school this month.

"No employee at the school was involved in that process," White said. "They didn't touch the test. They didn't count the test. It was proctored by district-level staff. They took care of everything ... We wanted it to be above reproach."

White said he could not confirm if entire classes had to be retested because of the allegations of misconduct. Heatley said Kemp's principal, Janice Sills, is still in her position, and still working at the school.