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MOBILE, Alabama -- The former principal at Holloway Elementary School has lost the appeal of her termination, which came about after Mobile County school officials found evidence of widespread cheating on state tests at the school.
Mobile Circuit Court Judge Charles Graddick s order, issued on Nov. 19, upheld the Mobile County school board s decision to fire Iesha Williams last summer.
The sole reason for her recommendation for termination was because of the cheatingactivities which occurred at Holloway by both Williams and also by teachers under her directsupervision, the order reads.
Attempts to reach Williams were unsuccessful.
In hearings held Oct. 10-11, school resource officer Andy Gatewood described the various ways that teachers allegedly helped Holloway students on state tests in April 2012.
According to his testimony, teachers helped some of the special education students by telling them what to write in response to open-ended questions; used a dry-erase board to help them work the math problems; and used sign language or hand signals to give students the correct answers.
One teacher told Gatewood that another fifth-grade teacher at Holloway had copies of the correct answers to the third quarter end-of-quarter 2011-12 tests, and attempted to give copies of those answers to each fifth-grade teacher at the school.
The teacher also told Gatewood that while she was giving a make-up test in another teacher s classroom, she d seen at least six sheets of copier paper which appeared to contain handwritten answers to open-ended questions on the ARMT test, Gatewood testified.
Mobile County schools Superintendent Martha Peek testified that she was veryconcerned about testing practices at Holloway based on Gatewood s investigation, and also based on what she learned from Christine Nassar, another school system employee whoobserved irregularities when she was monitoring state testing at Holloway inthe spring of 2012.
According to her testimony, Peek met with Williams on two occasions to discuss the allegations of test cheating before recommending the principal's termination to the school board.
Reginald Wilson, principal at Booker T. Washington Middle School, which is part of Holloway s school feeder pattern, testified that some of the Holloway students, especially special educationstudents, weren t prepared for middle school and struggled academically at Washington Middle.
He also said that the Holloway students performance at Washington Middle did not match the test scores the students received at Holloway.
Susan Smith, the school system s executive director of research and accountability, told the court that test scores by Holloway students on the Alabama Reading and Math Test, especially in the field of special education, were demonstrably higher than special education scores for the remainder of the entire school district for the years 2010-11 and 2011-12.
After learning of the ruling on Tuesday, Peek said school officials have been taking extra steps to increase test security. All state tests will be given electronically this spring, she said, and there will also be more proctors.
We ll get results faster, and it will be a cost savings to have the tests completed online, Peek said. All of the answers will be submitted immediately after a student has finished the test, and we ll monitor the administration of the tests vigilantly, she said.
Metra Turner is serving as Holloway Elementary s acting principal until the school board appoints a new one, which may happen at its December meeting, Peek said.
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