Mid-Missouri teacher resigns over cheating on state test

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COLUMBIA - Just days after the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide MAP test scores, KOMU 8 News has learned a mid-Missouri teacher has resigned over allegations of directing students to change answers on the 8th grade science test this past spring.

In reports released to KOMU 8 News, DESE said the teacher, identified as Tom Morgan also helped Wellsville Junior High students in answering questions on the test. The district reported to DESE that students said Mr. Morgan helped them by prompting them on answers, confirming answers, and reviewing specific items on the test.

Wellsville Secondary Principal Darin Sehlke said a student approached him after taking the test and asked how much help students are supposed to get.

"Basically I said not at all unless it's helping you pronounce a word of that nature or something of that nature but he cannot help you at all," Sehlke said. "She [a student] immediately told me that questions were being helped with, and not just her but a couple others and answers were being provided."

Sehlke said he approached district superintendent Pete Nasir with the issue. Following the district's investigation, the district reported its findings to DESE. The agency tracks what it calls "irregularities" in testing and cited the district for a security breach.

DESE Communications Coordinator Sarah Potter said irregularities occur, but this was an unusual case.

"We usually don't see that," Potter said.

The district placed Morgan on paid administrative leave initially and he then resigned.

Now, DESE said the Wellsville-Middletown school district is in charge of taking disciplinary action against Morgan, but Nasir said he was not aware of that responsibility. DESE cited state law which puts the burden on the district to request the state take away a teacher's license or certification.

"I'm going to plead ignorance on that one." Nasir said. "I was not aware that the district had anything to say with removing a teacher's license."

Potter said, "it is standard procedure that if a district has a teacher that has committed a crime or an act of moral turpitude (such as cheating on a state test), the district may request discipline of the teacher's certification. It's spelled out in state statute."

DESE said the test results for students who took tests under Morgan's watch were thrown out and they will not be used for accountability.

DESE also reported several other "irregularities" in mid-Missouri school districts.

In Camden County, DESE reported a teacher helped a student with a question.

In Cole County, DESE reported students broke into an office where tests were being stored. No action has been taken in that case.

DESE reported in Jefferson City, a teacher gave students a reference guide to help with the test.

In another Montgomery County incident, DESE said a teacher erased a graph off a test booklet. DESE said that teacher was put on administrative leave after students reported going over material in class before taking the test. 

In Higbee, DESE said a teacher helped a student on the test. DESE also reported similar instances in Lee's Summit and Macon County.

In its report to the state, the district cited the following precautions it would take going forward:

• MAP and EOC policies will be reviewed with building principals present.

• The implementation of all MAP and EOC tests will be monitored on an hourly basis by an administrator.

• Partial Professional Development will be guided towards integrity, following of policies and state laws.