The Mississippi Department of Education says it is seeking to revoke the teaching license of a Clarksdale educator for cheating on a statewide test in 2012 and 2013. State officials say it could be the first of many charges brought against teachers at the Clarksdale School District.
State Superintendent Carey Wright announced that Francis Smith-Kemp will face a license revocation hearing next month for "knowingly and willfully cheating on state assessments." According to the findings of a year-long investigation, Smith-Kemp, then a teacher at Heidelberg Elementary, coached students during an assessment and later changed incorrect responses on tests.
Superintendent Wright says cheating by educators will not be tolerated.
"We will not tolerate cheating by educators in Mississippi," says Wright. "The real victims of this cheating are the students at Heidelberg. Depriving these children of an opportunity to learn and putting them behind academically is disgraceful."
Wright went on to say that it is clear other educators also cheated on exams, but would not comment further. The initial investigation started last year when students, who scored well on state tests, were not nearly as academically successful the following year. Clarksdale School Superintendent Dennis Dupree says it's premature to speculate on whether other teachers will face penalties.
"I think any time there's cheating in any phase in life it hurts everybody, and hopefully that's not going to be the case with us." Dupree says. We'll let the investigation progress as it needs to. We've been cooperative with the state department from day one and we will continue to do that."
It remains unclear whether Francis Smith-Kemp or any other teachers found to be cheating will face criminal charges, the Attorney General's Officer says it will neither confirm nor deny any investigation into cheating at Clarksdale Schools.