Texas to probe agency's failure to catch cheating

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Associated Press

Posted on December 23, 2012 at 5:02 PM

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — State auditors will investigate how the Texas Education Agency failed to catch a broad cheating scheme at El Paso's largest school district that sent the former superintendent to prison.

Auditor John Keel announced Friday he had agreed to a request from Education Commissioner Michael Williams to look into how the agency handled complaints that the El Paso Independent School District was pushing out struggling students by transferring them or having some deported in an attempt to boost its federal ratings.

"The audit is currently in the planning phase, and we are gathering information to understand the agency's operations," Keel wrote in a letter to Williams.

The three-month probe will end in March, according to the El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/Vk4uLP ). A final report will be released in June.

The scheme came to light after then-state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh accused the district of deporting and transferring struggling students or sending to them to charter schools to prevent them from taking sophomore tests that counted toward federal ratings.

The Texas Education Agency twice in 2010 cleared the district of wrongdoing, and former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia used the agency's findings to accuse Shapleigh of attacking children. But Garcia was later sentenced to prison after he admitted he devised the plan.

Initially, the auditor said the investigation would not begin until fiscal year 2014. It remains unclear why he changed his mind.

The investigation will have two goals. The first will be to determine whether the state agency has "effective processes and related controls" to uncover noncompliance with school accountability requirements, Keel said. The second objective will be to figure out how the agency "failed to identify the reporting of inaccurate data and other instances of noncompliance" in the El Paso district.

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Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

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