Teacher Ethics Complaints Nothing New to Board; in Numbers, They Lead among the State's Other White-Collar Professions

By Jones, Walter C. | The Florida Times Union, November 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

Teacher Ethics Complaints Nothing New to Board; in Numbers, They Lead among the State's Other White-Collar Professions


Jones, Walter C., The Florida Times Union


Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - News that educators at four schools were accused of tampering with standardized tests made headlines across the state, but the board that licenses teachers gets about a dozen complaints of test irregularities every month.

Ethics complaints about teachers for various allegations totaled 866 during the past fiscal year, or just more than six for every 1,000 teachers. That rate equals the combined rates for dentists and druggists.

Other white-collar professions had even lower rates of ethics complaints, according to figures from the Secretary of State's Office, which administers most licensing boards.

Accountants had eight complaints for a rate of 0.39 per 1,000 license holders. Engineers and land surveyors were subject to just five complaints last year for a rate of 0.15 per 1,000 license holders.

However, used-car dealers wound up with nearly four times the rate of teacher complaints, 23 for every 1,000 dealers.

Of course, not all complaints are found to be valid. The state Professional Standards Commission (PSC) launched formal investigations in just 46 percent of the allegations, and only 55 percent of those resulted in sanctions, which ranged from a warning to revocation of the teaching certificate.

The most common sanction was a suspension for some period.

GLYNN OFFICIALS NAMED

Thursday, the commission found probable cause in the cases of four educators from Burroughs-Molette Elementary in Glynn County accused of the high-profile test cheating, and it recommended each be suspended for 190 days, which is a school year. Former Superintendent Michael Bull, who was fired last school term, and retired Burroughs-Molette Principal Morris Arrington have been named, but the two teachers have not.

Names are released only when the case is resolved, by either being closed, the educator accepting the punishment or an appeal moving it to a public hearing.

"We could be talking about three years if they string out the appeals," said Gary Walker, director of educator ethics for the commission. "That's why it's important that the locals take action."

Glynn County school Superintendent Howard Mann took action Friday, removing the two teachers from the classroom. He already had reassigned them so they would have no contact with any testing.

The Glynn educators are likely to appeal because an internal investigation by the local school board found no evidence of intentional cheating.

The Glynn educators - and two from Fulton County, two from DeKalb County and eight from Atlanta Public Schools - came to the commission's attention as the result of an investigation by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement. Those investigators noticed statistical irregularities in the scores of fifth-graders from those four schools who retook in summer school standardized math tests they had flunked during the regular year. …

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