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State not finished with El Paso cheating scandal

By The Associated Press

This article was published April 19, 2014 at 2:51 p.m.

— Texas education officials want to repeal the state certifications of 11 administrators linked to an El Paso classroom cheating scandal.

The El Paso Times reported Saturday that it marks the first time the state has tried to hold individual employees accountable for rampant cheating in the El Paso district from 2007 to 2010. School officials were accused of holding students back or coercing them into dropping out to improve standardized test scores.

Most of those named in the Texas Education Agency petition are no longer district employees. The petition accuses them of helping falsify federal accountability reports or knowing of the scheme but doing nothing to stop it.

The fallout led to former district superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleading guilty to fraud. He is serving a three-year prison term.

Former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, who first brought the cheating allegations to the education agency, said he had some reservations about the petition.

"That TEA has acted to hold people accountable is great news," he said. "However, many, many more people helped Garcia commit these crimes."

Those named in the petition must respond and then will have a hearing with an administrative law judge, who will make a recommendation to the State Board of Educator Certification. The board will make a final ruling on possible sanctions.

Under Garcia, district officials encouraged low-performing students to drop out or be held back in the 9th grade so they would not take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests in the 10th grade.

Garcia was hired in 2006 and served as superintendent until his arrest in 2012.

An audit that took about 2 1/2 years to complete said that while most of the cheating took place in Bowie High School -- a school with a large number of underprivileged students -- there was also wrongdoing at Coronado High School, located in a wealthier part of El Paso.

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