Teachers accused of paying bribes to college to cheat on tests

JACKSON, Miss. - At least 52 teachers from five states cheated on their competency tests by paying $1,000 bribes to exam supervisors for extra time and help with the answers, officials say.

The teachers from Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas are accused of taking part in the scheme at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark.

The test, required of teachers in 34 states to gain certification, involves a four-hour general knowledge examination and a survey of the candidate's subject matter.

''It's a terrible violation,'' Mississippi Superintendent of Education Richard Thompson said Thursday.

Philander Smith President Trudie Kibbe Reed said a former school employee who worked for the college when the alleged violations occurred in 1998 ran the testing scam.

''It is a crime when the integrity of our institution is compromised by one person's greed and lack of loyalty to the mission of our campus,'' said Reed.

The test is administered by New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service. The nonprofit company said it began an investigation after noticing questionable tests that may have involved fraud or cheating. The service then turned over all evidence to the FBI in Little Rock, which conducted a more lengthy investigation over the course of a year.

The teachers all have had their test scores canceled by the testing service, said spokesman Kevin Gonzalez said. The service said more teachers are expected to have their scores challenged during the ongoing investigation.

It is up to education departments in the five states to decide what happens to the teachers. The teachers could be fired or barred from teaching again.

The FBI is expected to announce formal charges against ETS and the college, Thompson said. ---

On the Net:

Philander Smith College: http://www.philander.edu

Educational Testing Services: http://www.teachingandlearning.org

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