The state Department of Education commission banned Lowanda Tyler-Jones from Clarksdale for the next 20 years. Tyler-Jones is the former principal of the Heidelberg Elementary School in Clarksdale. She had applied for the renewal of her license. However, she was hauled up for cheating on state assessments. As a result, the state department denied her application and slapped a very high ban on her.
Neither Tyler-Jones, nor her lawyer was present at the hearing. The Office of Educator Misconduct stated that the Principal had lost the right to cross examination and presenting her argument by being absent. As a result, the punishment meted out to her remained uncontested. An article in USA Today explains that the state wanted to send a strong message against cheating. They did so by banning Tyler-Jones for 20 years. This is the highest punishment given out to any educator so far.
What did Tyler-Jones do?
The Heidelberg Elementary School from Clarksdale suddenly saw a rise in its student’s grades and performances. When the Principal was questioned about it, she said it was due to positive attitude and prayer. Tyler-Jones activities came to light in 2014, after intermediate schools found that the Heidelberg students’ grades did not match their performances. Alberto Aquino, a teacher from Oakhurst Intermediate School said the problem was a very well-known one. Teachers from Oakhurst and from other schools in the district knew about it. While Tyler-Jones had denied any wrong doing then, she blamed the intermediate school by saying that Oakhurst was a problem.
However, the irregularities prompted a media investigation. An article in Clarion-Ledger reveals that a student had confessed to cheating to the publication. According to the student, her English teacher had read the answers aloud to the class during state test. Clarion-Ledger, broke the story and prompted a thorough Mississippi Department of Education investigation. The Department sent an auditor, the day the outlet published the explosive story.
How did Tyler-Jones cheat?
During the investigation, witnesses revealed that the principal was obsessed with winning. An Assistant teacher told the commission that a lead teacher had helped students with correct answers during state exams. This, she said, he did because Tyler-Jones had instructed him to do so. Another teacher revealed that the Principal’s directives had given him/her physical ailments. Yet another instructor told the commission that Tyler-Jones warned the teachers by saying “if you make me look bad, you will not work for me.” She added that a co-worker then questioned the Principal if the Superintendent’s office was aware of her actions. To this she had replied that the office had given her a green signal.
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