(Orange, Texas)

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June 15, 2013

Federal audit confirms cheating at El Paso schools


EL PASO, Texas —

The audit also says that the associate superintendent of Priority Schools, —those schools within the district that had failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress two years in a row and were put on a special program — sent an email directing that all students that came from out-of-country schools were to be placed and kept in the 9th grade — in order to keep them from taking the TAKS test in the 10th grade.

The then-assistant superintendent of Priority Schools was Damon Murphy, who was later hired by the school district in neighboring Canutillo but resigned after facing dismissal by the school board after an audit found indications that he oversaw cheating in the district.

In October, Garcia was sentenced to 3½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in a conspiracy to prevent hundreds of sophomores from taking the accountability tests fooled authorities into believing that academic standards had improved— resulting in a boost in federal funds and personal bonuses totaling at least $56,000.

Garcia implemented a pre-testing plan to identify the 10th graders likely to fail the standardized tests. The method was intended to keep low-performing students from taking high-stakes state tests used to measure its performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Other large districts also have been ensnared in scandals to raise test scores, most recently in Atlanta, where educators gave answers to students or changed answers after tests were completed. But none has been so brazen as to cast off low-scoring students.

After the scandal came to light last year, Texas officials placed the district on probation, named a monitor to oversee it and said the schools showed "utter disregard" for the students' needs.

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