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I-Team: Agassi Middle School Principal on Leave after Test Investigation Begins | News

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I-Team: Agassi Middle School Principal on Leave after Test Investigation Begins
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LAS VEGAS -- Mattie White sits properly, passing the dog-eared copy of the "Plan for Test Administration and Test Security" back and forth between her hands.

She came forward to talk about the rules in that book, and to reveal a secret that put her former principal on leave and kicked off two investigations.

"It's hard for me to say what will happen. But according to the law, I see what should happen," White said sitting forward.

White says on March 9, 2010, Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy Middle School Principal Bevelyn Smothers admitted in a faculty meeting that she improperly looked through completed state-mandated student tests. White and other teachers tell 8 News Now that Smothers would call students back to finish tests if they left sections blank, giving Agassi Prep a leg up on test scores.

The Criterion Referenced Tests are benchmarks used to gauge student and administrator progress. The teachers were shocked when Smothers allegedly told faculty to follow her lead.

"And if they have not answered all the questions, we should have them come back up and finish," White said.

One teacher, who feared retribution, said Smothers was wrong. "I wouldn't compromise my integrity," the teacher said.

Clark County School District and Nevada Department of Education rules are very strict when dealing with test proctoring.

White's well-worn rule book says "…a test administrator must follow the script provided in the test administrator's manual and cannot provide additional assistance."

That state manual warns of Nevada Revised Statutes calling for suspension and revocation of teaching licenses if students receive any help beyond explaining test directions.

"The principal, teacher, nobody has the right to look through those test sheets, call the students back up here and say, ‘Look Johnny, you didn't finish this. You need to go back and finish.' That's where the cheating comes in," White said.

"In order for the test administration to be consistent across the state, we expect everybody to read the same script," said Henry King, a CRT state administrator.

King said the goal is to maintain uniform procedures applicable to all districts across the state. Anything else would skew scores and give unfair advantages.

White turned in her resignation the day after the meeting with Smothers. She had taught in the district for more than 30 years, many of them as a coordinator, teaching other teachers the proper district rules.

"I figured I had the biggest chance of losing my license because I know better," she said.

Tuesday, the Clark County School District's testing department acknowledged an investigation was underway both at the district level and by the state. As a result, Agassi Prep put Smothers on leave.

The school said in a statement: "The Middle School principal at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately, as a result of allegations of an irregularity with testing procedures implemented during last week's CRT tests. The leadership of the school is fully cooperating with the district and state investigations. The incident being investigated involves approximately five middle school students. Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy places the highest priority on the education of its students, as well as strict compliance with district rules and regulations."

A letter is also being drafted by the Chancellor to go out to parents explaining the situation. It is unclear how long Smothers will be on administrative leave.

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