Letter to community from HISD Superintendent Terry Grier

Dear HISD Community:

I am writing to let you know in advance about an article that we expect to appear in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper on Sunday that analyzes test scores from school districts across America. The story comes nearly a year after a major cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools. This national exam score analysis was done in an effort to identify schools in which student test performance increased or decreased significantly from one year to the next. The newspaper interprets such shifts in performance as signs of possible cheating. We have been alerted that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis has identified such test score spikes at campuses across America, including some in the Houston Independent School District.

I want you to know that HISD takes these allegations seriously and does not tolerate cheating. We believe that adults who participate in cheating are robbing their students of the quality education they deserve. I also want you to know that I believe in the integrity of the overwhelming majority of educators working in Houston schools.

Now, I don’t know everything that happened in Atlanta. But I can tell you that in 2010 and 2011, HISD hired outside law firms to conduct aggressive investigations of possible cheating at 22 schools. These investigations resulted in nine confirmed cheating cases. Twenty-one HISD teachers were recommended for termination, did not have their contracts renewed, or decided to resign or retire as a result of these investigations. We currently have five ongoing cheating investigations.

Our testing security measures are comprehensive. Our teachers are not permitted to administer state exams to their own students. On test days, we send monitors to each campus to personally ensure that proper testing protocols are being followed. We have a telephone hotline for people to anonymously offer tips of possible cheating. On each campus, only two people have keys with access to testing material storage rooms, most of which are monitored by video camera.

Again, HISD swiftly and thoroughly investigates allegations of testing impropriety. We will continue to recommend termination for any employee found to have participated in cheating. I have great faith in the vast majority of our 12,000-plus teachers and administrators, and I am certain they support our efforts to protect the integrity of our children’s education.

Terry B. Grier, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Houston Independent School District