Carey M. Wright, Ed.D., State Superintendent of Education
Office of Communications & Legislative Support
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR, Director of Communications *601-359-3706 *FAX: 601-359-3033
Jean Cook, Communications Specialist *601-359-3519
For Immediate Release: January 19, 2017
Licensure Commission Determines Former Clarksdale Principal Directed Cheating, Bans Licensure Application for 20 Years
JACKSON, Miss. – The Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development determined today that Lowanda Tyler-Jones, former principal of Heidelberg Elementary School, violated state law by directing her staff to cheat on state assessments. As a result, the Commission made the unanimous decision to deny Tyler-Jones’ application to renew her administrator license and prohibit her from applying for any educator license for 20 years.
Today’s decision concludes a nearly three-year investigation into Tyler-Jones’ role in testing irregularities at Heidelberg Elementary School in the Clarksdale Municipal School District.
“Because of Ms. Tyler-Jones’ actions, children in Clarksdale were deprived of the educational services they needed, and in some cases, students fell far below grade level without any intervention,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “The Commission’s decision to bar this former educator from applying for any type of educator license for 20 years speaks volumes about the seriousness of her offense and the consequences the Commission determined.”
Tyler-Jones was served with a complaint in December 2015 that specifically charged her with violations of state law pertaining to mandatory state testing, as follows:
- The Respondent participated in, directed, aided, counseled, assisted in, encouraged or failed to report any acts in violation of § 37-16-4(1)(f) of the Mississippi Code of 1972, during the administration of the 2013 Mississippi Curriculum Test Second Edition (MCT2).
Tyler-Jones’ licensure hearing began in May 2016. The process was delayed by multiple continuances and extended questioning of witnesses by Tyler-Jones’ attorney. In addition, Tyler-Jones and her attorney attempted to stop today’s hearing by attempting to unilaterally withdraw from participating and failing to appear without the Licensure Commission’s authority.
“Since the allegations against Ms. Tyler-Jones first emerged, the Mississippi Department of Education has dedicated itself to discovering the truth and holding her accountable for her role in depriving the children in Clarksdale from the education they deserve,” Wright said. “Ms. Tyler-Jones’ conduct throughout this cheating investigation showed a disrespect for the teaching profession and a disregard for the children of the Clarksdale School District.”
MDE strives to ensure that all students in Mississippi receive a fair and complete education. A vital objective of standardized assessments is to ensure that students who require additional educational resources can be identified so that they may receive special services if they qualify. Fraudulent state test results deprive students who need special services from obtaining them because their test scores indicate that they do not qualify for the services.
The investigation into allegations of cheating at Heidelberg began in May 2014. Former Heidelberg Elementary School teacher Frances Smith-Kemp was the first to be served with a complaint alleging she was involved in testing irregularities. Smith-Kemp surrendered her teaching license on July 28, 2015 for two years. The Licensure Commission suspended former Heidelberg Elementary School Tetra Winters’ license on Nov. 18, 2015 for five years. A third teacher’s license expired while under investigation, and the teacher has not sought to renew the license.
“We will not tolerate cheating of any kind and will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to ensure that the children of Mississippi get the education to which they are entitled,” Wright said.
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