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Two cheating investigations lead charters in RSD to hire testing-security monitors

After two test-cheating investigations came to light in recent weeks, Recovery School District charter-school leaders from across the city pledged Tuesday to hire test monitors for state exams this spring.

Superintendent Patrick Dobard received a letter from 19 charter chiefs, outlining their plan to increase public confidence in testing procedures.

“We offer this support voluntarily in the interest of maximizing transparency and accountability to the public,” the letter states.

The letter also says the schools will invite the monitors to observe test-security training for staff and that they will publicly release a summary of the monitors’ findings.

The announcement comes in the weeks following two revelations that have rattled the education community. On Jan. 29, ReNEW SciTech Academy, a Recovery charter, after a six-month investigation, revealed special-education fraud and state-testing violations occurred in the first half of 2015.

Last week, nola.com reported on allegations of cheating on state exams at the Algiers network’s Landry-Walker High School; the principal and several others were put on paid leave shorlty after.

Dobard said the state flagged the high school in the fall of 2014, after the department’s “analyses turned up multiple indicators of potential malfeasance” at Landry-Walker and a few other schools. The state will not name the other schools.

The Algiers Charter School Association performed a monthslong internal investigation and the Inspector General’s office is also investigating, Dobard said.

The Department of Education will pay for monitoring in schools that were chartered by the state that are up for charter extension or renewal. Generally, the state monitors random sites during spring testing. Schools that are not included in that will pay for their own monitoring.

Department officials said they were negotiating with a monitor and would also likely name several companies as suggestions for charters to select in the coming weeks.

Department officials said every New Orleans RSD charter was represented, including Joseph A. Craig charter school. That school is overseen by Friends of King and is under the RSD’s authority; Friends of King also operates Dr. Martin Luther King school, which is under the Orleans Parish School Board.*

Interim Algiers CEO Rene Lewis-Carter and ReNEW CEO Colleen Mackay were both present but quickly disappeared after Tuesday’s press conference ended, while other school leaders and department officials fielded questions from reporters.

*Update: An earlier version of the story said that Craig wasn’t part of this effort, but it has since signed on. (Feb. 16, 4 p.m.)

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