SciTech charter leader let students take tests for each other and at home

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The two top SciTech Academy charter school leaders who abruptly resigned last week let students take tests for one another and allowed other testing irregularities, the head of the school’s charter network said today.

Administrators with ReNEW Schools believe the problems were limited to a test used only by the network, but they can’t be certain yet, ReNEW Schools CEO Gary Robichaux said in an interview.

SciTech’s Head of School Tim Hearin and Principal Alex Perez resigned last week amid questions about the in-house STAR test.

Administrators are unsure of the number of times children tested in place of other students, Robichaux said. Hearin also tested children more than once and let students test at home, Robichaux said.

He said he has no reason to believe the problems happened during state accountability testing, but the network is still investigating the possibility.

ReNEW uses the test to benchmark students’ progress across its five schools. The test is given multiple times throughout the year and lets administrators tailor instruction to students needs, Robichaux said.

Hearin administered the last round of STAR testing at SciTech hastily, Robichaux said.

“He did, in the computer lab, allow a student to log on to take the test [for another student],” Robichaux said. “We’re not sure how many times, but he did.”

He said it’s impossible to know who really took an exam if a student was allowed to test outside the building.

“You shouldn’t have a kid take a test at home,” Robichaux said.

Robichaux said the network alerted the state Education Department to the situation on Tuesday. The state did not return request for comment on Monday when The Lens first inquired about any investigation into the school or again on Wednesday.

The STAR exam followed weeks of state testing. Students had already taken the LEAP, the state’s standardized test, and PARCC, the Common Core-aligned exam the state is phasing in to replace the LEAP.

“We don’t feel like there’s anything like this that happened with PARCC and LEAP,” Robichaux said.

Based on concerns raised by others, The Lens asked Robichaux about special education instruction, and he said there are some issues.

“Tim did push the limits with special ed stuff too; nothing was illegal or out of compliance,” Robichaux said.

When asked to elaborate, he said some students may need to have special-education minutes made up.

Students with special needs have Individualized Education Programs that require different amounts of instructional minutes or additional programs, such as speech or physical therapy.

“We did our investigation into IEP folders,” Robichaux said. “There were definitely some things that needed to be fixed.”

Hearin resigned May 27.

He knew we were digging into him and he sent in the letter of resignation,” Robichaux said.

“So we just accepted his letter of resignation,” Robichaux said. “Would we have moved to termination? Probably.”

Perez resigned the next day. Neither Hearin nor Perez could be reached for comment.

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