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

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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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    Will ReNEW CEO Gary Robichaux be conducting the internal investigation? You know Gary – he’s the one who got creative with personnel payroll records and teachers’ retirement contributions – which prompted TRSL to call for an investigation by the LLA for alleged discrepancies between campuses. The discrepancies were actual alright and were authorized by Gary Robichaux, but Gary said he did not intend to mis-report anything. It was all a mistake and ReNEW would pay back the deficit funds. Gary Robichaux is a former LDOE employee and was one of the “boys.” Gary is not a Louisiana certified administrator or school leader, but that is why Gary hires principals-administrators like Hearin and Perez (let’s A$$ume they have the credentials). Gary was so “inside” the Pastorek-Vallas inner circle that he became the CEO of one of the “top choice” charter networks (CMOs) that the RSD relied upon to open and/or take over “failing” schools. Gary is #10 on the CityBusiness list of “Highest-paid nonprofit executives: Charter Schools, and according to IRS 990 reporting for 2012, Gary’s salaray was $134,949, which does not include private funds. 06/03/2015 8:01 PM DST USA

  • Expatmom

    Good grief!!!

  • Lee Barrios

    Keeping in mind that it has been almost a year since the RSD BESE meeting during which so many parents and students reported irregularities in the operation of RSD schools when BESE members Lottie Beebe and Caroline Hill moved to have a third party look into those allegations (didn’t want to call it an investigation). But the other BESE members attending including Chas Roemer and James Harvey and Kira Orange-Jones voted no. Why would they object to an investigation into these complaints? Well here is just the tip of the iceberg. NO accountability for these charters or for Patrick Dobard and his merry men in the RSD. It is just a matter of time before the house of cards falls. If these allegations are shown to be true there needs to be an investigation and criminal charges filed. JW loves to have his friends at the federal level promote his miracle schools. But he doesn’t like it when they stick their noses in where he has some thing to hide.

  • M. BButler

    The mistaken theories for high stakes testing and charters are illustrated here—it’s a small business, you have to make a payroll and you’re gonna pay the boss the most. And those teachers, well, let’s get someone who’s not a teacher and pay them way less because the boss decides who gets the money… Those students who are dragging down the test scores have to go. See the successful lawsuit by major civil rights groups that proved that children with disabilities were not allowed in schools here,. In full force here is the Pipeline to Prison successful method of ridding low scoring students by sending students w minor problems straight to jail.. The rest of the high stakes test scores problems, just cook the books (let better performing students take the tests for others as shown here make them take home tests), because the hand=picked boards either don’t know or let it go. The taxpayers pay, have no representation and everyone ELSE is hoodwinked by the fudged reports from the charters themselves as well as from the biggest Robber Baron, Leslie Jacobs, in the Education Business. That’s what the media covers except for the LENS ; ) Thank you very much!

  • HalfFullClass

    G ROBichaux claims he directs his group of school leaders to create their own budgets. He actually creates the main budget figures that assure that his CMO (Charter Management Organization) is properly funded. The leaders also must agree to system-wide outcomes that have no regard for the level of the students at the beginning of the year. IE from their 3-8th grade job listing web site:
    “Prepare at least 75% of students to be college ready as measured by the grade-level appropriate LEAP or iLEAP test. At least 75% of all students score at least a Basic or above, with at least 25% of all students achieving a Mastery or Advanced score.”
    This goal will be difficult to reach in a timely manner with the PARCC results being released in the Fall. Was reNEW using the Star assessments instead of the state assessment to measure progress this year?

    MBButler, you are on target about Ms. Jacobs. She was on schedule to donate/invest directly into the reNEW system. What better way to assure that future schools are handed over to the reNEW org. than to have Ms. Jacobs in your corner verifying your data? This added pressure to meet the growth requirements and satisfy the data targets surely was a factor in Mr Hearin’s “hasty” administration of the assessment.

    Do not even get me started on the Special Education “pushed” limits and minutes that need to be “made up”!

    Here is a link to Crazy Crawfish’s latest blog about John White’s dismantling of Louisiana’s Special Education department.

    We can all rest easily tonight knowing that RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard will refer to his Broad Canter handbook of school leaders and do the right thing. He can get together with fellow Broad Alum John White and find a way to label this reNEW mess as a single incident that has been handled and will not happen again.

  • nickelndime

    “HalfFullClass,” you are on fire! You are tearing me up with all this information on ReNEW, etc. Your post makes me want to “copy and paste” all over the place and distribute on the street corners of this city. And just for the record, SciTech received a six-year charter renewal from the State BESE-RSD in December 2014. 06/04/2015 7:13 PM DST USA

  • HalfFullClass

    SciTech has a 6-year license to hire, fire and cash checks.
    Six more years. Do we want your city’s future depending on this broken model?
    Does anyone want our young college graduates working for such a dysfunctional organization?
    No. No, No & NO!!!

    This lab experiment on our children must stop, please.

  • nickelndime

    Oh HAIL No! “HalfFullClass.” I am mad as HAIL, and I ain’t taking it anymore. 06/04/2015 12:00 AM DST USA