RICHMOND, Va. – While cheating often brings to mind students copying from a classmate or maybe having answers written on their hands, but a CBS 6 investigation found teachers– and even principals in Central Virginia — cheating on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.
There have been more than 30 cases over the past five years where students have been forced to retake the SOLs in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond as a result of cheating by teachers and administrators.
Cosby High School student Gage Langlais is one of those students.
He crammed people, places and time period into his brain for his World History SOL test in May, only to learn he would have to retake the test.
“I was kind of in shock, like, I worked so hard to clear this test, why do I have to take it again,” Langlais said.
According to documents obtained from the state, Langlais and 92 of his fellow students had to retake the exam because his teacher was giving out hints.
“I never heard her do anything like that,” Langlais said.
When we showed Langlais’s father, Luc Langlais, those documents, he expressed surprise and wondered why it would happen.
“What’s the motive? To look good? Are they getting pressure from their administrations?” Luc Langlais asked.
Since 2010, the state ordered retests after investigations into cheating by teachers, principals and SOL proctors two times in Chesterfield, eight times in Richmond, and 24 times in Henrico.
The principal at Ginter Park Elementary School in Richmond was placed on indefinite administrative leave in 2011 for changing the answers of at least one student.
A principal at Montrose Elementary School in Henrico actually took the SOL for an absent student, and then changed that student’s attendance record, according to state records.
“The document speaks for itself,” said Henrico County School spokesperson Andy Jenks.
“Oh, absolutely, any testing irregularity concerns us,” Jenks said when asked if school’s are concerned over the documents.
In another case at Highland Springs High School in Henrico, a geometry teacher admitted giving students the correct answers.
We showed the investigation to Highland Springs student Donald Hagans.
“I didn’t think it would happen at Highland Springs of all schools…that’s crazy,” Hagans said.
We asked Jenks why the Henrico School system had the highest number of cheating instances that led to re-testing investigated by the state.
“I don’t know if there is a concrete answer to that, I think the relatively high numbers are a reflection of our willingness to report these findings to the state; to not make any excuses for what takes place,” Jenks said.
Dr. Bill Bosher, a former Henrico and Chesterfield Superintendent who was the state’s top educator when the SOLs were created in the 1998, said schools can lose accreditation if students do not perform well on the tests.
“If people are placing undue pressure, that needs to be addressed, but to eliminate the pressure is to eliminate the accountability,” Bosher said.
Jenks said expectations are reasonable.
“Would a teacher be fired if not enough students were passing the SOL?” Hipolit asked Jenks.
“No, no –that’s no, the answer to that is no,” Jenks said.
If someone is caught cheating Virginia law allows for a teacher or administrator’s license to be taken away for cheating, but the state told us just 10 people in the entire state have ever had their license revoked or suspended for testing violations.
Disciplinary action is typically left up to the individual school system.
We asked Jenks if Henrico County Public Schools have ever fired someone for cheating.
“I can’t say for sure because we’re talking about what’s getting into, what could be extrapolated, what could be a personnel matter connected to a certain individual — but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” Jenks said.
While Henrico, Chesterfield and Richmond said they are legally unable to talk about specific cases, state records show Langlais’ teacher left Cosby, which is a decision he hopes will mean no more re-tests in the future.
“It should be about what we learned and the teacher should have no part,” Langlais said.
We spoke with some teachers who wanted to remain anonymous when discussing what they felt could be causing teachers and principals to cheat.
They told me there is extreme pressure for kids to perform well on the SOLs and everything centers on those tests.
One teacher even told us the “pressure is so great that despite what you do and how good you are at it, it’s all about that one day [SOL testing day].”