State withholds accreditation for Richmond school after teachers cheated on SOLs

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Board of Education voted 8-0 to withhold accreditation from George W. Carver Elementary School in Richmond. The Thursday morning vote came months after a Standards of Learning test cheating scandal marred the end of classes at the City of Richmond school.

Board members made it clear during the Thursday morning meeting that they wanted to make sure Richmond Public Schools had a plan in place to ensure students who needed assistance can receive that extra help, despite not having valid SOL scores.

State officials said the district was able to do that.

The Board of Education action did not deny accreditation to the school, saying it did not have enough valid tests to make final accreditation decision.

Only 150, out of 700 students, retook the SOL test after the cheating -- by some teachers and administrators -- was discovered.

"Every one of our students has the capacity for greatness. As I have shared previously, what most disturbs me about what occurred at Carver is that adults robbed our children of the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities without suspicion," Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said. "There are consequences for that, including the withholding of accreditation, which I fully support."

‘Deeply troubling’ report details how Carver teachers cheated on SOLs

A report released in July into "testing irregularities" at Carver Elementary School detailed inappropriate assistance provided to students at the school.

Investigators who spoke with multiple students admitted teachers helped them correct wrong answers during the most recent round of state sponsored Standards of Learning (SOL) tests.

One student reported that a teacher would smile at them if the answer was correct and would frown if the answer was wrong, according to the report.

Some student statements in the report included:

“Ms. Lacy checked our answers. If she smiled at me, I didn’t have to check it, but if she frowned, I knew I needed to check it.”

“Ms. Davis told me to push review and go back to the first question. If I got it wrong, Ms. Davis told me to try again. She couldn’t give me the answer, but if it was right, she told me to go ahead.”

“Ms. Cotman would check your work. If I got it right, she said go to the next one.”

“I was stuck on one, and Ms. Burgess showed me how to do it.”

“Mr. Johnson doesn’t help. He tells me if it’s right or wrong.”

While the report focused on Spring 2018 testing, it also looked back at previous years and found multiple students -- who tested at an advanced level at Carver Elementary School -- were unable to pass the test as middle school students at Albert Hill.

According to the report, 100 percent of Carver fifth-grade students passed the SOL reading test in the 2015-2016 school year. In comparison, only 36 percent of Albert Hill sixth-graders passed the SOL reading test in 2017.