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MDE Charges Clarksdale Principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones with Cheating on State Tests

December 16, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) issued an administrative complaint on Dec. 16 against Lowanda Tyler-Jones, principal of Heidelberg Elementary School in the Clarksdale Municipal School District, for violating state law by knowingly and willfully cheating on state assessments.

This is the third complaint filed as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of testing irregularities at Heidelberg Elementary School. MDE is seeking to revoke the license of Tyler-Jones.

“Our investigation has yielded evidence that Ms. Tyler-Jones directed and encouraged cheating during the 2012-13 school year,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “As I have said before, we remain committed to pursuing the appropriate disciplinary action against those who were involved in the testing irregularities.”

The complaint specifically charges Tyler-Jones with violations of state law pertaining to mandatory state testing, as follows:

  • The Respondent participated in, directed, aided, counseled, assisted in, encouraged or failed to report any acts in violation of § 37-16-4(1)(f) of the Mississippi Code of 1972, during the administration of the 2013  Mississippi Curriculum Test Second Edition (MCT2).

Those actions are grounds for revocation or suspension of Tyler-Jones’ educator license. The hearing is set for January 18, 2016, before the Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development. The hearing will be held at the Woolfolk State Office Building, 501 N. West St. in Jackson.

“Principals are charged with ensuring that all of the students in their schools receive a quality education. Cheating by a principal undermines the integrity of the school, deprives students of an opportunity to learn, and puts students behind academically. A school leader who engages in this type of conduct does not belong in any school,” Wright said.

As the investigation progresses, MDE will release its conclusions to the public after determining what actions, if any, it will take in response to the findings, and after each person affected by such actions, if any, are informed of MDE’s decisions.

MDE strives to ensure that all students in Mississippi receive a fair and complete education. A vital objective of standardized assessments is to ensure that students who require additional educational resources can be identified so that they may receive special services if they qualify. Fraudulent MCT2 test results deprive students who need special services from obtaining them because their test scores indicate that they do not qualify for the services.

The investigation into allegations of cheating at Heidelberg began in May 2014. Former Heidelberg Elementary School teacher Frances Smith-Kemp was the first to be served with a complaint alleging she was involved in testing irregularities. Smith-Kemp surrendered her teaching license for two years on July 28, 2015. Former Heidelberg Elementary School teacher Tetra Winters was the second to be served with a complaint alleging her involvement in testing irregularities. The Commission on Teacher and Administrator Education, Certification and Licensure and Development voted on Nov. 18, 2015 to suspend Winters’ license for five years.

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist