River Cities’ Reader
No. 836 • August 8 - 21, 2013
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
Iowa Conducts School-Cheating Investigation Behind Closed Doors
by Sheena DooleyIowaWatchdog.org
hen cheating happens in theclassroom, Iowa’s top educa-tion officials are responsible forinvestigating the allegations and uncover-ing any wrongdoing.But the public in Iowa has littleinsight how state leaders investigateincidents, what material is collected, andthe amount of cheating taking place.They also don’t know the extent of staff involvement in the cheating.And they don’t have any way of knowing that investigations are thoroughand fair.It’s all legitimate under Iowa law.The only information released to thepublic is whether the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners takes action on ateacher’s license. Not all school employeesneed a teaching license, however. Anunlicensed employee’s role, if there wasone, wouldn’t be disclosed under Iowa’sopen-records laws.“There is no real legitimate publicpolicy for withholding the findingsof an investigation that has been fully concluded,” said Kenneth Bunting,executive director of the NationalFreedom of Information Coalition,housed at theUniversity of Missouri ReynoldsJournalismInstitute. “It’s a lotmore of cover-upsthan good publicpolicy.”The DavenportCommunity SchoolDistrict uncoveredwidespreadcheating atMadisonElementary Schoolearlier this year,with wrong answerserased and replacedwith correctones (RCReader.com/y/cheating).The changes were found on the statemath and reading tests students in thirdthrough fifth grades must take underthe No Child Left Behind law. If schoolscontinually fail to meet ever-risingtargets, they face sanctions that includereplacing staff and principals.The district recently wrapped upits internalinvestigation, butSuperintendentArt Tate wouldnot sit down foran interview withIowaWatchdog.org about thefindings. BoardPresident RalphJohanson did notrespond to multiplephone calls ande-mails requestinginterviews.Dawn Saul,spokesperson forthe district, didn’tsay in an e-mailto IowaWatchdog.org last week if theinvestigation uncovered who was behindthe cheating. She would only say thatDavenport concluded its investigationafter an unnamed outside organizationwrapped up its own look into the matter.The district has turned its materialsover to the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, Saul said.“We’re responsible for following thelaw,” said Staci Hupp, spokesperson forthe Iowa Department of Education.“That includes upholding the three legalprovisions that provided the basis forour decision not to disclose Davenport’sinvestigative materials. ... The Davenportdistrict must follow the law as well.”Even the district’s initial disclosureof the cheating was done behind closeddoors. Johanson and Ken Krumwiede, vice president of the board, sat down withTate shortly after the allegations came tolight. Tate then called remaining boardmembers to inform them individually,Saul said.Board members never discussed theallegations or investigation in publicbefore putting out a statement in Aprilafter they notified the Iowa Departmentof Education.The board didn’t have a role indeciding how to handle the matter,including the district’s hiring of twooutside law firms to conduct theinvestigation, according to Saul. One of
“There is no real legitimate public policy for withholding the findings of aninvestigation that hasbeen fully concluded.” – Kenneth Bunting, National Freedom of Information Coalition
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