updated 5/4/2005 9:50:18 PM ET 2005-05-05T01:50:18

Administrators in Texas’ largest school district said Wednesday they plan to fire six teachers and demote two principals and an assistant principal after finding evidence of cheating on state tests at four schools.

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Abe Saavedra said three other district employees, including a principal, will receive formal reprimands.

A Dallas Morning News review of standardized test scores throughout the state prompted a handful of Texas school districts to investigate test results at individual schools from recent years.

Unexplained irregularities, jumps in scores
The Houston district began an internal investigation four months ago after finding unexplained jumps in scores and statistical irregularities on standardized tests at 23 schools, Saavedra said.

Two months into the investigation, Saavedra announced the district had identified two teachers at an elementary school who assisted students on the state exam. The district has recommended those teachers be fired, and has demoted the school’s principal.

On Wednesday, Saavedra said the investigation was over and confirmed cheating occurred at another three elementary schools. At those schools, four teachers have been recommended for firing and a principal and an assistant principal will be demoted, he said.

At one school, investigators found that four eighth-graders were taken from their regular classrooms to another room where a math teacher helped them answer questions. The four answered all of the test questions the same way — and incorrectly answered the same two questions.

Robert Moore, the district’s inspector general who led the review, said all the teachers and administrators accused have denied wrongdoing.

Chris Tritico, an attorney for one of the principals and two of the teachers fighting to retain their jobs, claimed investigators picked a target “and then molded their facts around that target.”

Similar occurrences elsewhere
Other schools around the nation have faced similar incidents.

In Iowa, science test results for a seventh-grade class have been invalidated and a teacher has resigned after administrators discovered he quizzed students on materials found in the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the district’s superintendent said.

“They were talking about things that were awfully close to the test itself,” said Tim Hoffman, Adel-DeSoto-Minburn’s superintendent. “Students still had to figure things out, but the public has to depend on us to maintain the integrity of those tests.”

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