Two more former Texas administrators formally pleaded guilty for their roles in a test cheating scheme. The fraudulent acts took place in the El Paso Independent School District from 2006 to 2013.
Maria Flores and Vanessa Foreman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government on Thursday in El Paso’s U.S. District Court before Senior Judge David Briones. The two initially appeared in court on Tuesday where U.S. Magistrate Judge Miguel A. Torres set their individual bonds at $10,000, the El Paso Times reported.
Flores, 61, a Priority Schools Division Director from 2006 to 2009, oversaw the district’s Bowie High School. She later served as an associate superintendent of elementary schools and retired in 2012. Flores was named in the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) 2014 petition filed against 11 education professionals purportedly involved in the El Paso ISD test cheating scandal.
Authorities accused Flores of falsifying and directing others to falsify attendance records vital to reporting under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. She participated in a scheme to promote and/or retain Bowie students to circumvent taking the then end-of-year Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (TAKS), also used for federal accountability.
Flores authorized credit recovery courses called “minimesters,” abbreviated semesters that allowed students to make up credits but they did not meet Texas education standards. She also manipulated the Low English Proficient (LEP) and Special Education populations by removing students from these subgroups. The altered data appeared below the number required for federal measurement, according to the petition.
Foreman, 48, was a director of the Priority Schools Division assigned to oversee the district’s Jefferson High. She later served as Title I schools director. In June 2013, she was fired. The El Paso Times reported authorities accused Foreman of directing a high school administrator to reclassify 10th grade at-risk, poorly performing, and LEP students as freshman and juniors to avoid the sophomore year taken TAKS test. Foreman allegedly directed Jefferson personnel to conduct “minimesters” so students could graduate from high school.
Flores and Foreman took plea agreements, waiving their rights to a jury trial. Judge Briones outlined potential maximum five year prison sentences, followed by up to three years of supervised release, a possible $250 fine, a $100 contribution to the crime victims’ fund, plus they will be required to pay restitution, according to the Times.
Foreman’s plea deal, however, included a recommended sentence of probation and not jail time. She voluntarily surrendered her state educator credentials on June 7, said the Times. Flores’ credentials remain under investigation. Both are expected to be sentenced on September 28. This follows the August 15 trial of the other six former administrators indicted by a federal grand jury on conspiracy charges in April. One of them, James Anderson, surrendered to federal authorities in early May.
All those accused in the scandal allegedly played a role in defrauding the U.S. government by manipulating test score results to hide El Paso ISD campuses were failing in federally tracked English Language Arts/Reading and math testing scores, attendance, and graduation rates. Prosecutors said some of the school district administrators did so to secure more funding and personal bonuses, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
In 2014, Breitbart Texas reported the TEA filed its petition against 11 present and/or former El Paso ISD employees to hold them accountable for their roles in gaming the system, a plan masterminded by the district’s former superintendent Lorenzo García.
Two years earlier, Garcia voluntarily relinquished his teaching credentials and pleaded guilty to two federal counts of conspiracy to defraud the TEA and U.S. Department of Education by rigging TAKS results through a number of methods, including who did not take it, to boost results.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.