Principal Loses Job for Assisting Students on Test

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Charles County school board yesterday accepted the resignation of an elementary school principal who was found to have given her students answers, extra time and coaching on state-mandated tests administered last month.

The school system also released the results of its six-day investigation of Linda M. Jones, who had been principal at Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School in Waldorf since 2000. Jones handed in her resignation letter April 10.

Charles County Superintendent James E. Richmond said that Jones walked through several classrooms March 14, improperly helping students while they were taking the mathematics part of the Maryland School Assessment Test.

Because of the violations, 45 fourth- and fifth-grade students were forced to retake the test later in the month. Those students were given pizza and meals from McDonald's for having to take the test again, Acting Principal Lisa J. Peters said at a recent parent-teacher conference.

Teachers and administrators at Brown Elementary had spent months preparing students in third through eighth grades to take the tests. The school's March newsletter included a tip sheet for last-minute preparations as well as a personal plea from Jones to parents to "talk each day with your child about what they are doing in class that day, and encourage them to do their best each day."

Parents, who met with Peters in the school library this month, criticized the pressure of high-stakes testing under the federal No Child Left Behind law and its impact on educators. "Can't we put less stress on the children?" asked Dorothy Hatch, whose daughter had to retake the test. "My 10-year-old daughter was almost worried sick she was going to get her teacher fired if she didn't do well."

Yesterday, Richmond cautioned against drawing conclusions from what he said was an isolated incident.

"Did it happen because of high-pressure tests? Maybe, maybe not. I can't say," he said.

The results of the county-level investigation were forwarded to state school officials, who will decide what action to take against Jones. "It could be anything from asking for further investigation to recommending sanctions like suspending or revoking the license," said William Reinhard, spokesman for the State Department of Education.

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