Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ex-school chief in Texas sent to prison for cheating on tests

EL PASO, Texas — A federal judge sentenced the former superintendent of El Paso Independent School District to 31/2 three years in prison Friday for his participation in a conspiracy to improve the district's high-stakes tests scores by removing low-performing students from classrooms.

Lorenzo Garcia's scheme to prevent hundreds of sophomores from taking the accountability tests fooled authorities into believing that academic standards had improved in his West Texas district — resulting in a boost in federal funds and personal bonuses totaling at least $56,000.

Garcia pleaded guilty to two fraud counts in June; one in the testing scandal and another in which he misled the School Board so that his lover would receive a $450,000 no-bid contract to produce school materials.

Judge David Briones sentenced him to 3½ years on each fraud count, to be served at the same time. Garcia also was ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution and fined $56,500 — the amount he received as a bonus for success on the test scores.

Court documents indicate at least six people helped Garcia organize the testing scheme. Mark Morgan, the FBI director for El Paso, said the inquiry continues.

Garcia, who was hired in 2006, implemented a plan with several other administrators that allowed for the pre-testing of 10th-graders to identify those who were likely to fail the standardized tests. The method was intended to keep low performing students from taking tests used to measure its performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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