Sunday, June 24, 2018
Education

Music teacher accused in testing investigation will move to a new school after suspension

TAMPA — Vanessa Lewis, the Westchase Elementary music teacher suspended in June because of problems with an end-of-course exam, will be back at work later this month.

A settlement with the Hillsborough County School District will have Lewis report to Morgan Woods Elementary School in Town 'N Country on March 20, said district spokeswoman Tanya Arja.

Lewis will receive most of her back pay, minus what she would have earned during a nine-week suspension, Arja said.

The Tampa Bay Times covered Lewis' case in a broader article that examined the practice of giving young children end-of-course exams in non-academic subjects such as art, music and physical education.

The report found that these tests exist largely as a way to evaluate teachers, with critics saying they did little for students and had the potential to discourage children from enjoying these enrichment activities.

Lewis, who joined the Westchase faculty in 2000 after a long career at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, ran into trouble when she was required to administer her end-of-course exam entirely on computers, a new format.

She said the equipment did not work properly and she did not have adequate training.

Children struggled and some said later that Lewis assisted them.

The district launched an investigation and took statements from some children who said Lewis steered them toward the correct answers.

Lewis denied that allegation and said the small sample interviewed did not represent the approximately 800 students she taught.

In her new job at Morgan Woods, Lewis will be one of two music teachers, Arja said.

She will have the option of remaining at the school for the coming school year or, if she chooses, she can pursue other teaching vacancies within the district.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected] Follow @marlenesokol.

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