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I-Team: Teachers Teaching Students How To Cheat?

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Mireya Villarreal
A native Texan, Mireya was born and raised in the Rio Grande Val...
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DALLAS (CBS 11 I-TEAM) – You teach your children that lying and cheating are against the rules; and if they break the rules, they can get in a lot of trouble.

You expect their teachers to do the same.  But our CBS 11 I-Team uncovered that’s not always the case.  In fact, Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal found some North Texas teachers may actually be teaching their students how to cheat.

In May of last year, investigators with the Dallas Independent School District confirmed allegations Tholoana Leubane, a science teacher at Sam Tasby Middle School, was encouraging her students to cheat.

In a statement to investigators one student said Leubane “… asked [him] to copy the science STARR questions 20 through 30…”

Another 8th grader told investigators “… that if we had problems during our exams that we were to ask our neighbors for the answers…” and “… if we tried to tell another teacher what she told us she was going to lie and say it wasn’t true…”

Mireya Villlarreal caught up with Leubane outside her home, asking, “They have statements from students saying that you told them to write down the answers on this STAAR. Did you do that?”

“No. I didn’t do that,” she answered.

Despite her denial, investigators believe Leubane cheated.  And she wasn’t the only DISD teacher caught in the act.

STATE DOCUMENTS OF REPORTED TESTING IRREGULARITIES IN NORTH TEXAS DISTRICTS:

In January 2012, five math teachers at Sunset High School lost their jobs after investigators uncovered they had giving students a secure test to study from.  Several statements from students told investigators those teachers told them to memorize the answers, rather than learn the material.

Also last year, investigators discovered four Molina High School biology teachers had also cheated by using a secured biology test as a review.  The district believed two of those teachers had intentionally misrepresented the facts to keep from getting in trouble.

“It kind of makes me angry,” Francine Ellington told us.  Her daughter attends Tasby Middle School, the same school where Tholoana Leubane worked.

“You know, when my daughter is working so hard to do things the right way and she’s basically giving kids the answers. You know, it’s not right,” Ellington added.

Ellington’s daughter wasn’t asked to cheat, but she’s still frustrated.

“She probably didn’t feel in her mind she was teaching them right. She stooped to another level to get them to learn,” Shakelyia Ellington, a student at Sam Tasby Middle School, said.

“We’re all under pressure in all of our jobs to perform at the highest levels. But that doesn’t mean its OK to cheat,” Jon Dahlander, Dallas ISD Spokesperson, stated.

About five years ago, DISD created the office of professional responsibility, a department with the sole purpose of reducing these types of incidents.

“We’re trying to create a situation within Dallas that says, that’s not OK,” Dahlander explained.  “We don’t want to have a reputation like other school districts in the country where cheating has been allowed to flourish.”

But information from the Texas Education Agency shows testing issues happen more often than most districts like to admit.  The CBS 11 I-Team broke down all of the incidents reported to the state, big and small, since 2009.  At the top of the pack was Fort Worth ISD with 299, Dallas with 213, Plano at 159 and Richardson at 139.

“I just think people go to the extreme measures knowing that it probably isn’t the right thing to do, but it’s existence for some of these employees,” Rena Honea, Director of Alliance AFT, said.

Alliance AFT is the organization that represents Dallas teachers.

“Some of these examples, it feels like teachers are teaching kids how to cheat.  How do you get to that point,” Mireya Villarreal asked.

“I think it’s the stress, the pressures that are put on them,” Honea answered.  “The changes that are being made that are being imposed upon them.  And many of those come from people that are not educators.

As for Tholoana Leubane, she’s still teaching at a private school somewhere in Dallas County.

All of the teachers accused of cheating are no longer with Dallas ISD.  Their contracts weren’t renewed, but they were allowed to keep their teaching certificates.
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