Tenure Commission Upholds Discharge for Academic Dishonesty

The Tenure Commission recently upheld the discharge of a tenured teacher for her unethical and dishonest academic practices in manipulating student assessments. ReVoir v Ann Arbor Pub Schs, STC 18-5.

Amy ReVoir had been employed by the district since 2000 and most recently served as a 7th and 8th grade social studies and language arts teacher. After re­ceiving a minimally effective rating on her year-end performance evaluation for the 2016-2017 school year, ReVoir was placed on an individual development plan
and assigned to teach 8th grade social studies and language arts.

The district annually administered standard common student assessments to calculate the student growth component in teacher evaluations. The dis­trict’s common assessment process requires teachers to administer a pre-test to students before covering the material and an identical post-test after teaching the material.

In the 2017-2018 school year, ReVoir selected the social studies common assessment to calculate the stu­dent growth component of her evaluation. After admin­istering the pre-test at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, ReVoir made copies of the 35 pre-test questions and answers and provided her students with study guides that included the pre-test questions and the correct answers. On multiple occasions between the pre-test and post-test, she reviewed the pre-test ques­tions and answers in class. In December 2017, ReVoir had the pre-test administered a second time to stu­dents, but this time with the correct answers projected on the overhead projector for the class to see during the assessment. Students were allowed to keep the test as a study guide.

ReVoir engaged in similar conduct when administering the language arts common assessment, although it was not part of her performance evaluation. She gave students study guides containing the exact pre-test questions and said “[T]hese are questions you might see again.”

In January 2018, one of ReVoir’s students, fearing that she may have cheated, reported to another social studies teacher that students had seen the exact post-test questions on the study guides prepared by ReVoir.

ReVoir was placed on administrative leave, and the district brought tenure charges against her based, in part, upon her academic dishonesty related to the social studies and language arts common assessments.

ReVoir claimed that she was unaware that the pre-test and post-test assessments were identical and, therefore, did not know that use of the pre-test as a study guide would be unethical. The district, however, provided evidence that its procedures for the common assessments always involved an identical pre-test and post-test and that ReVoir had previously administered the tests. Both the Administrative Law Judge and the Tenure Commission held that the district produced overwhelming evidence that ReVoir’s preparation of her students for the common assessments was unethical and dishonest and supported her discharge.

ReVoir also argued that the district was required to prove that she intentionally engaged in unethical and dishonest conduct when preparing her students for the common assessments. The Tenure Commission deter­mined, however, that the District was not re­quired to prove ReVoir’s specific intent when engaging in fraudulent and dishonest conduct related to academ­ics. It was sufficient that ReVoir acted deliberately and that she could not reasonably claim that her conduct was a mistake.

The Tenure Commission also determined that the district did not have to prove that ReVoir’s conduct had an adverse effect on students, staff, or the school com­munity because her conduct was obviously inappropri­ate, occurred on school grounds during work hours, and involved students. Nevertheless, the district did prove that ReVoir’s conduct had an adverse impact on the students relative to their ability to learn the subject matter and improve their test-taking abilities.

This decision reaffirms the Tenure Commission’s strict stance on academic fraud and dishonesty. If school officials suspect or observe similar conduct, it is critical that they promptly investigate. The decision also reaffirms the Tenure Commission’s previous hold­ings that if a district proves that misconduct occurred and that the discipline issued was the result of a delib­erate, principled, reasoned process supported by evi­dence, the Tenure Commission will not review the level of discipline issued.