Belleville teachers, students accused of cheating on M-STEP test

A Belleville elementary school was rocked by allegations of cheating on standardized tests.

Parents are very upset - not only are the teachers being accused of cheating on the M-STEP but their children who took the tests as well.

An investigation is underway after students seemed to score unusually high on the test and several teachers are also out of a job.

"It's horrible if the news is true," said Rondell Sherman.

Sherman, who just picked his fourth grader up from Savage Elementary School learning about the cheating scandal that has consumed the Van Buren school district.

Five teachers were escorted out of the building last week, accused of cheating on the exam.

"You try to teach your children honesty and integrity and hope teachers sort follow rules of district," said Sherman. "And provide the same to our children."

According to a letter by the state, officials discovered anomalies in the results of the M-STEP Math and English testing of third and fourth graders. They tested significantly higher that neighboring schools and the state average.

The findings claimed the results were "highly unlikely due to chance alone," last December the state requested the Van Buren school district conduct and independent investigation.

"Why wasn't it brought to our attention sooner," asked parent Ronald Kosinski.

Parents, many wearing Savage Strong shirts, packed Monday's school board meeting claiming they knew nothing about this and denied it could be true.

They are outraged that not only were teachers interviewed, but their children without their knowledge.

According to an online letter by Superintendent Michael Van Tassel, the district's investigation also revealed testing improprieties.

All of the student's scores will now be invalidated.

"We have a school with very high achievers," said parent Mendy Russell. "They were put through a rigorous test preparation mode by the order of Mr. Van Tassel and now everyone is being punished because they did well on test he prepared them for."

"It's very disturbing," said parent Karen Johnson. "I feel they a found reasons why these teachers were put on a leave of absence, they should advise us of those reasons."

Board members claim they are aware, but are bound by law and can't reveal specifics.

The teachers on administrative leave will face discipline, but district parents are not convinced.

That's why parent, attorney, and former FBI agent Richard Ritman is requesting another independent investigation - one he would finance if necessary.

The only issue revealed in the letters is that students were given more time to answer the questions than students at other schools.

The board president said there were other things revealed but said he can't release them or it would be a violation of employee rights.

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