A cheating ring at Richmond’s George W. Carver Elementary School helped lift student test scores, a state investigation found.

Led by the school’s principal, Kiwana Yates, a select group of teachers administered state accountability tests and provided “inappropriate assistance” to students, according to the findings of a two-month Virginia Department of Education investigation released Monday.

The results cast a shadow over a high-poverty school once seen as a bright spot in an underperforming system, where less than half of schools meet the state’s full standards for accreditation.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, in a letter to the school community, called the report “deeply troubling.”

“It presents abundant evidence of what amounts to cheating by a small group of adults on the SOL examinations for the past several years at Carver,” he said. “To be clear: our students did nothing wrong; they merely followed the instructions of the adults responsible for them.”

Yates remains employed by the school system, according to a spokeswoman, who would not say whether five teachers named in the 34-page report kept their jobs.

Asked during a news conference about Yates’ employment, Kamras declined to say why she remained employed by RPS, referring to it as a personnel matter.

Only certain Carver staff members — referred to by other teachers as the “inner circle” — administered the Standards of Learning tests at the school. Some staff members thought those employees received more money for classroom materials, first crack at overtime opportunities and special staff development that sometimes required extensive travel, according to the report.

“It’s like [there are] testing committees,” one person told investigators. “They [certain staff] test everyone.”

If students did not perform well while a teacher was administering the tests, they were relieved of their test examiner responsibilities, according to the report.

Some teachers would help students if they raised their hand or would give indications to students of whether items were correct or incorrect, the report states.

“If I just didn’t know, I’d raise my hand and ask for help. They would read to me,” said one of 35 students interviewed by investigators. “They would sit down next to me and read to me.”

In another situation, a student would look at a teacher and if the teacher smiled, they would go on. If the teacher frowned, the student “knew I needed to check [the work].”

One student, for example, changed 15 incorrect answers to correct answers, while not changing a single correct answer to an incorrect one.

Yates would tell the school’s assistant principal and school test coordinator which teachers she wanted administering tests, the report states.

She defended herself against the allegations in an interview with investigators. Yates did not return an email seeking comment.

“Anybody in my building is able to administer tests,” she told state Education Department staff members. “It doesn’t matter who tests them [the students]. Anybody should be able to administer tests.”

Carver was the only school in Virginia being investigated by the state for testing irregularities. The investigation focused on this year’s tests, but investigators used test scores dating to spring 2014 to show trends in Carver’s pass rates.

Dana Bedden, the superintendent before Kamras, did not return an email Monday requesting comment.

Kamras, who tasked Chief Academic Officer Tracy Epp with leading a team of teachers and principals to make recommendations to ensure proper testing protocols are followed in the future, first made the public aware of the problem in early June, sending a districtwide memo saying that “in some instances, standardized procedures for testing were not followed.”

Details were scarce from the time of Kamras’ message until Monday, when the cloud hanging over the school finally opened, with testing wrongdoings raining down on the school and city school system that’s recently seen a sense of hope as it undergoes a strategic planning process.

Yates, who helped lead Carver to national acclaim, was ousted as the school’s principal shortly after RPS officials received the state’s preliminary investigation findings. She arrived at Carver in 2010 and was named principal in 2012.

Tiawana Giles, previously an assistant principal in the school system, took over this month as the interim principal at Carver.

Under Yates’ leadership, Carver, a self-proclaimed “educational mecca,” earned National Blue Ribbon Award status from the U.S. Department of Education in 2016 — the only school in the Richmond area and one of just seven in Virginia to do so. Yates also received an R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership in 2015, one of the highest honors for school administrators in the Richmond region.

The U.S. Department of Education can rescind the school’s Blue Ribbon status because of the irregularities.

This is the second consecutive year that a Richmond-area elementary school has been found to have cheated on state exams.

Five teachers were fired and a new principal and assistant principal were assigned to Petersburg’s A.P. Hill Elementary School, where students said they were told to write each answer on a piece of paper before submitting it.

A test examiner then would review the answer, and if it was wrong, would tell the students to check their work, students said. If the answer was right, they’d move on to the next question, according to a report from the Virginia Department of Education and a news release from the division.

The Virginia Board of Education withheld accreditation from the school in its ratings for last year, something it could do for Carver this year.

A.P. Hill students did not have to retake the tests.

At Carver, students retook the state tests all the way up until the last day of school. Parents had the option of opting their child out of taking the test.

Virginia allows parents to opt their students out of taking SOL tests in elementary and middle school. There is no consequence to a student’s academic standing or advancement to the next grade if they don’t take the test. The tests start to matter on a student level in high school, when a student must pass the tests to graduate.

When a student doesn’t take an SOL test because of an opt out, the score is reported as a “0,” meaning it could affect a school’s accreditation rating and overall passage rate.

No students at Carver opted out in the two most recent academic years for which data were available from the state Education Department.

With the retakes this year, though, 70 percent of parents refused to have their child retested, according to the report. That figure was especially high in fifth grade, where all but four of the school’s 62 students in that grade were opted out of the retest.

Because of the testing irregularities at Carver, those students will get a “NS” for no score and will not be penalized, the report said.

“Actions by these adults have cheated our kids by reinforcing notions held by some in the community that our students aren’t capable of academic excellence,” said Scott Barlow, who represents the school on the School Board.

Mariah White, who has since stepped down as the head of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, waited outside the school the day after the investigation became public and encouraged parents to opt their children out of the test. The report said some people — it did not name White — went to students’ homes to encourage parents to opt out of the retests.

A meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 1103 W. Marshall St. to discuss the future of the school’s PTA. A separate meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night for other members of the Carver community to meet with Kamras.

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education.

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(23) comments

Drake D Butler

Why should Carver faculty be so concerned with cheating when the example of the so-called president is to constantly cheat the truth?

Here are just SOME of the long list of the so-called president's fact-checked lies. Details can easily be googled.


"If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?"

"The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.’ WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources."

"We’ve signed more bills -- and I’m talking about through the legislature -- than any president ever."

Says the 2018 defense authorization bill includes raises for the military "for the first time in 10 years."

"We've achieved a historic increase in defense spending to get our troops the support they so richly deserve."

"James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION"

"In many places, like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They always like to say 'oh that's a conspiracy theory.' Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people."

During the Nixon Watergate investigation, "out of courtesy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official."

"Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever."

"At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ "

"The state of California is begging us to build walls in certain areas. They don’t tell you that."

At the State of the Union address, Democrats, "even on positive news … were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not?"

"The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so okay, they’re at a record level."

Says Joe Scarborough is party to an "unsolved mystery" from his time as a congressman in Florida.
"I never said Russia did not meddle in the election."

"This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."

"Many countries (in NATO) owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them."

Says James Clapper said "that the FBI was spying on (Trump's) campaign."

Says of the diversity visa lottery program, "they give us their worst people, they put them in a bin," and "the worst of the worst" are selected.

A "horrible law" requires that children be separated from their parents "once they cross the Border into the U.S."

"Watch those GDP numbers. We started off at a very low number, and right now we hit a 3.2 (percent). Nobody thought that was possible."

"In seven years that (nuclear) deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons."

"For years, they have not been able to get tax cuts -- many, many years, since Reagan."

There was "serious voter fraud" in Virginia.

The immigration visa lottery "randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people."

Says "Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of MS-13."

"Crime in Germany is way up."

"The European Union … they send us Mercedes, they send us -- by the millions -- the BMWs -- cars by the millions."

"You take Pulse nightclub. If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did."

Chicago is "the city with the strongest gun laws in our nation."

"I have watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13."

"China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this (Paris) agreement."

Philadelphia Eagles players stayed "in the Locker Room for the playing of our our National Anthem" or were "kneeling."

"Inner-city crime is reaching record levels."

"It’s possible that non-citizen voters were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina."

White nationalist protesters in Charlottesville "had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit."

"We got $6 billion for opioid and getting rid of that scourge that’s taking over our country. And the numbers are way down."

Deals struck on his first foreign trip as president made and saved "millions of jobs."

Before the presidential campaign, "I didn't know Steve (Bannon)."

Says he won the second debate with Hillary Clinton "in a landslide" in "every poll."

"My first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before."

"My opponent has no child care plan."

Terrorism and terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe have "gotten to a point where it's not even being reported."

Says Hillary Clinton "wants to let people just pour in. You could have 650 million people pour in and we do nothing about it. Think of it. That’s what could happen. You triple the size of our country in one week."

Speaking of immigration cases, says, "We have thousands of judges."

Sen. Kamala Harris is "supporting the animals of MS-13."

Untaxed corporate earnings used to be "$2.5 trillion … I guess it’s $5 trillion now. Whatever it is, it’s a lot more. So we have anywhere from 4 (trillion) to 5 or even more trillions of dollars sitting offshore."

The number of illegal immigrants "could be 3 million. It could be 30 million."

Says Wisconsin "hadn’t been won by a Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1952. And I won Wisconsin. … Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win."

Says that people "went out in their boats to watch" Hurricane Harvey.

"Dems want billions to go to Insurance Companies to bail out donors"

"Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!"

Amazon has a "no-tax monopoly."

"I finished" the controversy about where President Barack Obama was born.

CNN’s ratings are "way down."

Says he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

"Wikileaks also shows how John Podesta rigged the polls by oversampling Democrats, a voter suppression technique."

When Hillary Clinton "ran the State Department, $6 billion was missing. How do you miss $6 billion? You ran the State Department, $6 billion was either stolen — they don't know."

"Of course, there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day."

Says John Podesta "refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!"

Says a tweet he sent out "wasn’t saying, ‘check out a sex tape.’ It was just ‘take a look at" the background of Alicia Machado.

Says Hillary Clinton has "not answered a single question" about her immigration plan.

Says the U.S. election system is "rigged."

"The Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State."

In Japan, "they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car. And if the hood dents, then the car doesn't qualify...It's horrible, the way we're treated."

"Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA."

There was "serious voter fraud" in Virginia.

There was "serious voter fraud" in New Hampshire.
"We're pretty much at the 50 percent mark" on deportations of MS-13 gang members.

"No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days."
"All pipelines that are coming into this country from now on has to be American steel."

"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

"When you look for a job, you can't find it and you give up. You are now considered statistically employed."

"The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process."

"Germany owes ... vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

Rump Says "the New York Times wrote about" Barack Obama wiretapping Donald Trump during the election.

"Look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible."

Rump Says CNN’s Chris Cuomo "never asked" Sen. Richard Blumenthal about Blumenthal's misstatements on his own service in Vietnam.

Rump Says "109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers" were affected by the immigration executive order.

"If you were a Muslim, you could come in, if you were a Christian, it was impossible."

"Here in Philadelphia murder has been steady — I mean — just terribly increasing."

"The media ... sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community."

Americans don't "care at all" about Donald Trump's tax returns.

Fred Demey

Drake, the list of lies and fraud under the Barack Hussein Obama is 6 times more than what you state here, you again demonstrate you are ignorant, uninformed and just plain clueless on the facts.........."You can keep your doctor if you want to"---LIE, "We had to lie to the American people to get the ACA passed"--- Johnathan Gruber...........I could go on, but informed people KNOW the facts Drake, and they KNOW you don't have the facts.

Michael Karabinos

To be fair, Obama had 2 four year terms. For which he won the popular vote and the EC.

So, Trump's lie per year rate would be comparable with your claim..... Except your claim is a lie.

I have the same Doctor that I had in 2008
The ACA was based on a Republican plan first proposed in the 90s as an alternative to Hillary Care

The Lies listed by Drake are ACTUAL DOCUMENTED QUOTES That run counter to facts. They are proven lies.

But the bigger deception is that ANY of this line of conversation has anything to do with local school issues!

Shame on Drake for veering off-topic to poke the Cons...
Shame on Fred for being typical Fred

Shame on me for joining this branch.

Morality is
Relating to, dealing with, capable of, making the distinction between Right/Wrong.

The Behavior of a corrupt, unqualified, unstable, Reality show, Millionaire wannabe autocrat, puppet of a foreign power has no bearing on the behavior of these teachers,

If we want to point to politicians, I suggest you look at Kennedy and Bush with "No Child Left Behind" and the high-stakes testing that grew from it.

MARK WITTKOFSKI

Those teachers proved to be really smart in their ability to pass those Third grade SOLs...And no one was suspect of the incredible high scores for Carver versus the other City schools, come on now, that seems like Administrators were burying the heads in the sand!

RJ Mathews

The 70 % opt-out rate for retaking the exam is sadly and indication that many parents were aware of what was going on and wanted to continue covering it up.

Broken communities = broken schools. It's that simple. Until we fix things like income inequality, mass incarceration, unfit parenting, etc..., we'll never be able to fix schools. The solutions to these problems require a lot of difficult conversations, self reflection, and sacrifice. Sadly, we're all too angry, self-absorbed, and distracted by our cell phones or the celebrity game-show host we elected president that none of these solutions are even possible right now.

Fred Demey

RJ, the first thing to do in fixing our public schools is to introduce a voucher system that would allow parents to send their children to the schools of their choice, public or private. As long as the public school monopoly is in place , this kind of corruption, lying and fraud will take place, and all our children are suffering being at the bottom of the worlds top 30 industrialized nations in math, science and reading. America spends more per child than any other country, and we get a lousy crummy public school system that can't even cheat and lie its way to a better education, and if they could, the education would still be lousy.

Michael Karabinos

THERE it is.
Decades of demonization and disruption of the public education system in an attempt to cause failures to help justify a privatization agenda thats put tax-payer education dollars into the pocket of private enterprise. Another Right-wing handout to big business.

The Right hates handouts... unless it is to big business.

PAMELA BURNELL

As a retired(38 years) teacher/ elementary counselor and Test Coordinator in Portsmouth, VA, also an urban system with a large population of disadvantaged youngsters, I have to ask how this testing situation could have gone on for even one year. Did no one from the central office visit this school and ask why each teacher was not testing his or her own students? Testing guidelines and training very clearly spell out how testing is supposed to take place. One 10 minute visit by a central office supervisor would have shown that these very clear rules were not being followed. Portsmouth assigned at least one central office administrator to every school in the system during testing. We knew that the integrity of the test was paramount. That this went on for several years is not only an indictment of the Carver principal and teachers. It also shows a supreme lack of oversight by the system administrators.

Fred Demey

Great point Pamela, you are 100% correct, this is a failure at all levels, people must be fired, and even prosecuted for their dereliction and fraud in this SOL scam.

LINDA FREEMAN

You are on the mark with this, Pamela Burnell. There were only 484 students attending Carver ES, and it would have been easy to spot how the same five teachers were administering all of the SOL tests. Mr. Kamras was appointed RPS superintendent in November 2017. What were he and his Leadership Team (the CAO, CEO, COS, CSO, COO ), who are paid between $180,500 and $175,250, doing when elementary school SOL tests were being administered at the end of this past school year?

BILL BEVILLE

Carver Elementary School Principal Kiwana Yates teared up in 2015 while receiving the R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership: FAKE TEARS AND RETURN THE AWARD for your lack of leadership. It it went on here, I suspect that cheating by teachers is going on at most all the schools.

SUSAN MASSEY

"If students did not perform well while a teacher was administering the tests, they were relieved of their test examiner responsibilities, according to the report." The students were relieved of their test examiner responsibilities??

TRACY PETERS

Maybe those who are against testing to determine if anyone is learning anything will finally want to go back to social promotion so as to be fair. Rewarding those who are deemed victims seems to be more important than those who succeed on their own in the world we live in today.

None of this would be happening if family and parenting were as it used to be. ….. then cheating will become an individual thing rather than a group decision. Period.

Fred Demey

Great point Tracy, the destruction of the family by the Leftist policies of the last 4 decades comes home to roost. Safe spaces, "fairness" and social promotion have utterly destroyed the American education system, and the results are cheating to just try and cover up the mess the Left has made of public education in America.

KENNETH BRADFORD

High-stakes large-scale educational assessment very often eventually does one or both of the following: (1) narrows the curriculum to the scale and content of the assessment; (2) creates some type of cheating at the school level of the district level. If your doctor gave you medicine that led to the decline of your general health, and/or damaged the integrity of generally used medical tests, you'd probably sue her for malpractice. Read "The testing Charade."

STEVEN PRICE

Kenneth Bradford - Things like the SOL don't create cheating any more than banks create bank robbers, They just make it rewarding to people who lack integrity.

I'm sure there's plenty to criticize in standardized testing, but there's no excuse for cheating by teachers and principals. If it isn't a criminal offense already, it should be a felony. Those who took part in it should lose their licenses to be educators in Virginia or, at the very least, should have their licenses suspended for 3 years or more.

KENNETH BRADFORD

(1) "Create" can mean a number of things. I stand by my statement that large-scale educational assessment -- with consequences -- tends to produce what I asserted. That every educator under the assessment gun doesn't cheat, doesn't negate my point. (2) Nowhere do I excuse cheating. (Again, I recommend "The Testing Charade," the evidentiary rigor of which would, I believe, meet even your high standards.)

STEVEN PRICE

I disagree with the assertion that SOL-type tests create cheating or that the notion doesn't constitute an excuse for cheaters. People with integrity don't cheat even if given the opportunity and a reward for cheating.

I will put "The Testing Charade" on my to-read list.

Fred Demey

"Things like the SOL don't create cheating any more than banks create bank robbers, They just make it rewarding to people who lack integrity."......Excellent insight Steve, you make a great point.

MARK WITTKOFSKI

What lesson did the children learn? It is okay to cheat when the teachers do it! That Principal should be looking for a new job as should those cheating teachers. This is awful, just awful. From the sounds of it, those cheating teachers were rewarded by the Principal, too! Out of the schools with these frauds!

Robert Shipp

I am curious about how teachers at the school into which Carver fed felt about the classroom achievements of Carver students compared to students from other feeder schools. Did these classroom teachers suspect things just didn't add up and wonder whether all the recognition and awards were truly earned. Sometimes it takes a lot more than curriculum to raise the performance of students from certain demographics in such a short time span.

Ron Melancon

All of this does no good to the students as they grow up they become dependant and they blame everybody else for their problems. This whole school is a lie and all the teachers who played the game should be ashamed of their actions. I am amazed that the state did not cover up the scandal

Michael Karabinos

Read the article again, a small inner circle. Smiles and nods, not overt handing out answers. And the State is working to make Education in Virginia Better.

Your amazement is an artifact of decades denouncement of public education that has been executed by the right. High Stakes testing and how they are tied to funding and assesment are additional tools in the effort to sabotauge our Public School system.
The goal is to force failures, or magnify incidents to destroy trust, to justify privatization through vouchers, charters and private organizations. This allows the privatizers to get rich, while feeding our children the 'party line'

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