Teachers to appeal proposed suspension

5 at Pimlico accused of improperly coaching pupils taking MSPAP test

`Very serious allegation'

Similarities discovered among pupils responses

many tests invalidated

February 05, 2002|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Five teachers at Baltimore's Pimlico Elementary School who are accused of improperly coaching pupils on the latest state exams plan to appeal suspensions recommended by the school system chief, a lawyer for the Baltimore Teachers Union said yesterday.

The teachers have until next week to appeal a recommendation from schools Chief Executive Officer Carmen V. Russo that they receive 20-day suspensions without pay after being accused of interfering with the administration of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests in May.

The state invalidated dozens of third- and fifth-grade tests at Pimlico - last year's top-scoring city school - after discovering similarities among pupils' responses, state officials reported last week.

BTU lawyer Sabrina Willis said yesterday that the teachers believe they did not do anything wrong and will appeal the recommended disciplinary action.

"They all feel that they conducted themselves appropriately and in accordance with all of the training that they received," she said.

"Suspensions are pretty serious, and since this is an allegation that really goes to the core of whether they've been ethical as teachers or not, aside from the loss of pay, it's a very serious allegation that everybody's taking very seriously," she said.

In a statement, union President Sharon Y. Blake said that the allegations are "so vague that it is unclear what wrongdoing is alleged to have taken place."

She said that the teachers have not been given an opportunity to be heard, and that neither they nor the union have been allowed to examine the MSPAP tests, copies of the tests, training materials or other materials used by those who administer the tests.

The statement said that the teachers were told only that an administrator in the school system's Research, Evaluation and Accountability Division found evidence of "teacher interference."

"They do not know how that conclusion was reached or why they have been singled out for discipline," it said.

School system spokewsoman Edie House said that a "statement of charges" against the teachers was sent Jan. 15, and that they have 30 days to appeal.

"We've gotten [the intent to appeal] verbally, but we've not gotten it in writing," she said.

In addition to recommending the teacher suspensions, Russo said that the principal, Orrester Shaw, and two administrators were given letters of reprimand.

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