Under cloud, Sumter High testing scrutinized by SLED

bbunch@theitem.comJuly 11, 2013 

ISTOCK

— Whether to launch a full investigation into the testing practices at Sumter High School remains under consideration by the State Law Enforcement Division, a spokesman with the department said Thursday.

"There's nothing new (regarding the investigation) with Sumter High. It is still under consideration," said Thom Berry, spokesman for SLED.

It has now been five weeks since the South Carolina Department of Education requested SLED to launch a criminal investigation into the local high school for its testing conditions and practices during the annual High School Assessment Program exam conducted in April.

This request came after the state education office investigated the local campus during the testing themselves and, according to its report, found several testing violations. Included in their findings, education department officials said they found testing materials not being secured properly at the campus, as well as evidence that teachers and testing administrators were not provided materials for adequate review and training, and an overall poor testing environment for students.

Sterling Harris, principal at Sumter High, responded to the report with a letter in which he both denied some of the alleged violations occurred and also questioned the motivations for the investigation. As part of its request, the education department has asked SLED, if possible, to complete the investigation within three months, meaning the report could be finished before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

According to state law, anyone found guilty of violating mandated procedures faces not only misdemeanor charges with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but can also have their administrative or teaching credentials revoked.

Jay Ragley, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education, said Thursday the department has no further comment on the matter at this time, other than to say the department continues to stand by its initial report.

Contact Braden Bunch at (803) 774-1201.

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