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Chancellor Henderson Responds to Allegations of Testing Impropriety in PBS Frontline Documentary

Monday, January 7, 2013
Airs Jan. 8, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202-535-1096

On PBS tonight, a documentary is airing about the former Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS). In the piece, several specific claims are made alleging cheating in DCPS. The following is a statement from DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson in response.

“Adell Cothorne was employed at DCPS from August 2010 to July 2011. During that time, she served as the principal at Noyes Education Campus. As has been widely reported in the press, Noyes was under scrutiny and investigated after several allegations of testing impropriety at the school. Since 2009, there have been multiple investigations looking into these allegations, including one by the DC Office of the Inspector General and one by the US Department of Education Inspector General. There was an instance of cheating at Noyes and the individual who was found to be guilty was terminated. All of the investigations have concluded in the same way that there is no widespread cheating at DC Public Schools.

“During the Frontline documentary, Ms. Cothorne makes several specific charges of cheating at Noyes while she was the principal. During her tenure at Noyes, Ms. Cothorne was interviewed twice by an independent investigator about testing impropriety. During those interviews, she never made any mention of these specific charges. Even when asked if there was anything else she wanted to bring up to these independent investigators, she also didn’t identify any testing problems.

“PBS did not give DCPS the opportunity to respond to these specific allegations. PBS contacted DCPS about doing a documentary on education reform, but did not share any allegations of impropriety or offer DCPS the opportunity to refute any claims.  I am disappointed that PBS elected to produce a poorly researched piece rather than offering a meaningful contribution to improving education. We have a great responsibility to the families, community members and greater city to tell the truth, to investigate incidents of concerns and to hold ourselves accountable.   It is disheartening that PBS does not share these values.

“Ms. Cothorne claims to have reported this to DCPS. We have no record of this report. Staff close to the school and staff named in her complaint have no record of these alleged conversations. These allegations come two years after her time as principal and after multiple investigations. DCPS provides multiple avenues to facilitate reporting of suspected testing impropriety including an anonymous tip line and independent investigations.  We investigate all allegations of impropriety.  It is a disservice to our children that Ms. Cothorne refused to take any steps to notify DCPS of a concern.  The fact that she has decided to attempt to personally profit financially through fictitious claims, rather than improve educational opportunities for our students, is extremely disappointing.

“What remains clear through all of this is the proven point that the staff and school leadership across DCPS are committed to helping our children succeed through honest, hard work and dedication.  We take test security incredibly seriously and will continue to do so even after our name has been cleared. The final report from the US Department of Education corroborates the findings of all the other investigations.  There is no widespread cheating at DCPS. Our teachers work hard every single day in our classrooms, and deserve credit and support, not unwarranted suspicions and doubt."