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State audit criticizes TEA's investigation of school cheating in El Paso ISD


POSTED: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 7:49pm

UPDATED: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 6:28pm

The Texas Education Agency is being ripped by several local school districts for its handling of the cheating scandal in the El Paso Independent School District. An audit of the agency was made public Friday, and local school leaders say its clear the TEA is incompetent.

The report released today by the state auditor's office identifies a long list of problems with TEA's investigation into cheating in the El Paso Independent School District, calling the agency deficient.

"We had a feeling it would be a tough audit and it's certainly a blistering one, but we think we deserve it," said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the Agency.

Among the findings: the agency failed to investigate some allegations of cheating, TEA disregarded credible information that substantiated cheating allegations, and the agency never even sent anyone to El Paso during its investigation.

"We had a different management at the agency in 2010 and the current management are new people and they have a very different take on it and think we should have been much more aggressive with our investigation," explained Ratcliffe.

Here in the Borderland, most districts say they're not surprised by the findings, and argue cheating is occuring in districts across the state. The audit recommends close to a half dozen major changes to make sure that isn't happening, among them, the creation to a special office to investigate and receive complaints.

"I think what's being proposed is not even a good start for the state," said Armando Rodriguez, president of the Canutillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Rodriguez is one of several Borderland school board leaders who say changes recommended in the audit aren't enough. The Canutillo ISD and others are now requesting that the federal government launch its own investigation of TEA to change the system to make TEA more accountable.

"They have to look at the real issue and not play politics with the issue," said Rodriguez.

TEA admits it made a mistake, and promises changes are in the works.

"You know hindsight is 20/20," said Ratcliffe.

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