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Houston School District Settles With Teachers Fired in Cheating Probe

Four Houston Independent School District teachers, who had been fired and stood accused of providing improper assistance to students during state tests, have agreed to resign as part of a deal that gives them one year's salary, the Houston Chronicle  reported.

The settlement agreement approved by the school board Thursday allows the teachers to walk away with a clean slate, their attorney Chris Tritico, told the Chronicle. The teachers, whose names were not released, will receive about $50,000 each in return resigning and not fighting their termination, according to Houston Public Media.

A fifth teacher who had been implicated in the investigation had resigned earlier and will not benefit from the severance package, district spokeswoman Sheleah D. Reed, told the paper, adding that the agreement closes the issue.

The specter of cheating arose last year after Jefferson Elementary School posted double-digit gains on state tests and students' statements suggested that teachers may have improperly helped students during the tests, the paper reported.

The scores appeared suspicious after 100 percent of English-speaking 3rd graders at the school passed the state math and reading exams in 2013. The increase in the test scores led the school to be ranked as one of the highest-performing in the district at the time, the paper said.

The Chronicle reported that 20 teachers at Jefferson and Atherton elementary schools were reassigned to other duties during the investigation. Five teachers were fired.

In the Houston Independent School District, teachers can receive bonuses based on their students' performance on state tests, and the results are used as part of teachers' evaluations, according to the Chronicle.

But the teachers' representatives have questioned the district's evidence, and have said that the scores improved because teachers were doing their jobs.  

"They did the things at Jefferson that year that teachers are expected to do—they tutored the kids, they worked their tails off," Andy Dewey, the vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers told the paper.   "This has a chilling effect to every other teacher who teaches at an inner-city school: Do well, but don't do too well."

The district told the paper that it will continue to be "vigilant" to ensure that test scores are not compromised.

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