The Poughkeepsie City School district recently procured a termination award in a disciplinary case against a special education teacher found guilty of misconduct in the administration of Regents exams.
The district launched an investigation regarding the possible testing improprieties after discovering that the answer sheets of some students were coded for accommodations, although those students had not been identified as requiring testing accommodations. The district later charged teacher Kenneth Barger with giving improper or unauthorized aid to students during the administration of the Integrated Algebra and the Living Environment Regents examinations administered in January 2013.
Because Barger signed proctor certificates declaring his belief that the rules and regulations for the administration of exams had been followed, he also was charged with filing false instruments. The district also charged Barger with misconduct for failing to promptly report testing irregularities.
In a hearing under section 3020-a of the Education law, a hearing officer found, among other things, that Barger allowed regular education students, who were not entitled to accommodations, to be placed in the testing room with special education students who were entitled to have the test read to them.
Witnesses testified Barger paraphrased questions to clarify what was being asked, modulated the tone of his voice while reading the exam to narrow the possible correct answer choices and gave other hints or prompts to students. Additionally, the hearing officer determined that Barger allowed students to alter answers after their test materials were turned in and generally provided inadequate supervision of students in the classroom.
Barger, a teacher in the district since 1997, testified that he had participated in the administration of Regents exams twice yearly since beginning employment with the district. The hearing officer found the rules and regulations for administration of Regents exams had not varied much in that time and that Barger was familiar with his responsibilities as a proctor. The hearing officer determined Barger’s conduct in failing to follow the rules for administering the exams was intentional and dishonest.
The hearing officer found that Barger deliberately failed to promptly report irregularities relating to the unauthorized accommodations. Barger signed a proctor’s certificate stating that the rules and regulations for administering exams were faithfully carried out even though he knowingly violated the test administration rules, according to the hearing officer.
The hearing officer determined that Barger was guilty of misconduct and conduct unbecoming a teacher. The hearing officer was extremely troubled that Barger failed to admit any wrongdoing and found that his misconduct and attempts to cover up his actions stripped him of the ability to act as a positive role model for students. The hearing officer determined that, despite Barger’s prior record of good service to the district, the only appropriate penalty was termination.