EBR superintendent says he knows of no cheating scandal

East Baton Rouge Parish school Superintendent Bernard Taylor said Wednesday night that he’s not aware of and has not been alerted to any ongoing investigation by the state Department of Education into student cheating, a development other local media outlets reported earlier on Wednesday.

Taylor said he spoke twice with state Superintendent of Education John White on Wednesday and their discussion focused on a lone “discrepancy” in a student’s record, and one that Taylor said the school system had previously reported to the state.

“A discrepancy means this is an isolated situation, a situation involving one student in which he received some anonymous tip,” Taylor said. “(White) never indicated that there was going to be an audit or investigation or anything.”

Keith Bromery, the school system’s spokesman, said the discrepancy at issue involved a student who was allowed to graduate in May, but who it was later determined lacked a necessary course credit. Bromery said the student, who is now in college, is making up the missing credit belatedly via a dual enrollment course and that school administrators have dealt with the school employees who missed the problem.

“We self-identified,” Bromery said. “We reassigned some people.”

In a short statement released earlier Wednesday, White said his office is reviewing unspecified problems with student records in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools but would not elaborate.

“It has come to our attention there may be a discrepancy in academic records in East Baton Rouge Parish,” White said. “We are looking into the situation and will share further information shortly.”

White acknowledged that he had spoken with Taylor about the matter.

Taylor also said he has no knowledge of allegations raised in media accounts of students cheating on assignments given in online courses the school system uses that are offered through the Scottsdale, Ariz., company Edgenuity. These courses are taken mostly by students who are behind in school and are trying to catch up on their credits.

Taylor said the courses are designed to be available to students 24 hours a day, both at school and at home, so students who use Internet search tools such as Google to find answers to help complete assignments aren’t cheating when they do so.

“How do you cheat on an assignment in an online course if you do it at home?” he said.

Taylor said Edgenuity courses do include in-class tests and it’s possible for students to cheat on those, just as it’s possible for students to cheat on any classroom test.

The superintendent said cheating instances are handled at the school level and should not to be confused with more serious cheating that occurs on rare occasions when students take closely guarded standardized tests. And when such cheating occurs, East Baton Rouge is often the one reporting it.

“We probably self-report allegations of cheating more than anyone else,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the whole issue has been blown out of proportion.

“I don’t know how you could go zero to 100 with what (White) said,” Taylor said.