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VOL. 127 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 12, 2012

Former Principal Charged in Exam Scandal

By Bill Dries

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For 15 years Clarence Mumford, a one-time assistant principal in the Memphis City Schools system and later a teacher in Tunica County schools, allegedly helped unqualified teachers pass the PRAXIS teacher exams required to teach in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi by getting others to take the test in their names.

The federal indictment charging Mumford with 45 counts of conspiracy and several types of fraud, filed by a federal grand jury Monday, July 9, and made public the next day, amounts to a long-running teacher cheating scandal.

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton said the investigation is ongoing and investigators believe “more than 50” teachers in the three-state area were involved.

Mumford allegedly charged $1,500 to $3,000 per test and worked with others and got “tens of thousands of dollars from teachers and aspiring teachers” from 1995 to at least March 2010.

The indictment lists four un-indicted co-conspirators by their initials and refers to others “known and unknown to the grand jury.”

All were paid by Mumford, according to the charges, to take the tests under false names with fake drivers’ licenses Mumford had doctored. The IDs included the test-taker’s photo with the personal information of the would-be teacher they were taking the test for.

Some of those using Mumford’s services also allegedly used his credit card to pay the registration fee and his email address for notifications during registration with Educational Testing Services, the company that writes and administers the PRAXIS exams for prospective teachers and teachers seeking endorsements to their existing licenses.

Stanton described the charges in the indictment as deeds that “strike at the fabric of our society.”

“Mumford has created an atmosphere in which teachers who are not only unqualified, but who have also gained credentials by fraud, stand in front of our children every day,” he added. “Mumford’s conduct has done harm to the systems in which unqualified teachers have been able to teach, to the individual schools, to qualified individuals who could have obtained jobs filled by unqualified teachers, and, ultimately, to a generation of our schoolchildren.”

Mumford was an assistant principal at what was then Humes Junior High School in North Memphis at about the time the indictment alleges the scheme began.

In 1996, he paddled a student and the student’s parents filed a criminal complaint in General Sessions Court claiming he had injured the child. The charge was dismissed but Mumford was again suspended when the state Department of Children’s Services began an investigation and said the school system had to suspend Mumford.

He appealed the decision of the school system to an administrative law judge who ruled in Mumford’s favor.

The suspension lasted almost two years, from April 1997 to February 1999 before MCS officials offered to reinstate Mumford. During that time, he became a teacher in the Tunica County school system in Mississippi.

And he filed a legal claim in Shelby County Chancery Court seeking back pay and benefits lost because of the suspension. The state appeals court, in a 2004 ruling, said Mumford was entitled to $89,928 from the Memphis City Schools system.

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