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VOL. 127 | NO. 185 | Friday, September 21, 2012

10 New Defendants Part of Test Scandal Indictment

By Bill Dries

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A new federal indictment in a growing teacher testing scandal alleges teachers and those who wanted to be teachers were paying thousands of dollars to an organization led by former Memphis City Schools assistant principal Clarence Mumford.

And Mumford’s test-takers allegedly flooded two sets of testing sessions. One was even caught eight months before the incident that triggered the federal investigation and charges.

Mumford is accused of manufacturing fake identification for a crew of test-takers in the three-state area who took the PRAXIS exams in the names of dozens of paying customers.

U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton has said more than 50 teachers were involved. The alleged scheme spanned 15 years starting in 1995, according to the charges.

The superseding indictment returned by a Memphis federal grand jury Wednesday, Sept. 19, includes 10 more defendants.

Most of the 10 new defendants are teachers or teacher applicants from Mississippi. Steve Holmes and Jeryl Shaw, both of Memphis, are identified as among those who took tests in the names of those who allegedly paid Mumford. Jacklyn McKinnie of Memphis allegedly paid to have someone take the PRAXIS exam in her name.

The case narrative also charges that some of the test-takers took the PRAXIS exam twice in the same day, apparently at different sessions, in the names of their clients.

There are 96 overt acts that cover 13 dates the PRAXIS exam was given between November 2007 and July 2010.

The April 25, 2009, and June 13, 2009, PRAXIS testing sessions turn up repeatedly in the overt acts listed in the 47-page indictment.

On June 13, 2009, the PRAXIS examination was given in two sessions at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. And according to the latest indictment, the test-takers working for Mumford were very busy that day.

Three of Mumford’s test-takers were taking five PRAXIS exams for three teachers, according to the list of overt acts.

It was at one of the later sessions that day that a test monitor spotted John Bowen of Memphis who had taken the same exam at an earlier session that same day. The discovery was what led to the federal investigation and the indictments. Educational Testing Service, the company that owns and administers the PRAXIS exams, did its own investigation. The company then referred its finding to the Tennessee Department of Education, which went to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation where a criminal investigation began.

The federal investigation by Stanton’s office and the U.S. Secret Service began in the summer of 2011.

In his guilty plea earlier this month, Bowen said there were several others in the sessions that day who were taking the exam as part of Mumford’s organization.

The latest indictment identifies them and the people they were allegedly cheating for by their initials only.

S.S. was in one session that day taking a PRAXIS exam in the name of M.T. and J.B. was in the second session that same day taking the same exam also for M.T.

M.T. turns up again in the overt acts on April 25, 2009, when S.S. allegedly took two PRAXIS exams on the same day for M.T.

At the sessions that day, there were six of Mumford’s test-takers taking five PRAXIS exams for three teachers.

S.S. had been caught by test monitors trying to take the PRAXIS exam in someone else’s name on Nov. 12, 2008, according to the overt acts. The telephone number listed on the test form was Mumford’s and so was the credit card number used to register and pay for the exam.

However, S.S. was at another PRAXIS session just two months later, allegedly taking the exam for Kimberly Taylor of Charleston, Miss.

At the same Jan. 10, 2009, session, another test-taker was taking the exam for the client S.S. tried unsuccessfully to take the exam for earlier.

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