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West Texas school district under review again by state education agency

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EL PASO, Texas — A West Texas school district that for several years was the focus of a testing scores scandal has come under review again by the state, but this time for attendance and course credit practices.

Details were announced by the Texas education commissioner during a Monday meeting with the El Paso Times' (http://bit.ly/1HeW5BM ) editorial board.

The newspaper reported in February that an internal audit found the El Paso Independent School District's policies may violate state law. The audit conducted during the 2013-14 school year looked into course credits issued for students who missed school for a while.

The Texas Education Code requires students to attend 90 percent of scheduled school days to receive credit for a course. Students who attend between 75 percent and 90 percent of the days can receive credit for extenuating circumstances, like medical conditions, or if they complete an alternative plan approved by the school principal.

School committees hear students' petition for credit. They will award it, deny it or require students to complete alternative learning activities or a principal's plan.

The audit found some students had received credit for activities like donating blood, organizing a locker room or tutoring students in unrelated subjects. Auditors reviewed 314 student files and weren't able to validate committees' decisions to reinstate or deny credit in more than half of the cases.

Superintendent Juan Cabrera said auditors also examined attendances and found absences might have been incorrectly counted. District leaders voted May 7 to self-report the attendance findings to the agency.

The Texas Education Agency notified the district in a letter of its investigation. The letter outlines which documents the district must supply to the state agency by next week.

Cabrera asked for additional time in a reply letter dated Monday to compile the records since the agency's request would cover almost 5,500 students.

Former superintendent Lorenzo Garcia was convicted in 2012 of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for his role in a districtwide scheme to artificially inflate student test scores.


Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

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