Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court, of Cook County. No. 12 CH 2354 Honorable Thomas R. Allen Judge Presiding
JUSTICE SIMON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion Presiding Justice Pierce and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board) terminated petitioner Victor Jackson's employment as a tenured teacher for violation of Board's rules and policy finding that he failed to immediately report that his principal asked him to cheat on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) and for falsifying his employment application by omitting his previous employment and discharge with the Chicago police department (CPD). After a hearing, the hearing officer found the Board did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence any of the charges against Jackson and recommended reinstatement. The Board accepted the hearing officer's findings of fact and the conclusion that Jackson did not participate in the cheating, but terminated Jackson's employment for failing to report the test irregularities and for falsifying his employment application. Following Jackson's complaint for administrative review, the circuit court held that the Board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence, reversed the Board's order and reinstated Jackson with back pay and benefits. This appeal followed.
¶ 2 BACKGROUND
¶ 3 Hearing officer Ann Kenis conducted a five-day hearing which produced the following relevant evidence for purposes of this appeal. Jackson was a tenured teacher employed by the Board since 2002. During his teaching career, he worked as a third grade teacher at Jackie Robinson Elementary School (Robinson), a pre Kindergarten through third grade school, for approximately four years. The teacher evaluation reviews in the record indicated that Jackson had generally been rated as an excellent teacher.
¶ 4 The ISAT is a state-mandated assessment required for all public schools in the State of Illinois. The only grade at Robinson that takes the ISAT is the third grade. Robinson had been on probation and the removal from probation was partially dependent on its third graders' performance on the ISAT. Jacqueline Wilson Thomas, the principal at Robinson, arranged for various activities prior to ISAT testing in March 2010 to motivate students and to give them the opportunity to be tutored in preparation for the test. A tutoring program was offered for third grade students on Saturdays, as well as before school for several days a week. Jackson was one of the teachers who participated in the tutoring program.
¶ 5 During the 2009-10 school year, there were two third grade classrooms at Robinson. Claire Miller, a temporary non tenured teacher, and Jackson were the two third grade teachers at Robinson when the ISAT test was administered in March 2010. Miller testified that on March 2, 2010, her students began taking the math portion of the ISAT at approximately 9:30 a.m. The second math portion of the ISAT was going to be administered the following day. After the test was concluded that day, she was summoned to principal Thomas' office. Jackson and Kristie Banks, the proctor in Miller's classroom for the math portion of the ISAT, were also summoned.
¶ 6 Miller testified that when she arrived in the principal's office, Jackson, and Jack Silver, the ISAT coordinator at Robinson, were already there. Miller testified that Silver told her that he spoke with someone downtown and they could break the seal, look and teach from the test booklet. Silver gave Miller a booklet and Miller told him that she did not feel comfortable teaching from the text booklet based on what she knew about test security. Miller testified that Jackson was 10 to 15 feet away and he could not hear what she and Silver said. Miller did not see Silver give Jackson a test booklet. She left the office with the test booklet and went back to her classroom. Later, Jackson came in and asked if she was going to open the test booklet. Miller told him that she did not feel comfortable doing that. Jackson said he was not going to either.
¶ 7 Miller testified that, a few minutes later, Jackson and principal Thomas came in her classroom. Thomas asked Miller and Jackson if they were going to teach the material that was going to be on the test the next day. Miller testified that she said no and Jackson said "yeah, I can do it." Thomas told Jackson and Miller to switch classrooms so that Jackson could teach Miller's students while Miller went to Jackson's classroom and taught Jackson's students.
¶ 8 After they switched classrooms, Miller admitted that she never asked Jackson what he taught her students. Miller asked Kristi Banks, another teacher, if teachers could look through the ISAT booklet to see what was going to be on the test the next day. At Banks suggestions, Miller testified, she put the sealed booklet Silver had given her into a folder, took it back to the main office, and placed it in the vault.
¶ 9 On March 3, 2010, the testing on the math portion of the ISAT resumed. Miller supervised the testing of the third grade students and Banks was the proctor. As Miller and Banks walked around the classroom, they noticed that approximately 10 to 15 students had notes. They threw all of them in the garbage can. The students' notes had letters which, according to Miller, demonstrated the "flip, turn, slide" concept which is on the ISAT test. There were also shapes and words written on some of the notes. Miller acknowledged that these were concepts she had previously taught her class and that ISAT sample problems included examples of these concepts. At the end of the school day, they retrieved four notes from the garbage "to have as evidence." From March 2 to March 24, Miller and Banks each kept two of the notes because "their plan was to protect themselves if it was reported." Miller testified that she reported the alleged test cheating at the end of March 2010 when the Board's investigator contacted her.
¶ 10 Kristie Banks testified that during the 2009-10 school year she was a teacher at Robinson. On March 3, 2010, during ISAT testing, Miller pulled her aside and showed her a piece of folded paper and said that she just took it from a student. Banks told her to throw it in the garbage can. They threw out 12 to 20 notes. Banks testified that, on the same day, she told Debi Thomas, another teacher, what occurred. Banks then stated that the papers confiscated from the students were the "exact" problems from the test and that she believed the students were given the answers by Jackson. Banks stated that she knew that the papers had the exact questions that were on the test because she looked at the test booklet.
¶ 11 Banks testified that, after throwing the notes away, she, Miller, and another teacher retrieved the notes from the garbage around 3 p.m. She did not know whose handwriting any of the notes contained. Banks testified that she never saw Jackson look at an ISAT booklet during the exam, break the seal of a test booklet or look at it. Banks testified that she was not present in the room where Jackson taught the students, had never seen Jackson teach from the test, nor had she ever seen Jackson give any student any information about the ISAT.
¶ 12 Banks testified that she reported alleged test cheating on March 16, 2010, by sending a letter to and meeting with area officer Judith Coates on that date. Banks also made an anonymous call to Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to find out what happens to individuals if there was test cheating. During the ...