The New Jersey Department of Education dismissed tenure charges against a veteran teacher accused of assisting students to cheat on standardized exams in 2012, according to an arbitrator’s ruling issued this month.
Arbitrator Edmund Gerber ruled tenure charges stemming from the alleged cheating incidents be dismissed against Michelle Gates. He ordered the school district to reinstate her with back pay going back to the date when she was suspended, according to his decision.
Gates, who was a teacher at the Norman S. Weir School at the time, was accused of providing answers and assisting students with word definitions on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) on May 5th, 2012.
Measurement Incorporated, the company that administers NJ ASK, found irregularities with the tests from her classroom. “An erasure analysis of the test revealed a high number of wrong to right erasures. That is, a significant number of students had erased wrong answers and filled in right answers,” reads the decision.
The Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) in the New Jersey Department of Education was alerted by the firm. 27 students were interviewed by investigators. 17 said Gates assisted them directly during the test or witnessed her helping other students.
Audio recordings of the student interviews were submitted as evidence. Gates lawyer argued the audio evidence was “hearsay,” third party statements. Gates could not cross examine the students because the district did not call any of the 27 to testify in the case.
Gates’ attorney moved to dismiss the case. Gerber agreed and dismissed the tenure charges against the teacher, who has been working in the school district for 19 years. She last taught language arts at the city’s Gifted and Talented Academy at School 28, according to payroll records.