Newport teacher resigns amid allegations kids saw MEA questions

Posted Aug. 05, 2011, at 6:09 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 05, 2011, at 8:31 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — A science teacher at Sebasticook Valley Middle School has resigned in wake of allegations he allowed students to review questions on a state standardized test before they took it.

William R. Brooks, a teacher for the school for the last seven years, handed his resignation in Tuesday morning, Regional School Unit 19 Superintendent William Braun said Friday.

Braun confirmed that an investigation conducted by the state was a factor in Brooks’ departure.

According to Braun, Brooks used materials from Maine Educational Assessments distributed in 2009 and 2010, and several students wound up recognizing the exam questions as ones that their teacher reviewed with them before the test.

“The teacher went over all the questions,” Braun said. “That raised a red flag. They reported that with the principal.”

Braun added that some students were puzzled with how easy the exams were, which made administrators even more concerned.

The MEAs are administered to fifth- and eight-graders and are used to chart students’ progress in reading, math and science.

A report released by the Maine Department of Education stated that reliable evidence was found that questions from the MEA science test were disclosed improperly to three of four eighth-grade science classes at the school, according to a report by the Morning Sentinel.

After the concerns were raised, the process of interviewing Brooks’ students subsequently began, and on June 3, Braun said that the Department of Education reviewed the situation and Brooks was placed on administrative leave.

“Since it wasn’t really a high-stakes test, the rationale for doing it — it makes absolutely no sense,” Braun said Friday, referring to the improper disclosure of the test questions.

Telephone messages left for Brooks’ attorney, Howard T. Reben of Portland, and Maine Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen were not returned Friday. Attempts to reach the teacher also were unsuccessful Friday.

Braun said the school is searching for a replacement teacher.

“We’ve had a number of applicants,” he said, adding that he expects the position to be filled when the school board holds its next meeting on Aug. 16.

Brooks is a 1988 graduate of Nokomis Regional High School and coached the boys basketball team at his alma mater for two seasons.

He failed to win a game in his tenure with the Warriors and his contract wasn’t renewed after the 2008-09 season.

Braun said that he wishes Brooks well and he hopes the faculty can move forward.

“There’s certainly lessons to be learned,” Braun said, “not just for him but for all staff.”

“He’s a very bright young man and he has real high expectations for his students,” Braun said in an interview at his Newport office.

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