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Izard County teacher loses license for ethics violations

Friday, December 2, 2011

A former Izard County Middle School teacher is one of two teachers who had their teaching licenses permanently revoked in November by the Arkansas Board of Education.

Connie Noreen Sisk, who worked for the Izard County Consolidated School District, received the disciplinary action after an investigation concluded she was guilty of an ethics code violation.

Sisk faced an allegation of violating Standard 6 of the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators which requires, "An educator keeps in confidence secure standardized test materials..."

Instead of safeguarding standardized test material as required, Sisk was accused of actually assisting students on state Benchmark exams, in an apparent attempt to raise their scores.

According to the board, Sisk assisted students by circling items in test booklets, wrote students' open response questions for them, provided answers to one student and instructed others to copy those answers from the student and looked at test questions a day in advance, wrote down answers and provided them to students. Sisk also allegedly read the Benchmark test to students and gave them additional time to take the exam, accommodations other students do not receive when the test is given.

The allegations against Sisk arose after the April 2011 Benchmark exams.

The state Professional Licensure Standards Board Ethics Subcommittee reviewed a confidential report on the investigation and recommended the license revocation.

While Sisk did not accept the subcommittee's finding or recommendation, the board said she did not take required action to formally challenge the findings of its investigation or the recommendation to revoke her license, clearing the way for it to act.

Besides releasing details on the board's action, a Board of Education spokesperson could not comment further on the investigation, but other teachers at Izard County Middle School have apparently not been cited for involvement in standardized testing irregularities.

The Board of Education issued a final order revoking Sisk's license on Nov. 14.

According to ICC Superintendent Fred Walker, Sisk resigned her position as a special education teacher when the state investigation began. Since she is no longer a school employee, the Board of Education has not kept him informed of its actions.

"I had no issues with her (Sisk) as a teacher in the six years she worked here," Walker said.

Walker added teachers at ICC are not under any pressure to insure that their students produce certain scores during Benchmark testing, and, for that reason, he is puzzled at Sisk's actions, if the allegations of giving students answers are true.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, the board also permanently revoked the teaching license of Michael Arlie Clark, a teacher at Lavaca Middle School. Clark was sanctioned for placing a school-owned video camera in a teacher restroom and recording people who used the restroom.

A review of the Licensure Standards Board Ethics Subcommittee's 2010-2011 report reveals that permanently revoking a teacher's license is a "last resort," usually, as was the case with Clark, when a teacher is involved in criminal activity.

During the 2010-2011 school year, the ethics subcommittee received 126 ethics allegations against teachers. In cases which were substantiated and went to the Board of Education for action, 14 teachers received written warnings and reprimands, four teachers were put on probation, three had their licenses suspended and three had their licenses permanently revoked.

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