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Teacher exam fraud case ends; four agree to stop teaching

booksMEMPHIS, Tenn. — Four people caught in a teacher certification test fraud scandal have agreed to stop teaching, ending the federal case involving a long-running scam that affected students in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, prosecutors said yesterday.

Janett Dixon, of Northport, Alabama; Corey Holmes, of Metcalfe; Charles Ray Lee, of Magee; and Nia Kimble-Harris of Memphis are four of 40 former teachers who have received diversion agreements for their participation in the test fraud scheme led by Clarence Mumford, the U.S. attorney’s office in West Tennessee said yesterday.

Mumford, a longtime educator, pleaded guilty in February 2013 to arranging for people to take Praxis certification tests on behalf of aspiring teachers in the three states. He is serving seven years in prison.

From 1995 to 2010, teachers paid Mumford up to $3,000 each to hire ringers to take reading, writing, math, physical education and other exams on their behalf. Mumford’s fee included fake driver’s licenses he made for test-takers, who showed them to proctors at examination centers.

The teachers then used the passing scores to get jobs in public school systems.

Mumford, a former guidance counselor and assistant principal in the Memphis City Schools system, paid the test takers hundreds of dollars for each test. Still, federal prosecutors said he made $120,000 in the scheme.

Investigators identified about 100 tests taken on behalf of at least 50 people.

Prosecutors called the case unique because of the length of the scheme and its wide-ranging consequences. Prosecutors said the scam affected thousands of public school students who ended up being taught by instructors who never qualified for their positions. Some teachers involved in the scheme had repeatedly failed the tests on their own.

One defendant failed the reading and writing exams 11 times before a ringer passed the tests for him. Nine Mississippi districts that hired teachers helped by Mumford were characterized as “low performing,” prosecutors said.

Coaches made up a significant number of defendants. They included Cedrick Wilson, a former University of Tennessee wide receiver who played for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jermaine Johnson, who coached Memphis’ Melrose High School to a state championship in 2010.

In all, 13 participants have been convicted of felonies, and 10 are serving prison terms. That’s in addition to the 40 former teachers who reached deals in which they were stripped of teaching licenses and ordered to pay restitution to school districts that employed them.

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