The Apex Learning computer program used for summer school credit recovery at Proviso Township High School District 209 still had problems with students possibly hacking the system using teacher online codes this year, say teacher union representatives.
Proviso Teachers Union Head Mona Johnson said union reps will address the school board in closed session July 15 to complain about the Apex system and ask about the administration’s retaliation against teachers who incorrectly used the system before the training, she said.
The district had problems with the Apex program in the 2013 summer school session when some students used teacher passcodes to gain access to the system after classroom hours.
School board members in June received a list of 20 teachers in 2013 whose passcodes had been used. Students were credited for taking final exams and tests and some students finished the entire four-week summer school session in less than a week.
This year, teachers were warned early about making sure tests were taken on-site.
Johnson said all summer school teachers were required to sign a statement June 12 – three days after classes began and two days after the alleged cheating in 2013 was formally brought to the board’s attention.
The letter, required to be signed by every summer school teacher, cautioned instructors to make sure student tests were “locked” at the end of class and said all tests must be taken “on site.”
“Any teacher who violates this policy will be subjected to disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the letter from Asst. Superintendent Kim Echols said.
But on June 19, five teachers were abruptly suspended without pay Johnson said.
Suspended teachers were paid a pro-rated amount and told they could not be on school premises or attend school-related events, according to a letter from Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart to a suspended teacher obtained by Forest Park Review. Two of those teachers were on the original list from 2013.
“It was determined you failed to comply with the directive contained in the June 12 letter of expectations,” the letter from Collins-Hart said. “I am suspending you WITHOUT pay for the remainder of the summer school session.”
Johnson said in a strange turnabout, the five suspended teachers were then invited back to campus to participate in a one-hour Apex Learning training session June 23. The teachers were invited to return to teaching, she said.
Those five teachers will address the school board at an appeal hearing July 15 in closed session.
Johnson said the administration never mentioned the 2013 summer school problems to teachers this year.
“[The administration] never had a conversation about last year,” she said. “The district never once spoke to any teachers who were responsible for [alleged Apex cheating] in 2013.”
Johnson pointed out summer school, which ends July 11, was halfway over by the time any teachers got training on the Apex system.
Johnson also added teachers are on their own, since union representation doesn’t take place during summer months.
“The union doesn’t have any say over summer school. We can’t [file grievances for] them as we would any other thing,” she said.
But Johnson said teachers have always considered the Apex system inferior to face-to-face summer school instruction. Teachers brought problems with Apex to the district’s attention in 2012, she said. “Teachers were concerned that students were not being successful,” especially low-functioning special ed students, she said.
“Parents were paying funds for summer school and the students would come back during the school year without completing the course,” she added.
“Teachers are concerned because the students come first and students are not being adequately served with this program,” she said.
“Dismissed teachers have expressed their dismay at being treated as scapegoats for problems with the Apex system of which central administration has been aware since 2012,” she said in a statement.