Teacher Says Christian School Plays Dirty

     CHICAGO (CN) – Living Word Christian Academy fabricated teachers’ degrees and students’ standardized test scores, told a properly credentialed teacher to teach her students the “actual SAT” test before they took it, and fired her when she refused, the teacher claims in Cook County Court.

     Tammy Lovell says she was wrongfully fired after she voiced concerns that the school’s principal hired teachers without bachelor’s degrees, helped them “make up” bogus degrees and adjusted test scores of students that performed poorly.
     Lovell, who has more than 20 years of teaching experience and teacher certification for private schools, says she learned during a meeting that only 80 percent of teachers at the private elementary school held bachelor’s degrees.
     Living Word Christian Academy is in Forest Park, a wealthy suburb of Chicago.
     She says the Association of Christian Schools International, of which Living Word Christian Academy is a member, requires that all its teachers hold a bachelor’s degree. Lovell says she was also made aware that principal Theresa Byrd-Smith told unqualified teachers to “‘make up’ their own degrees and post them in their classrooms, and that Principal Smith has assisted some staff members in making the falsified degrees.” She says she reasonably believed that that violates state law.
     Lovell says that some of her students had unusually high scores on the Stanford Achievement Test, which she says was “impossible because her class had, in fact, consistently struggled with the basic concepts of math.”
     Lovell says one student, who received a reading score that was “three years in advance for her grade,” scored three years behind her class level when Lovell tested her again.
     Lovell says she was convinced that the scores had been “altered,” though Smith denied the allegations.
     “In February of 2009 Principal Smith instructed Lovell to teach her class that actual SAT that the students would take later in the school year,” Lovell says. She says she refused to do that, in on Feb. 20, she was fired without cause.
     SAT tests are rewritten year and are closely held, but schools receive them ahead of the test date.
     Lovell says that since she was fired near the end of the school year, she was unable to get another teaching job, lost $10,000 in lost wages, and suffered emotional stress. She seeks at least $50,000 in damages for wrongful firing, retaliation, and other charges.
     She is represented by Terri Blanchard with Barclay, Dixon & Smith.

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