NEWPORT – A middle school science teacher resigned Thursday, nearly three months after he allegedly allowed many of his students to review questions on a state test the day before they took it.

William Brooks, who taught at Sebasticook Valley Middle School in Newport for seven years, handed in his resignation after consulting with an attorney for Regional School Unit 19, said Superintendent William Braun.

Brooks had been on paid administrative leave since the end of the school year.

Brooks, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing Thursday and said the incident was a misunderstanding.

Braun declined to say specifically what prompted Brooks’ resignation, but he confirmed that an investigation by the Maine Department of Education into a “testing irregularity” was “certainly a part of it.”

That investigation is detailed in a Department of Education report that cites “reliable evidence” that questions from the 2011 Maine Educational Assessment science test were disclosed improperly to three of four eighth-grade science classes at the middle school.

The MEA is a standardized test given to fifth- and eighth-graders to measure their progress. Results are reported to the federal government but aren’t used for accountability purposes under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

State education officials interviewed school staff members and test administrators, except for Brooks, who declined an interview.

Among the claims cited in the report is that Brooks reviewed questions with students a day before administering the test on May 12.

Several students said they recognized the test questions as the ones they had reviewed, according to the report.

Brooks allegedly told the students, “You need to do well to make me look good,” and after reading the questions he told his class, “You should be able to get this,” according to claims in the report.

One of Brooks’ four science classes did not meet on the day before the test, and there were no reports from those students that the test questions had been reviewed.

Brooks’ attorney, Howard T. Reben of Portland, said Thursday that his client “denies any wrongdoing” and decided to resign voluntarily.

Brooks was given a severance package, Reben said.

“He decided he didn’t want to go through the rigmarole or put the students through it,” Reben said.

The state report does not name Brooks; it refers only to a “Grade 8 science teacher,” but Braun confirmed that Brooks was the unnamed teacher.

Brooks was the only eighth-grade science teacher at the middle school, according to the school’s 2011 student handbook.

It didn’t take long for word of the “testing irregularity” to spread, according to the state investigation.

Students told test administrators that the science section “was easy” because “they had been given the questions on the test by their Grade 8 science teacher the day before the test.”

Principal Fred Johnston contacted Susan Smith, the test coordinator for the Department of Education, who told him to document an investigation of the matter and report back.

On June 3, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen ordered his department to do its own investigation.

Department staffers went to the school on June 16 to interview school officials.

Under the education department’s rules, the test questions should not be disclosed before the test date. Doing so is a violation of security requirements in the test administrator manual.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Scott Monroe can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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