Teachers caught altering students' scores or answers on standardized tests administered District-wide could face serious penalties if legislation introduced by D.C. Councilman David Catania on Tuesday becomes law.

Under the proposal, school officials who violate the law could face up to a $10,000 fine, the loss of their teaching certificates or administrative credentials, and the cost of covering "any expenses incurred" by the city because of a finding of testing violations.

The proposal comes in the face of widespread allegations that school officials cheated to boost test results in the District. In August, the D.C. inspector general determined that teachers at the Noyes Education Campus cheated on standardized tests in 2010. It remains unclear whether similar cheating extended throughout the city.

Also Tuesday
» Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells proposed legislation that would ban coal power plants in the District. The bill could potentially bring the city into conflict with the federal government that depends on the only remaining coal-producing plant in the District, for steam for the U.S. Capitol.
» Ward 5 D.C. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie backed off his proposal to submit emergency legislation that would temporarily give the District's ethics board the power to make nonpublic admonitions. McDuffie introduced regular council legislation on the matter Tuesday, providing critics time to mount opposition to the change before it could take effect if approved.

During the tenure of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, teachers and school administrators faced mounting pressure to see test scores improve. Since Rhee's departure, test scores have continued to play a significant role in evaluating school officials.

"It's your livelihood. I don't see how the pressure could be greater than that," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who co-introduced the bill. "What we want to do is assure in the future that these results are reliable."

Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, said he had some reservations about the proposal.

"I'm concerned that only teachers would be the victims and not enough management," Saunders said. "We want the machine that promotes cheating to be attacked."

Saunders said the union would draft changes to the legislation and bring them to the council. Still, he said, "It's movement in the right direction."

As it stands, the Testing Integrity Act applies to "any person who violates, assists in the violation of, solicits another to violate or assist in the violation of this act ... or fails to report such a violation."

The law contains a number of specific prohibitions, including altering test procedures articulated in manuals for test administrators, possessing answer keys to "secure" tests and allowing students to use notes that aren't permitted.

The legislation mirrors laws in a number of states, including Florida, Oregon and Virginia, according to Catania's spokesman.