In Philadelphia, Educators Charged with Cheating Since 2008

A principal and four teachers at a Philadelphia elementary school have been accused of orchestrating cheating on standardized tests. The announcement comes after a computer found that several students had changed many more than the average amount of answers usually changed on a test, writes Dave Paresh for the Los Angeles Times.

Named in the case are principal Evelyn Cortez and teachers Ary Sloane, Rita Wysnynzki, Lorraine Vicente and Jennifer Hughes. all employees of Cayuga Elementary School. Allegations suggest that the cheating began as early as 2008.

By 2011, it is said that teachers were giving out answers to the specific test questions before the exam and that students were encouraged to scribble down answers on a sheet of paper before the test, reports Paresh. The instructions to do the latter were announced over the school’s loudspeaker to students in 2011. This practice made it so that teachers could look at student’s responses before they wrote them on the legitimate test answer sheet.

A couple of  other instructors swore under oath that they had seen the test booklets open on the principal’s desk, which is a violation of testing procedures. In one situation, the principal demanded that an official delete surveillance footage of the blatant cheating.

Other teachers told the jury that administrators at the school frequently moved teachers around depending on their test scores. The teachers with low test scores would be moved to the  first and second grades because those classes do not receive standardized tests.

Apparently, these practices were a way of raising test scores to make the school look good, reports Paresh. When the cheating was discovered and being investigated in 2012, the rate of third graders at Cayuga who received at least a proficient score  in the reading section of the test slumped to 26.8%  from 60.3%.

Cortez was charged with corrupt organizations, perjury, tampering with public records, forgery, tampering with records and criminal conspiracy, writes Mike DeNardo for CBS Philly.

Cortez stands accused of punishing students and instructors who would not follow along with the alleged cheating. Prosecutors believe that the cheating  also included her tapping on pupils’ desks as a way to tell students to change an incorrect answer.

She is said to even have gloated at a teachers’ meeting that any teacher that had told on  her for cheating had left the school while she was still present.

Vicente  and Hughes were charged with the same crimes as Cortez, with Vicente being also accused of allegedly strolling around the classroom with the test answer key. Sloane and Wyszynski were both charged with tampering with public records, forgery, tampering with records and criminal conspiracy. They were all indefinitely suspended with pay by the school district. ABC Local quotes one state official as saying:

“Cheating robs children of a good education and hurts kids and families,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a statement. “The alleged misconduct by these educators is an affront to the public’s trust and will not be tolerated.”