Widespread allegations of cheating at Cayuga Elementary School have resurfaced recently — and the main source of the alleged cheating appears to be the Principal Evelyn Cortez:
During the last few weeks, investigators from the state Inspector General's Office have spent several days at a number of city schools, including Cayuga, where scores began climbing in 2008. They have been interviewing staffers for as long as 90 minutes each on what they have seen over the last several years.
PSSA scores (a state achievement test) have been climbing at the school since 2008. Previous investigations carried out by the district dismissed similar allegations as "unfounded" in 2009 and "unsubstantiated" in 2011. There is no official record of an alleged complaint by teachers in 2008 who claim to have been harassed by the under-fire Principal into a number of illegal cheating techniques.
Angered by such incidents, several teachers said a group of them wrote a letter telling district officials about the cheating they had seen.
They said they submitted it to a teachers' union official and were told it would be given to district officials, the teacher said.
No inquiry was ever conducted. Both the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers said they had no record of a complaint in 2008.
The continued investigation has resulted in a major shift in testing policy already, as teachers are now prohibited from administering tests to their own students. Observers are also expected to be present during future testing and tighter controls on testing material will be implemented.
One teacher described being told by Cortez that students had to reach the 90th percentile or above in a district benchmark test.
"She was implying that she wanted me to help them. I said: âI can't help them. That goes against everything I believe in,' " the teacher said.
There are also allegations that Ms Cortez demanded that teachers teach to the test and look ahead at future testing material — a prohibited act.
Principal Cortez denies any involvement in any cheating.