Principal, 4 teachers charged in cheating scandal

These undated photos provided by Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania shows Evelyn Cortez, left, and Jennifer Hughes, right. A city principal and four teachers promoted cheating on standardized tests by changing student answers, providing answers to students and improperly reviewing questions prior to administering the tests, prosecutors said in announcing charges against the five. (AP Photo/Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania)
These undated photos provided by Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania shows Evelyn Cortez, left, and Jennifer Hughes, right. A city principal and four teachers promoted cheating on standardized tests by changing student answers, providing answers to students and improperly reviewing questions prior to administering the tests, prosecutors said in announcing charges against the five. (AP Photo/Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania)
Posted: May 09, 2014

Update: The principal and four teachers at Cayuga Elementary School in Philadelphia's Hunting Park section have been charged with fostering a culture of cheating on standardized state tests there over a  5-year period, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Thursday.

Kane said the educators changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test questions before giving the tests.

After the cheating stopped in 2012, the schools test scored dropped dramatically, Kane noted.

In 2008-09 state proficiency tests, Cayuga's fourth graders excelled: 88.8% pass math and 83.9% pass reading. By 2012-13, the most recent numbers available, fourth graders at the school struggled with 31% passing math and 25% passing reading.

Charged are:

  • Evelyn Cortez, 59, Dresher, Montgomery County;
  • Jennifer Hughes, 59, Jeffersonville, Montgomery County;
  • Lorraine Vicente, 41, Philadelphia;
  • Rita Wyszynski, 65,  Philadelphia; and
  • Ary Sloane, 56,  Philadelphia.

Earlier Story:

A criminal investigation of cheating on state tests is expected to lead to the arrests of teachers and other employees of the Philadelphia School District - including at least one principal - as the state Attorney General's Office brings charges of doctoring test results.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, a state grand jury brought cheating-related charges against a group of educators.

A defense lawyer who asked not to be identified said his client, a teacher whom he declined to name, had been told to turn herself in to police Thursday morning. He said state prosecutors had refused to tell him what charges the teacher would face, but said they stemmed from an investigation of cheating in Philadelphia schools.

The lawyer said he did not know the full scope of the case, but sources with knowledge of the probe have drawn parallels between Philadelphia's cheating scandal and one in Atlanta, where 35 educators from 44 schools were indicted.

In Atlanta, administrators, principals, and teachers were charged with racketeering, conspiracy, making false statements, and related offenses.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office did not return phone calls Wednesday.

An investigation of more than 50 Philadelphia district schools and three city charter schools began in 2011, after The Inquirer reported allegations that dramatic test-score gains beginning in 2009 were achieved in part through cheating at Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown.

Also that year, a state-commissioned analysis of the 2009 exams, which came to light as a result of reporting by the Public School Notebook, identified suspicious patterns of erasures at schools across Pennsylvania. Later, staffers at Cayuga School told the newspaper of cheating there.

The state Inspector General's Office investigated cheating at 11 city schools where the allegations were most serious. The district investigated 19 schools and has yet to probe 22 more schools.

Sixty-nine current and former employees were implicated in the most serious investigations, district officials have said.

Among the second group of schools, three were cleared, no conclusion could be drawn at three, and cheating was found at 13.

In January, the School Reform Commission fired three principals implicated in the cheating scandal:

Deidre Bennett, principal of Cassidy School, who had been a teacher leader at Huey School; Michelle Burns, principal of Kensington Urban Education Academy, who had been principal of Tilden Middle School, and Marla Travis-Curtis, who had been principal of Lamberton Elementary.

More district-level discipline is expected, but officials said they could not proceed until the state released its investigation to the school system.

The grand jury investigation was conducted out of the Attorney General's Office in Trooper, Montgomery County, and presided over by Common Pleas Court Judge William Carpenter.


kgraham@phillynews.com215-854-5146215-854-5146  @newskag

www.inquirer.com/

schoolfiles

Inquirer staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.

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