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Pennsylvania test-cheating results in principal and 4 teachers being charged

Cayuga Elementary School Principal Evelyn Cortez
Cayuga Elementary School Principal Evelyn Cortez
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For having promoted cheating on standardized tests in Pennsylvania, five persons have been charged in an ongoing grand jury probe investigation. Four teachers as well as a city principal have been accused of elevating test scores by changing students’ answers on tests, providing answers to the students, and improperly reviewing questions with students prior to the test-taking, according to an NBC News report on Thursday.

The principal being charged with the cheating offense is Evelyn Cortez, 59. The four teachers being charged are Jennifer Hughes, 59, Arny Sloane, 56, Lorraine Vicente, 41, and Rita Wyszynski, 65. Cortez lives in Dresher. Hughes lives in Jeffersonville. Sloane, Vicente, and Wyszynski live in Philadelphia. They to surrender to authorities on Thursday morning.

In the case, it is reported that the teachers at Cayuga School were encouraged to bring the exams home to familiarize themselves with the tests. Additionally, it was alleged that teachers and students who would not cheat were reprimanded by the principal. During testing, it has been said that Cortez would go around to the classrooms and sometimes tap on the students’ test booklets to try to get them to change their answers.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Education Department discovered irregularities in test answers when comparing Cayuga to other Pennsylvania schools. For example, Cayuga had an inordinate number of wrong-to-write answer erasures on the answer sheets for several years. Incredibly, nearly half of all the third graders’ answers at the school had five or more wrong-to-right erasures while 15 percent of them had more than 10 erasure mores indicating a changed answer from wrong-to-right.

According to ABC News, the specific charges against Cortez, Hughes and Vicente are felony racketeering, records tampering, perjury, forgery and criminal conspiracy. Sloane and Wyszynski have been charged with records tampering, forgery and criminal conspiracy. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office is also investigating cheating allegations at other schools in the state.

At this time, Kane has accused the five defendants of perpetuating a culture of cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests for a period of five years. Supporting the assertions that massive cheating had taken place, a grand jury discovered that scores plummeted after the inner-city school cheating had stopped two years ago. After the cheating had stopped, fifth graders’ reading proficiency dropped from 50 percent to just 16 percent. In mathematics, the proficiency level went from 62 percent down to 22 percent.

The grand jury in the case stated that significant pressures existed for the various schools to increase the performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. When the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores went up, school principal received both promotions and accolades. Others, it has been reported, avoided demotions and terminations of their positions.

Thursday’s indictment involved personnel at Cayuga Elementary School. The school is located in a low-income portion of North Philadelphia known as Hunting Park. The school has some 450 students. Ninety-six percent of the students at the school are economically disadvantaged according to records.

Additionally, three high school principals were fired in January and dozens of teachers and administrators were disciplined following a probe. In those previous actions, the School Reform Commission acted. The School Reform Commission is a board appointed by the Pennsylvania district.