Principal, 4 Teachers Charged in Cheating Scandal at Philadelphia School

Principal Evelyn Cortez and four who taught at Cayuga Elementary in Hunting Park are accused of changing answers on state tests.

As expected, charges were announced today in an investigation into cheating at Philadelphia schools. The principal of Cayuga Elementary School and four teachers there have been charged in the cheating scandal, the Inquirer’s Kristen Graham reports. The school is in Hunting Park.

Action News says the attorney general’s office alleges the teachers gave test answers to students, changed answers and “improperly reviewed PSSA questions prior to tests.”

The Inquirer first reported on cheating at Cayuga in 2012. The paper said principal Evelyn Cortez, who was charged today, told teachers to “go through and make sure no questions are left blank” on state achievement tests.

The Inquirer, in 2012:

[S]tudents have made it clear to these teachers that others have given them answers, the teachers said. Some students have resisted taking tests because other teachers helped them in the past, they said.

The school’s 400 kindergarten through fifth-grade students – 94 percent of whom live in poverty, 21 percent of whom do not speak English as a first language – are suffering, the teachers say. “The kids will say: ‘I’m advanced. I’m proficient.’ And they just don’t have the skills,” a teacher said.

Meanwhile, indefatigable school reformer Helen Gym tweeted this morning she felt cheating was essentially inevitable in Philadelphia schools due to the way school progress is now measured.

There are mugshots, too.

Prosecutors also allege Cortez would tap students on the shoulders during state tests to tell them when they needed to correct an answer.

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  • hmm…..

    is it weird that they’re all smiling in their mugshots?

  • laurenalice

    These are not mugshots, they are their employee ID photos.
    This is like vilifying Robin Hood! I am not affiliated with this school in particular, but KNOW that their jobs right now are are to tread water and put out fires. They have been abandoned by the District, and pressured by the city, students, and community to do whatever it takes to get their school more money. They didn’t do this to make themselves look good or to get a raise, they did it out of desperation. This is Philadelphia and Harrisburg’s fault, not these employees. Disgusting.

    • laurenalice

      And if they are mugshots, GOOD FOR THEM for keeping a good perspective. They know that what they have done for the students and families at that school reaches far beyond the trivial thing for which they are being blamed and persecuted. Disgusting and shame on Philly.

  • Dan Webber

    It is hell to be a teacher, social worker or nurse these days. They expect you to perform miracles without the resources.

  • Enuf already

    These comments are outrageous and ridiculous at best. Educated teachers responsible for education initiated, advocated, participated and taught the kids to cheat instead of study/learn, which put these children at a disadvantage for the next class. There isn’t an excuse or justification in the world for this. This didn’t happen yesterday or overnight. Get real people. Its part of why we’re in this situation, apathy, excuses in place of action and accountability.

  • Bert

    What the principal and teachers have done is not trivial. I’m sure that they had lots of pressure from the administration, but this was not the way to solve it. This was not a good lesson for our children.

  • RichardH

    ILLEGAL Mexicans!! Deport Our Criminals

  • Helen Gym

    I don’t really understand the point of wild interpretations of 140-character tweets, but let me make this clear: At no point have I ever said, nor do I believe, that cheating is “inevitable.” I believe that the conditions which create cheating at a level like the situation above can be fostered – see Atlanta. It seems impossible to believe that three years after a massive cheating scandal in Philadelphia that the School District – with the support of outside funders – would back a grading system that weighted growth so significantly over performance 50% v. 30% – then used that report grade to immediately designate two public schools be targeted for turnover to charter operators. When you have a grading system so skewed and consequences so great, you create conditions for cheating to potentially occur. Does it mean people will? Absolutely not. Plenty of educators did not cheat and some suffered the consequences for low test scores (principal removals, school closings, charter conversions, etc.). But let’s be clear that the cheating investigation was a widespread statewide scandal and involved charter as well as public schools. This was not an isolated phenomenon. Concerned people should pay attention to that.

    Finally, please note: It was the Philadelphia Public School Notebook which first broke news of the widespread cheating which ultimately led to the investigation into Cayuga and other schools.