Trial ordered for Philly elementary school principal, 3 teachers in test cheating probe



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PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia principal and three teachers have been ordered to stand trial on charges that they helped young children cheat on standardized tests by changing answers and reviewing questions beforehand.

State authorities last spring filed charges of forgery, conspiracy, tampering with public records and other counts against Cayuga Elementary School principal Evelyn Cortez and teachers Jennifer Hughes, Lorraine Vicente, and Ary Sloane.

Several teachers testified during Tuesday's lengthy preliminary hearing that they saw incorrect answers changed and teachers berated for not taking illegal steps to boost scores, The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/1nVSCPz ) reported.

Daniela DePaola, a special-education teacher at the school from 2009 to 2013, testified that she once walked into Hughes' classroom to find Cortez working with students on their state exams. She said Cortez told one student an answer was wrong, and after the student changed it said the new answer was also incorrect.

"She said it was still wrong," DePaola said. "She said, 'Fix it.' "

On another occasion, she said, Cortez reprimanded her in her classroom for not assisting her pupils on the test.

"She yelled at me in front of the students that I wasn't helping the students," DePaola said.

Another teacher testified that Cortez told him to fill in a student's blank answer, and another said she saw Cortez working with some fifth graders on part of the exam that had already been finished.

Common Pleas Court Judge David Shuter dismissed some corrupt organization counts but ordered the defendants to be tried on other charges. A fourth teacher waived her preliminary hearing and is scheduled to appear in court in December.

Defense attorneys have said that their clients are innocent and will be vindicated.


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

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