A principal and four teachers were indicted in Philadelphia Thursday for changing student answers, providing answers and reviewing test questions before the test for five years.
The investigation into Philadelphia's Cayuga Elementary School began in 2011 when computers that grade standardized tests found that nearly half of the approximately 70 third-graders at Cayuga had erased answers and changed it to the correct answer five or more times. The average third-grader erases wrong answers in favor of a correct one about once. When state officials began their investigation in 2012, the percentage of third-graders scoring proficient or higher on the reading section of the standardized test dropped from 60.3 percent to 26.8 percent, according to an ongoing grand jury investigation.
The principal, Evelyn Cortez, was charged with corrupt organizations, perjury, tampering with public records, forgery, tampering with records and criminal conspiracy. Teachers testified that Cortez would reprimand students and teachers who did not go along with her cheating scheme. Witnesses testified to seeing her with test booklets in violation of testing procedure. One teacher testified that in 2011, students were asked to write their answers on scrap paper first so teachers could check them before entering them onto the test. Prosecutors said that the grand jury also found Cortez guilty of walking through classrooms during tests and tapping on students' desks when they needed to change an answer.
"Cheating robs children of a good education and hurts kids and families," Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a statement. "The alleged misconduct by these educators is an affront to the public's trust and will not be tolerated."
Cortez's attorney, Matthew Sedacca, told NBC that "the charges are not true."