Charges in ‘Culture of Cheating’ at Philadelphia School

Kristen Graham et al., Philly, May 9, 2014

The culture of cheating was so blatant at Cayuga Elementary, authorities said, that the principal broadcast orders to tamper with tests over the loudspeaker.

Five educators were arrested Thursday and accused of tampering with public records, forgery, conspiracy and other crimes–the first such charges brought in a Pennsylvania cheating investigation expected to yield more arrests.

Charged Thursday were Evelyn Cortez, 59, Cayuga’s principal until last week, and teachers Jennifer Hughes, 59, Lorraine Vicente, 41, Rita Wyszynski, 65, and Ary Sloane, 56, who had been principal of Bethune Elementary.

The five were immediately suspended by the Philadelphia School District. Because they have not been convicted, they will still collect pay.


A state grand jury recommended the charges after the Pennsylvania Department of Education referred the case. The educators will be prosecuted in Philadelphia.

The Inquirer first reported cheating at Cayuga in 2012, when staffers told the newspaper of systematic test-tampering that stretched back years at the Hunting Park school.

Cortez, teachers said, would tell students over the loudspeaker to write test answers on scrap paper and not fill out their exam booklets until teachers gave approval. She also used the public address system to tell teachers to walk up and down aisles during tests, helping students with the questions.

The teachers said Cortez and others came into the school on a weekend to change answers, and called them at home to warn them that their test scores needed to rise. They said students told them they had been called to Cortez’s office to fix wrong answers, and that students who could not read or write in English scored proficiently in reading.

The 14-page grand jury presentment released Thursday matches allegations detailed to The Inquirer in 2012.

Cortez’s methods were no secret, the presentment said.

She “systematically cheated to increase Cayuga’s test scores by changing student answers, providing test answers to students, and improperly reviewing PSSA test questions prior to administering the test.”

Sloane, who was testing coordinator at Cayuga for a time, testified that she made test booklets available to teachers for review prior to testing. She told the grand jury that Cortez “had jokingly indicated to her that teachers could give a student an answer if the student answered it wrong,” according to court papers.

Sloane said she saw Cortez remove exam booklets from the secure room where they were kept, and take them into her office and shut the door. Vicente and another teacher then holed up with Cortez and the exam books, Sloane testified.

Wyszynski told the grand jury that Cortez directed her to give students answers to questions they did not know, and to prompt them to complete blank questions. She denied allegations that she was part of a group who changed answers themselves.


The pressure on schools to bring up scores is intense.

During the years investigators probed, principals whose scores stood out were publicly praised. Cayuga won the district’s coveted “Vanguard” status, earning it some freedom in curriculum and budgeting, based on its test marks.

The school’s scores were stunning.

On 2008-09 state proficiency exams, Cayuga’s fourth graders excelled: 89 percent passed math and 84 percent passed reading. But by 2012-13, when the state had cracked down on cheating, the scores plummeted.

Just 31 percent of fourth graders passed math that year, and 25 percent passed reading.


Sources with knowledge of the probe say the Cayuga charges are just the beginning. They drew parallels between Philadelphia’s cheating scandal and one in Atlanta, where 35 educators from 44 schools were indicted.

An investigation of more than 50 Philadelphia district schools and three city charter schools began in 2011. The state Inspector General’s Office investigated cheating at 13 city schools where the allegations were most serious. The district investigated 19 schools and had plans to probe 22 more.

Sixty-nine current and former employees were found to have acted improperly in one of the most serious group of investigations, district officials have said.

Among the second group of investigations, three schools 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. In all, 15 active and former district educators have been disciplined in some way, ranging from the firings to being barred from serving as testing coordinators.


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • D.B. Cooper

    it’s funny. The exact same thing is happening in Houston right now, almost word for word.

    • Anna Tree

      Well one can’t have his cake and eat it too!

      What can they do!? On one hand the race gap has to close, on the other hand it is forbidden to cheat!

    • APaige

      There are a lot of examples of Black large-scale cheating. But at least in this case they actually scored well. In Atlanta there was cheating AND low scores-that is just sooo Black.

  • Martel

    Combine a third world population with modern technology and Western institutions, and hilarity ensues.

    • ncpride

      That sums it up perfectly in reality, however they will spout ‘Institutional Racism’ and ‘biased tests’ or some other such nonsense to explain away their continued failure.

      • Martel

        The National Academy of Sciences has thoroughly researched testing bias and debunked it every time. Its mentioned in Taylor’s “Paved With Good Intentions”.

    • ViktorNN

      It is hilarious, but it is also depressing. Imagine what this country could be if the fruits of white labor were returned to benefit white children, instead of parceled out to non-white kids who will never be white, no matter how much education is thrown at them.

    • Tom Magee

      Sounds like the description for a sitcom I would watch.

  • MekongDelta69

    Saw this on TV last night. Three blacks, one White, and one Hispandex.

    They got raises and promotions for their students’ ‘good work.’

    • dcc2379

      There is somethin perverse, in an ironic way, about holding teachers accountable for student learning. The problem is that this does not take into consideration the most important variable: Student effort.

  • This kind of cheating is inevitable when teacher and principal pay, tenure, benefits, bonuses, etc. are pegged to student test scores, and the students happen to be NAM.

    • Tom Thumb

      The main point is there’s no tangible end result to the days work of teacher[s]. All “learning” is nothing but an illusion until an employer finally puts the former “pupil” to work. Then it all comes out, whether or not he/she learned the lessons.

    • Anna Tree

      Worsened by the pressure to close the race gap when it is just not possible.

      • dcc2379

        It is possible. If everyone is mediocre, there is no gap.

  • Giving orders in the clear over the intercom? Can standardized test cheating possibly get any dumber than that? This Evelyn Cortez imbecile needs to be mopping floors, rather than running a school. Luckily, one of these problems has already been solved, and equally fortunately, the women’s prison in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has floors that will need mopping.

    I wonder what one gets for tampering with public records, forgery and conspiracy in Pennsylvania.

    • Conrad

      A nice cushy job with the DNC, ACORN or the SPLC.

      • Perhaps, but only after she’s paroled.

        • dcc2379

          Sounds like racism to me because there was slavery 200 years ago.


      “Giving orders in the clear over the intercom? Can standardized test cheating possibly get any dumber than that?” – Yup, I would say that has to be the dumbest example of standardized test cheating I can think of. With a strong second place runner up being the Atlanta school systems “Eraser Parties”. Where if you remember that story, the teachers, principals and even school board members. Would hold these gatherings in their homes where they would all go over their students test. Erasing the wrong answers and filling in the correct ones, and they actually referred to these as “Eraser Parties”! Stupidity is immense, and certainly not on short supply these days.

      • Nancy

        They were doing this way back when I was teaching in downtown Atlanta in the late 80s/early 90s. The principal would make what amounted to thinly-veiled threats claiming our positions were tied to the test scores, or he’d threaten to post the scores for each class in the front lobby for “all the parents to see” (that small percent of baby mamas that actually showed up, AND could read).

        Frankly I’m surprised it took the media so long to catch on. This is in no way a recent phenomenon, and was going on during that miserable debacle known as Whole Language and Outcomes-based Education. APS had a motto at the time: Every Child Can Learn. We saw it on all APS texts, letterhead, signs, classrooms, etc.

        I always thought, “Who are they trying to convince? The dullards sitting at the desks? The dullards at home who produced these geniuses? Or is it the suckers like me who actually believed it was possible to have these kids sit in a seat and behave in a way which at least makes learning possible?”

    • dcc2379

      Usually what one gets is elected to public office as a Democrat and a hefty pension.

  • So CAL Snowman

    Even the black and brown teachers know that “equality” is just a lie used to disarm gullible White people. These black and brown “educators” certainly understood that their “diverse” student body was not capable of achieving at the level of Whites or Asians so they were forced to cheat and lie to make the grade.

    • Anna Tree

      That’s a complaint about Whites that I would love them to iterate LOL

    • cherrie greenbaum123

      Spending any amount of time in a “diverse” (black) classroom and you will immediately sense the lack of curiousity or inventiveness among the students. They cannot work independently. You can’t put them into groups because none of them have any idea what the lesson was about. If you have one white student and three blacks in a group, guess which one gets to do all the work? You can’t teach a rock to calculate numbers or decode and comprehend a reading selection. I’ve seen it first hand. It’s like trying to get blood out of a turnip.

      • Tom Magee

        I’d wager if they were hungry enough they could figure out how to use a stick to get termites out of a tree.

  • JohnEngelman

    As long as public school teachers and administrators are under pressure to raise test scores for blacks and Hispanics many of them will try to cheat.

    The effect of No Child Left Behind has been to make public school teachers and administrators even less willing than they used to be to teach blacks and Hispanics.

    • Especially when money is involved.

      • dcc2379

        Anyone that admits intelligence is genetics will be branded a racist and uninvited to college seminars.

        • JohnEngelman

          I would love to go to one of those college seminars if I could debate the person giving the seminar.

          • I would pay to attend if Jared Taylor could debate the person giving that seminar.

          • Triarius

            Ditto. But they never would, he’d use facts to win the debate.

  • Large swaths of the US educational system are a Potemkin Village. It looks real until someone notices that it’s not real. The money that pays for it all is real though.

    When the US was white and expectations of blacks were realistic, none of this rigging of test results was happening. It was honest and it was real. Schools operated under the reality that blacks can’t learn much, and among whites, abilities vary markedly.

    Now, with no child left behind, the system assumes that they’re all capable of high level performance. It’s insane, but it’s not going away, so we need to just keep going after the low IQ Affirmative Action principals and teachers. They stand out when they have dumb students scoring high. It’s the easiest fraud to uncover that there is.

    • JSS

      I would say that the entire facade of the U.S. power structure in general is a Potemkin Village. Behind the projected force, the “economic recovery” the Amurrikan dream and diversity nonsense, is just a rotting hollow shell of what was. Even polls by liberal establishment media show that few people trust the government, social trust is non existent, and no one really thinks we have equal protection under the law anymore. God willing it won’t last much longer and enough of us aware and awake Whites will be left to carve out a homeland.

      • Grantland

        Carve out hell. How about we kick the black and brown arse off our land. Shovel the Mexcrement over the Rio Grande.

    • Tully

      Exactly, that’s the elephant in the room that one is forbidden to talk about in society at large. But this cheating stuff was going on long before NCLB was instituted – at least here in CA. Social promotion and dumbing down exams was going on before Bush got in. Schools in CA have been going nuts trying to keep blacks and Mexicans from dropping out in horrendous numbers(50%+) and doing anything to raise test scores of these people.

      Nothing works.

      However NCLB made the cheating institutional. The teachers know full well that most that the vast majority of Hispanic and Black kids have IQ’s around 70 and have zero interest in learning. Yet they are expected to turn them into little test taking Einsteins. Can’t be done and if they don’t the school loses money from the Feds and may get taken over. And all over a bunch of numbskulls they have no control over.

      They can do only one thing in desperation – cheat and make the morons look good.

      And when they do, the bosses and Feds go ballistic and can’t figure out why they did it. I suspect the boss class knows but they can’t admit without themselves being drawn and quartered by the liberal press and others.

  • JSS

    Cheating and fraud is the bread and butter of the entire political and financial establishment in this joke of a country. It would be naive to assume the education establishment would be any different.

    • wE NEED , NEED , NEED A revolution .

    • Erika525

      What all of this demonstrates is a race-related cheating gap. You see, everybody cheats but only blacks get caught so we need more training, role models and mentors to help blacks cheat undetected. That would bring true equality of American education.

  • Ronald

    I wonder if it’s really fair to blame high paid taxpayer supported school administrators for fudging the figures? After all, they are just as much victims as are the minority of taxpayers who are tapped to pay their salaries. The federal Government has charged them with closing the African – White scholastic achievement “gap” – an impossible task in any event. All these high paid school administrators are doing is trying to maintain their privileged economic and social positions.

    • It’s certainly fair to blame them for breaking the law; if prison was good enough for me, it’s good enough for anyone.

  • Romulus

    Saw this story this morning.
    Just the kind of garbage that are allowing low IQ morons to take the slots that should be going to our children.

    For a much more in depth look into how Philly Africans think, read the free black publication THE PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE

  • Any bets as to whether the Philadelphia School District retaliates by firing the whistle-blower(s)?

  • baldowl

    Dumbed down as public education is now, and they still have to cheat to pass.

    • One must conclude that it has not been dumbed down enough for the future black afronauts and brown rocket-surgeons.

  • guest

    If you watch the news clip closely, the Philadelphia School District is quoted as stating that it “will support the criminal process.”

    No doubt it will.

  • DiversityIsDeath

    Why are these crooks being prosecuted now, all of a sudden, after years of rampant cheating? The authorities should quietly drop this case and stick their heads back in the sand if they know what’s good for them. Blacks/browns have nothing to gain by seeing this case prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Blacks will rationalize that exposing the details of this case just feeds into the worst racist stereotypes about negro intellectual inferiority. And anyway, how else are minority scores expected to improve if they can’t cheat?

  • dcc2379

    This sounds like the first rule of diversity: We are all equal. Sometimes there has to be a little push, like this affirmative action test taking assistance. What’s the difference if one gets points added after or during?

    • cherrie greenbaum123

      Good point. They’re going to be promoted, then graduated, then Affirmative Actioned into college, then actively recruited by Fortune 500s needing to fill quotas. That’s why I’m not surprised by all of this. Why require them to go to school at all? They just make the classroom a living hell for other students, not to mention the teachers. They need to just mail them the G.E.D.s or diplomas when they get their birth certificates and eliminate the middle man.

  • dcc2379

    Besides Rita, what is one thing the other four have in common?

  • Ograf

    One cannot make silk out of a sows ear.

    • Ellis Kurtz

      Actually, the usual form is “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

      • Ograf

        You are correct. I probably should have said “one cannot make a scholar out of a room temperature IQ”.

        • IstvanIN

          Fahrenheit or centigrade?

  • MBlanc46

    The cheating doesn’t surprise me. The blatant nature of it does.

  • dd121

    And just when they were on the verge of “closing the gap”.

    • Strangely, nobody is worrying about closing the rape-gap or the car-jacking-gap.

      • dd121

        All manner of sexual assaults against white females occur in the public schools by knee grows and very little is done. Usually the perps don’t even get expelled much less 20 years in jail. It’s just part of the permitted violence against whites that the left encourages.

        • Grantland


      • Laura Dilworth

        blacks and liberals deny guilt regarding crime

  • Ellis Kurtz

    How is this different from affirmative action?

  • Pelagian

    Cheating is also rampant at white prep schools these days. Part of the general moral drift of our culture. (Surprise, surprise … young millennial atheists dont have any ethics.)

    But at least we dont have any evidence of administrators at prep schools encouraging cheating.

    • Strike_Team

      Out here in CA it’s rampant among schools with high Asian student populations. We have so many cases that aren’t reported nationally, like the problems that occurred at Corona Del Mar high with a “tutor” now on the lam, he’s Asian (Timothy Lai). Mr. Lai helped others hack into the files at the school and alter the grades for what was originally over 150 students, then scaled down to 11 students. (Behind the scenes the PC crowd was able to pare things down for “the overall good” of the community – hence 150 – 200 students became the 11 to be sacrificed, but who are appealing of course) The same thing has happened at other High Schools in So Cal. One of the more amusing cases that first popped up was the use of Adderall and Ritalin at Beverly Hills High when it came time to take the SAT. It was not mentioned the students were of a certain ethno-religious group.

      It isn’t polite to mention that this is going on with Asians. UCLA had numerous incidents of Asian grad students or professionals showing up to take tests for Asian kids who wouldn’t be able to hit the numbers needed to get them an “A” in a variety of subjects. I’m sure they’ve taken steps to combat this by now. Although other more sophisticated methods of cheating are no doubt in play.

      Of course, the model minority would never do this, even with all the pressure within these ethnic groups to get the grade, get the scores by any means necessary. While a lot of Asians are capable, not all of them are. But certain people would like to have you believe that. Just as they would like you to believe all blacks and latinos have the potential to be topflight engineers or scientists, if the barriers put up by racist white guys can finally be brought down.

      With blacks and latinos, cheating would be the only way to have a significant number of them post grades and test scores that would only be considered average or just below average at “white” schools.

  • dcc2379

    She still would have gotten your orders wrong, and any baby would have diaper rash because of too infrequent changes in between breaks of BET.

  • Marcus


  • Marcus

    There is a way out of our problems that doesn’t require us to despise our fellow human beings.
    The fear of life is the cause of all our anti-social, self-destructive, neurotic habits of behaviour and relationship with one another, and with the earth itself. We have found that a simple act that we call ‘looking at yourself’ washes away the fear of life and heals the mind of anyone who will try it just once:

    1. Close your eyes. Notice the symphony of sensations and thoughts about sensations rising and falling within you.

    2. Notice that you can move your attention to one or another sensation or thought at will.

    3. Now use that same beam of attention to look for the feel of what you would call ‘me’ – a faint sensation that is what you feel like to yourself.

    4. Try to ‘look at yourself’ whenever the thought of it comes to you. You cannot fail, if you just try.

    That’s it, you’ve done all that needs to be done to bring you home to the beauty and satisfaction that are to be found in a human life lived without fear.

    • It’s the culture of self-centeredness that’s part the problem. I prefer to try to live by the words “it is by self forgetting that one finds, and it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.”

  • WR_the_realist

    When the federal government demands that the “gap” be closed, and offers big carrots and sticks to make that happen, the “gap” gets closed in the only way possible.