Educators charged in PSSA cheating probe

Educators charged in PSSA cheating probe

The Attorney General's office claims the principal and four teachers at a Philadelphia-area school altered test answers over a five-year span
Evelyn Cortez
Evelyn Cortez
Jennifer Hughes
Jennifer Hughes
Lorraine Vicente
Lorraine Vicente
Rita Wyszynski
Rita Wyszynski
Ary Sloane
Ary Sloane
HARRISBURG – Charges were filed Thursday against the principal and four teachers of a Philadelphia school for allegedly perpetuating a culture of cheating of the Pennsylvania System of Assessment over a 5-year span.

The Attorney General’s office alleges Cayuga Elementary School principal Evelyn Cortez and four teachers changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed PSSA test questions prior to administering tests.

The grand jury recommended charges be filed against:
  • Evelyn Cortez, 59, of Dresher, Montgomery County
  • Jennifer Hughes, 59, of Jeffersonville, Montgomery County
  • Lorraine Vicente, 41, of Philadelphia
  • Rita Wyszynski, 65, of Philadelphia
  • Ary Sloane, 56, of Philadelphia.
Evidence shown to the grand jury showed that Principal Cortez promoted PSSA cheating. According to the grand jury, students were directed to record test answers on scrap paper so teachers could check their work, and the instructions were also broadcast over the school’s PA system.

Cortez also allegedly entered classrooms to look over students shoulders and tapped their booklets to indicate they needed to change an answer.

In addition, the grand jury found that Cortez publicly reprimanded Cayuga Elementary School teachers who did not engage in PSSA cheating, as well as students who did not want to change their answers or incorrectly answered test questions.

Teachers were also encouraged to take PSSA tests home with them to familiarize themselves with the tests before proctoring students, according to the presentment. 

Evelyn Cortez, Lorraine Vicente and Jennifer Hughes each are charged with:
  • one count of corrupt organizations, a felony;
  • one count of perjury, a felony;
  • one count of tampering with public records or information, a felony;
  • one count of forgery,
  • one count of tampering with records or identification and
  • one count of criminal conspiracy.
Ary Sloane and Rita Wyszynski each are charged with:
  • one count of tampering with public records or information, a felony;
  • one count of forgery,
  • one count of tampering with records or identification and
  • one count of criminal conspiracy.
All accused are innocent until proven guilty.

The Office of Attorney General's investigation into widespread cheating in the Philadelphia School District and elsewhere in the Commonwealth is ongoing. Anyone with information regarding suspected cheating on standardized tests in Pennsylvania is encouraged to call the Office of Attorney General at 610-631-5987.
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