Written by Jill Nossa Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:40
As many as 18 teachers in the Glen Cove school district may have coached students to help them raise low test scores, district officials revealed last week as an inquiry into alleged improprieties in standardized testing intensifies in one of Long Island’s largest public education systems.
Additionally, district officials said that in March, they were alerted to a separate allegation, against Glen Cove High School, regarding a grade change, in which two administrators may be implicated.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s office issued two subpoenas in mid-April seeking information on alleged grade changes by administrators in the 2012 Regents exam as well as on the alleged improper test coaching by teachers at the elementary schools.
School district officials, who have been grappling with what might be the district’s largest cheating scandal, said last week that the investigation was launched after some students admitted in interviews that they had been coached by teachers during the administration of the New York State Grade 3, 4 and 5 ELA and math assessments conducted at the Connolly and Landing Elementary schools last year. The teachers were allegedly concerned about low scores.
District officials disclosed the existence of the investigation two weeks ago. None of the teachers were named, nor did district officials say how many students may have been coached. They stressed the investigation is ongoing.
Last week, the school board said in a statement that district officials were “disappointed to hear the initial information this past fall,” and that “the improprieties appear to go beyond one student and one teacher.” The statement said also that it was “particularly problematic, as the allegations suggest, that children were denied educational services that they would have received had their test results been free of teacher assistance.”
Last fall, the board hired independent outside counsel to investigate the allegations in order to determine the “legitimacy and scope” of the allegations, based on advice of outside counsel and input from the New York State Education Department. The investigation has been “professionally led by outside legal counsel,” according to the board’s statement.
The so-called “trigger” for the investigation was a parent’s comment to a teacher which raised suspicions about the possibility of test coaching at the two elementary schools. The parent reportedly requested services for her sixth-grader, who she said was behind in math. The services were denied based on too high a score on a Regents exam, according to officials. The parent is said to have responded by saying that the only reason her daughter did so well was that her teacher helped her, which immediately raised a red flag and opened the door for questioning.
District spokesman Michael Conte said it is common for the DA’s office to request records and conduct interviews with district officials and attorneys before deciding if the evidence warrants a grand jury.
Conte said the investigation is a “process that is codified, and there is “nothing arbitrary” about actions taken. Penalties range from reprimand to suspension without pay to firing, after impartial hearings mandated by state education law.
The board’s statement said, “...if the independent counsel’s report results in the Superintendent of Schools bringing charges against one or more of our employees, the Board of Education will be the arbiter of whether there is probable cause for these charges.”
“Make no mistake - these investigations are warranted based on legitimate, detailed concerns expressed by particular parents of young students, as well as other employees of our district,” the statement said. “We simply want the truth to come out through the process.”