Damaging testimony in school cheating scandal

Preliminary hearing of a former principal and three teachers.
Tuesday was a day of damaging testimony at the preliminary hearing of a former principal and three teachers charged in the Philadelphia School District cheating scandal.

The attorney general says former principal Evelyn Cortez was the chief corrupting influence at the Cayuga Elementary School.

Cortez allegedly pressed teachers to cheat on standardized state tests during a 5 year stretch, from 2007 to 2012, when investigators discovered a pattern of remarkably high achievement scores.

After the discovery test scores dropped dramatically.

Teacher Barbara Dolt testified that Cortez told her and other teachers, "We need to get these test scores up or red flags will go up. We'll be in trouble. Make sure the students respond correctly on the PSSA tests. Go over their work and make sure they respond correctly."

When the conspiracy started to unravel and investigators came calling, Dolt says Cortez offered this advice: "We were advised to tell them we did everything right. Test booklets were properly locked away. Kids just like to erase things."

Dolt testified to hearing defendant Lorraine Vicente saying, "I know my kids did OK. I gave them all the answers."

Defense attorney Leno Thomas tells us, "Well, the judge threw out the most serious charge, which was the Corrupt Organizations charge. He downgraded another charge and held the rest. The Commonwealth at this stage has a very low burden. We anticipated they'd make the burden - 99 percent of the time they usually do."

Three teachers from Cayuga Elementary School say they were intimidated, and in some cases demoted, for refusing to play ball with the principal.

The investigation into other schools continues.
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education school teachers philadelphia school district philly news cheating Center City Philadelphia
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