Attorney General Kane: Charges filed against Philadelphia School District educators for alleged PSSA cheating

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced today that charges were filed against the principal of Cayuga Elementary School in Philadelphia and four teachers for allegedly perpetuating a culture of cheating on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) during a period of five years.  

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Evelyn Cortez

 
Jennifer Hughes

 
Lorraine Vicente

 
Rita Wyszynski

 
Ary Sloane

"Cheating robs children of a good education and hurts kids and families," Attorney General Kane. "The alleged misconduct by these educators is an affront to the public's trust and will not be  tolerated."
 
Agents and prosecutors from the Office of Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Section presented evidence of criminal activities before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges being filed today against:
  • Evelyn Cortez, 59, 3207 Lenape Drive, Dresher, Montgomery County;
  • Jennifer Hughes, 59, 1701 Peachtree Lane, Jeffersonville, Montgomery County;
  • Lorraine Vicente, 41, 3848 Palmetto St., Philadelphia;
  • Rita Wyszynski, 65, 9122 Old Newtown Road, Apt. 4, Philadelphia; and 
  • Ary Sloane, 56, 530 S. 2nd St., Apt. 736, Philadelphia. 

The educators charged today allegedly changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed PSSA test questions prior to administering the tests. According to the grand jury, after the cheating stopped in 2012, the percentage of students who scored advanced/proficient on the PSSA dropped dramatically across all grades and subjects. 
 
Evidence and testimony showed that Principal Evelyn Cortez blatantly promoted the PSSA cheating at Cayuga Elementary School during testing. According to the grand jury, students were directed to record test answers on scrap paper instead of test booklets so teachers could check their work, and this directive was also broadcast over the school's PA system. 
 
During testing Cortez allegedly entered classrooms, looked over students shoulders and tapped students' booklets to indicate they needed to change an answer. One witness testified that Principal Cortez suggested to her that she place her fingers by the correct test answers. 
 
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 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.
 
The case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General. It will be prosecuted in Philadelphia by Senior Deputy Attorney General James Goldsmith of the Criminal Prosecutions Section.

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.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)

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Editor's Note:
Grand Jury Presentment