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Nassau County DA Investigating Allegations Of Test ‘Coaching’ By Teachers

Probe Focusing On 18 Educators At 2 Elementary Schools In Glen Cove
A school bus arrives at the Margaret A. Connolly Elementary School in Glen Cove, N.Y. - April 12, 2013 (credit: Mike Xirinachs / WCBS 880)

A school bus arrives at the Margaret A. Connolly Elementary School in Glen Cove, N.Y. – April 12, 2013 (credit: Mike Xirinachs / WCBS 880)

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GLEN COVE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Two Long Island elementary schools are under investigation for allegedly coaching students on state tests.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s office and Glen Cove School District are looking into allegations that some teachers helped the students during the language arts and math state exams last spring.

The school district’s investigation was launched in November and is centered on 18 teachers at Connelly and Landing elementary schools.

In a statement, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Laria said, “These allegations, if true, represent a grave disservice to the children, families and community of Glen Cove.”

In what he’s calling “testing irregularities,” Laria said, “The allegations relate to ‘coaching’ of students during the administration of NYS grades 3, 4 and 5 ELA and Math assessments in spring of 2012… .”

“The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into the allegations that faculty members at a Glen Cove elementary school provided improper assistance to students on standardized tests,” the District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office said in a statement.

“We want kids to do well, but there’s enough stress in the process without this,” Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

“Through the back channels I’m getting information that doesn’t make sense to me as a parent, as a leader. [I'm] trying to put information together,” Suozzi told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.

Many parents and students were surprised to hear about the allegations.

“That’s awful,” said Connelly Elementary School parent Patricia Morales. “So unprofessional. They’re not even entitled to be teachers.”

“It’s about us, to see how smart we are, not how smart they are,” said Connelly fourth grader Grecia Cisneros.

“The teachers are doing a great job. I think they did a fantastic job yesterday. I think we have great teachers in our district,” parent Angela Cavalone told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.

Even if the educators are guilty of what they’re accused, parent Lisa Comitino said it’s the state’s fault. She said she believes testing standards put too much pressure on educators.

“They want to keep their jobs. They want to keep their jobs,” she said.

School district officials would not elaborate on what the teachers are accused of doing, but Laria said, “There is no reason to believe that there is any criminal misconduct and there are currently no pending district charges against any teachers or administrators.”

Officials said there only appears to be professional, misconduct, meaning behavior during the exams is questionable, but they did not tamper with the answers or scores.

“My daughter’s test scores would be a lot better if that were the case. Not in this school; I don’t believe it,” Comitino told CBS 2’s Jiang.

This is the latest in a string of suspected cheating cases in schools.

At Poughkeepsie High School, the principal and assistant principal are on administrative leave after 11 troubled students showed sudden, remarkable and unrealistic improvements on state Regents exams.

“They think kids don’t have a lot of pressure because we’re kids but it takes a lot of studying and stuff to get ready for the Regents,” said Poughkeepsie student Demaris Martinez.

Last week in Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 30 former educators accused of tampering with test scores surrendered to authorities. There, teachers are rewarded with extra pay when students perform well.

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