Taking a cue from former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers (R) and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) charged and arrested a principal and four teachers for cheating on standardized tests at Cayuga Elementary School in Philadelphia over a four year period (2008-2012).
Kane said the educators changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test questions before giving the tests. After the cheating stopped in 2012, the schools test scored dropped dramatically, Kane noted.
In 2008-09 state proficiency tests, Cayuga’s fourth graders excelled: 88.8% pass math and 83.9% pass reading. By 2012-13, the most recent numbers available, fourth graders at the school struggled with 31% passing math and 25% passing reading.
Those charged are:
- Evelyn Cortez, 59, Dresher, Montgomery County;
- Jennifer Hughes, 59, Jeffersonville, Montgomery County;
- Lorraine Vicente, 41, Philadelphia;
- Rita Wyszynski, 65, Philadelphia; and
- Ary Sloane, 56, Philadelphia.
In Georgia, numerous teachers, and principals were convicted or took plea deals and are in prison. Superintendent Beverly Hall had her plea deal rejected and awaits trial in August 2014.
Unfortunately for Florida students and taxpayers, Attorney General Pam Bondy and Governor Rick Scott took a different course of action in response to test cheating: they did absolutely nothing.
Hard evidence was sent to both of these Constitutional officers and elected officials concerning various violations concerning professional development fraud, teacher certification fraud, teacher observation and evaluation fraud, and test cheating – all of which were documented in a state report issued by the Auditor General of Florida and the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report which concluded that, “Miami Norland has benefited in the form of attaining a higher school grade and may have received financial compensation or other benefit resulting from its high pass rate on the industry certification exams” (page 13).
Katherine-Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney of the 11th Judicial Circuit, did not respond nor take action on these allegations, stating she can do nothing per “local control,” and that the responsibility for investigation and resolution rests with the employee of the perpetrators – Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
After appearing before investigators with the Office of the Auditor General for the State of Florida and the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General in April and May 2012, in which sworn statements, evidence, and produced two witnesses (teachers who corroborated the test cheating) were given, to ensure that these investigations would be acted upon by the state, the findings were sent to Governor Rick Scott for action.
Governor Scott’s Inspector General emailed a written response declining assistance for lack of jurisdiction and deferred to the Miami-Dade OIG, who declined to investigate this particular matter as the Auditor General’s Office was investigating it.
On February 6, 2013, the FLDOE OIG, sent a written response claiming “lack of primary jurisdiction.” One would think they would have a secondary jurisdiction to investigate violations of state law pertaining to test cheating and any and all related frauds (money) to protect students, teachers, and taxpayers.
Worse yet, I emailed Florida’s and Miami-Dade’s chief law enforcement officers, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle respectively, and the response was disappointing.
On March 8, 2013, Attorney General Bondi emailed the whistle-blower, Trevor Colestock, back basically citing lack of jurisdiction and passing the buck to the school district of all places and various local and federal agencies.
These improprieties and related crimes (using computers to commit fraud, wire fraud, malfeasance, test cheating, and 20,000+ counts of record tampering and teacher certification fraud) were reported on by multiple media outlets. However, Governor Scott, Attorney General Bondi, FLDOE bureau chiefs and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle appear to have a “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” when it comes to stopping cheating and fraud in Florida’s public schools.
Though the state has inherent police and supervisory powers to enforce and regulate its laws, Florida (unlike the States of Georgia, Texas, and Pennsylvania) has been a passive spectator concerning school districts and test cheating to the detriment of Florida students, teachers, and taxpayers.
Perhaps it is time for Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi to stop passing the buck and stand against cheating in Florida’s public schools?