Test Coaching Alleged at 2 Long Island Elementary Schools

Friday, Apr 12, 2013  |  Updated 9:19 PM EDT
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Eighteen teachers at two Glen Cove Elementary schools are accused of coaching students through state exams. Greg Cergol reports.

NBC 4 New York

Eighteen teachers at two Glen Cove Elementary schools are accused of coaching students through state exams. Greg Cergol reports.

Two Long Island elementary schools are being investigated for allegedly coaching students on exams.

In a statement posted on the Glen Cove school district's website, Superintendent Joseph Laria said the district was greatly disappointed by the allegations of "testing administration irregularities."

"These allegations, if true, represent a grave disservice to the children, families and community of Glen Cove," Laria said.

The statement referred to the "coaching" of students during the English Language Arts and math tests in grades three through five at Margaret A. Connolly and Landing elementary schools.

State test scores for Glen Cove students at the two schools showed improvement at the two schools in 2012, records show. School officials and prosecutors are now investigating to determine if it was good teaching or test coaching that prompted those better scores. 

Laria said staff members and students at the school were being interviewed regarding "protocols and practices applied during the administration" of exams last spring.

"The district launched this proactive and necessary investigation in November 2012 after allegations were brought to the district’s attention," Laria said.

He said no criminal misconduct was suspected and no charges were pending against any teachers or administrators.

Most parents protested the investigation, insisting their children's teachers were professional and honest. 

"I think it's a witchhunt," said Cynthia Morris, a mother of a student at Landing Elementary School. "These are the most perfect and professional elementary teachers you'd ever want to deal with." 

District observer Zefy Christopoulos said, "I find it hard to believe that they would compromise their profession, their college diploma, their job, their integrity." 

Others said they've observed a growing emphasis on standardized tests that have put pressure on teachers. 

"I would like the teachers to teach the kids," said mother Jessica Starke. "I don't want them to teach them how to take tests. And I think that's what's happening." 

Carl D. Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers, a statewide union, told the New York Times that legal counsel was being provided for 18 teachers from the schools, though the investigation seemed to be focusing on a smaller number of educators.

“It seems to circle around providing improper assistance, including coaching, violating test protocol and not following the proscribed guidance in the testing manuals,” Korn said. “There are no allegations, that we are aware of, that teachers erased answers or filled in bubbles for students.”

A spokesman for the state education department told Newsday that the agency was monitoring the situation.

Glen Cove's mayor, Ralph Suozzi, has a child in one of the schools and though he has no role with the schools, he is urging investigators to be fair.

"I want to make sure the school system, the kids are protected, and that there's no other shadows or agenda playing into this," he said. 

-- Greg Cergol contributed to this report. 

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