DA probes report of altered Glen Cove High School Regents exam

Landing Elementary School in Glen Cove on April Landing Elementary School in Glen Cove on April 12, 2013. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Investigations into reports that Glen Cove school administrators and teachers improperly changed grades and coached students during last year's state testing have expanded to the district's high school, officials said Monday.

The Nassau County district attorney's office is investigating allegations that school administrators improperly altered 2012 Regents exam grades at Glen Cove High School, a spokesman said.

The move comes as the district attorney already was investigating potential criminal conduct revolving around alleged testing irregularities by at least 18 teachers at two elementary schools in the Glen Cove City School District.

John Gross, an attorney for the district, said Monday that teachers at the Margaret A. Connolly and Landing elementary schools allegedly taught students topics they had seen in test booklets, helped students answer questions correctly and prompted them to change answers that were wrong.

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"We expect school administrators and teachers to teach students to play by the rules and to lead by example, so these allegations that they changed grades and coached students during exams are very troubling," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

Sources close to the case said the probe into alleged changing of Regents exam grades involves at least two administrators -- a principal and an assistant principal.

Word of Rice's initial investigation came Friday after news broke that the district was examining allegations that students in the two elementary schools, attended by students in grades three through five, were coached on state exams in English and math in spring 2012.

The district started its investigation into the alleged testing administration irregularities after getting a complaint from a parent and alerting the state Department of Education's testing security unit in mid-October, the sources said. Some community residents complained last week that the district had waited too long to inform them of the inquiries.

Monday, school Superintendent Joseph Laria contended, in his first interview since the story broke, that his administration had acted as quickly as possible. Laria said an initial inquiry was slowed by superstorm Sandy, which closed the district's schools for eight days, and that the broader probe was a complex effort involving reports by investigators representing both the district and Nassau BOCES.

"When the matter was first brought to the district's attention, we acted swiftly and we did not drag our feet," Laria said.

Tuesday, the state Education Department is to send a representative to the Glen Cove district to monitor this year's state assessments in English and math, in grades three to eight, through April 26. A district plan required by the state calls for two test proctors to monitor each classroom, rather than the usual single proctor, according to a district spokesman, Michael Conte.

No charges are pending or have been filed against teachers or administrators, the district said.

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Lawyers and legal experts said whether anyone is charged criminally will depend on numerous factors, including what was involved in coaching the students, whether educators filed any official documents vouching for the integrity of the testing process and whether the teachers derived any benefit from their actions.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teacher union, said Monday he could not comment on specific allegations because they are under investigation.

Korn added, however, that "one's rights to a fair hearing before an impartial third party do not end because someone works in a school." Under Section 2030A of state education law, tenured teachers accused of professional misconduct are entitled to impartial hearings.

NYSUT is representing the 18 teachers.

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