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Glen Cove school district probes allegations of test coaching

The Margaret A. Connolly Elementary School is one

The Margaret A. Connolly Elementary School is one of the Glen Cove elementary schools that is the focus of a probe into "testing administration irregularities" in which students were coached on exams, the school superintendent said Thursday. Credit: Newsday File June 8, 2010 / Audrey C. Tiernan

The Glen Cove City School District is investigating allegations of "testing administration irregularities" in which students were coached on New York State exams in at least two elementary schools, the schools superintendent said Thursday.

At least 18 teachers are under investigation for allegedly helping students with answers on the spring 2012 tests, and that number could grow, sources said.

The probe is centered on fifth-grade students at the Margaret A. Connolly and Landing elementary schools, sources said.

"These allegations, if true, represent a grave disservice to the children, families and community of Glen Cove," Glen Cove Superintendent Joseph Laria said in a statement posted on the district's website.

Laria's statement referred to "coaching" of students during the administration of "NYS grades 3, 4 and 5 ELA [English Language Arts] and Math assessments" conducted at the two schools. No charges are pending against any teachers, Laria's statement said.

"We are aware of the investigation and we are monitoring the situation," said Dennis Tompkins, chief spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Laria said in the statement that the district launched its investigation into the alleged misconduct in November.

"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," he wrote.

Laria also said that "the board of education retained outside counsel to conduct an investigation that consisted of interviews with staff members, students . . . and building administrators regarding protocols and practices applied during the administration of this exam."

Michael Conte, the district's spokesman, of the public relations firm Syntax, said, "In accordance with state Education Department requirements and common sense, the district immediately launched a proactive investigation and notified state officials."

Reached at his home Thursday night, Louis Zocchia, Glen Cove City Schools assistant superintendent for human resources, said, "Unfortunately, I really have no comment. Sorry."

Other officials could not be reached for comment.

Word of the investigation in Glen Cove schools comes two weeks after a county grand jury in Georgia indicted 35 educators from the Atlanta school district, accused in a mammoth test-cheating scandal uncovered about two years ago.

Charges against principals, teachers and testing coordinators included racketeering and making false statements about their roles in an alleged plot to falsify students' standardized tests.

Phenomenal improvements on standardized test scores first were reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. A state review found some cheating had occurred in more than half the district's elementary and middle schools.

In fall 2011, in a case that reverberated across the nation, former students and students of the Great Neck school district and several other schools were embroiled in a test-taking scandal involving the SAT college-admissions test that resulted in criminal charges. That scandal did not involve teachers.

The case led to strengthened requirements for photo identification from the millions of students who annually take the test.

With John Hildebrand

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