New Jersey School Teachers and Principal Suspended For Helping Students Cheat

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NBC New York
NBC New York

Three teachers and two principals of a New Jersey school district have been suspended after being accused of helping students cheat on standardized tests.

According to NBC New York, officials said third graders at Ross Street School and Avenel Street School in Woodbridge were coached by their teachers to erase the wrong answers and fill in the right ones on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge exam in 2010.

The cheating tactics ranged from teachers hinting at students that their responses were wrong, by tapping their desks or giving them second chances, to full fledged "study" sessions held minutes before the tests were handed out.

Investigators found that these tactics were encouraged by Avenel Street Principal Dara Kurlander and Ross Street Principal Sharon Strack.

The three suspended Avenel School teachers were John Radzik, his wife Lisa Sivillo and Stephanie Klecan.

Woodbridge School Board President Brian Small announced the suspensions Monday after the investigation showed there were too many erasures by too many students to simply be a coincidence.

"No child will be adversely affected by these reports," Small said. "No test scores will be changed or revised. For the students, we are looking forward, not backwards. For staff, let's be clear -- each and every person who cheats will be held accountable."

The investigation found that 94 percent of third graders at Avenel were "advanced proficient," a feat that barely one-third of third graders achieve nationwide.

"The example that is setting is that corruption and cheating is OK, and I'm not proud of that. I don't accept that," Anita Isaacs, a grandmother of a Ross Street School student, told NBC New York.

In March, the state's education department had announced its investigation of four of the nine Woodbridge schools for potential cheating due to high erasure marks. Two of the schools are still under investigation.

Cheating, however, is not limited to the Woodbridge school district however. From Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., reports of widespread, systematic cheating by educators on state exams have plagued districts nationwide. .

Much of the cause of the cheating has been attributed to pressure on school districts and teachers to meet the rigorous guidelines set forth in No Child Left Behind.

Currently, the state's Department of Education is investigating 27 districts for alleged cheating that ranges from teachers coaching students on how precisely to write an essay to those who are handing out calculators and dictionaries despite test guidelines.

About 850,000 standardized tests are administered annually in 600 school districts across the state.

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