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Former Philadelphia school administrator sentenced for role in PSSA cheating conspiracy

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Evelyn Cortez

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s office today announced a former Philadelphia school administrator has been sentenced to 10 years of probation for her role in promoting a culture of cheating on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.

The sentence handed down today to Evelyn Cortez, 61, former principal of Cayuga Elementary School, was imposed by Judge Timika Lane.

“This cheating robbed children of the education they deserve,” Attorney General Kane said. “We are pleased the court ordered an appropriate sentence that will serve as a reminder that this conduct will not be tolerated.”

Cortez was sentenced to seven years of probation on charges of tampering with evidence and criminal conspiracy. She also was sentenced to three years of consecutive probation on a perjury charge. Furthermore, Cortez was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service in the area of literacy and signed a document revoking her teaching certificate.

Cortez, who entered an open guilty plea in February, was arrested in May 2014 by the Office of Attorney General following allegations that she and teachers at Cayuga Elementary School changed student answers, provided test answers to students and improperly reviewed PSSA test questions prior to administering tests.

A statewide investigating grand jury reviewed evidence and testimony, which showed that Cortez blatantly promoted PSSA cheating during testing. According to the grand jury, Cortez entered classrooms, looking over students’ shoulders and tapping their booklets to indicate they needed to change an answer.

The grand jury further determined that Cortez publicly reprimanded Cayuga Elementary School teachers who did not engage in PSSA cheating, as well as students who did not want to change their answers or incorrectly answered test questions.

Cortez is the first defendant who worked for Cayuga Elementary School to be sentenced following the charges that were filed in this case. 
The Office of Attorney General’s investigation of cheating in the Philadelphia School District and elsewhere in the Commonwealth resulted from a referral made by the Office of General Counsel on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Source: Attorney General’s Office Press Release