Posts tagged "office of special investigations"
January 15, 2013
Starting today, school staffers can report their cheating suspicions online.
It’s one of the first concrete moves by the State Education Department’s new test security unit, created last year after a self-imposed audit of the department’s test security policies found them severely lacking.
The audit came after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged states to scrutinize their test integrity practices following a spate of high-profile cheating scandals. The scandals threatened to undermine the real and perceived value of test scores even as New York State was attaching higher stakes to its scores.
The audit concluded that the state’s paper-based system for receiving allegations of improprieties was disorganized and outdated, creating the potential for “underreporting and underestimation of information.” Plus, the Office of State Assessment did not have anyone assigned exclusively to investigate allegations that did come in.
Now, four investigators — all former state and federal law enforcement officers — are ready to look into cheating allegations received online, according to Tina Sciocchetti, who heads SED’s Test Security and Educator Integrity office. The investigators are also working on piles of years-old cold cases absorbed from the assessment office. (more…)
September 18, 2012
A married couple who owned four daycare providers in Queens swindled the Department of Education out of more than $35,000 over the last two school years by billing for students who never attended the programs, a city investigation has found.
The couple, Saied and Nareesa Mohammed, allegedly took advantage of 12 students whose parents originally signed them up to receive services from a city-funded Universal Pre-K program that operated out of the “Nareesa’s Day Care” and “Beanstalk” centers.
The parents quickly withdrew from the programs, but the Mohammeds allegedly continued to keep their children’s names on the books at the school by submitting false attendance forms and forging parent signatures at the end of the year. The fraud involved at least 12 students and the couple received about $3,500 per pupil from the education department, according to a report released today by the Office of the Special Investigator.
The fraud spanned from 2009 to June 2011, when a manager in the Early Childhood Development office first lodged a complaint with the Special Commissioner’s office. It began on a smaller scale in 2009, with just two students, but it expanded the next year and eventually raised a red flag. (more…)
September 5, 2012
A teacher reported for looking at pornography on a school computer in January remained assigned to schools until late March, racking up additional complaints that he was loitering in girls’ bathrooms during that time.
During the period when the teacher, Daniel Meagher, was collecting allegations, city officials were demanding more power to fire teachers who misbehave.
Yet the extended timeline between the first allegation against Meagher and his removal from the classroom suggests that the city does not always use the power it already has to shield students from school workers suspected of illicit behavior — and that the Department of Education sometimes does not even know when teachers are accused of misconduct.
According to a report released today by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon, Meagher behaved inappropriately at three different schools: Bedford Academy High School, P.S. 17, and P.S. 19. A city teacher since 2000, Meagher was assigned to multiple schools as a member of the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers without permanent positions who rotate to new schools each week.
Bedford Academy’s principal called Condon’s office in mid-January after students said they saw Meagher looking at pornography in the school library and other school officials realized Meagher had also been searching online for sexually explicit content about children, according to the report. Investigators quickly began looking into the allegations, seizing Meagher’s computer six days after hearing from the school principal.
But it was not until March 30, more than two months later, that the Department of Education assigned Meagher to a central office position to keep him away from students, according to the report. That month, the principals of P.S. 17 and P.S. 19 each reported that Meagher had been spotted repeatedly in girls’ bathrooms. (more…)
February 17, 2012
Chancellor Dennis Walcott set something of speed record today by announcing new policies to screen school employees for histories of abuse.
Earlier this week, Walcott vowed to review screening procedures for school aides after an aide at P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side was charged with sexual abuse of a student. The aide had been found to have inappropriately touched a student when he worked at a different elementary school, but P.S. 87 did not seem to have been aware of that investigation.
The arrest at P.S. 87 came just days after a different aide was charged with videotaping sex abuse he committed inside a Brooklyn elementary school. On Thursday, another school worker was arrested on sex abuse charges: a teacher at P.S. 174 in Queens who had been found more than a decade ago to have behaved inappropriately toward students.
Today, the Department of Education announced a new policy that will allow schools to see whether people they are considering hiring were ever found to have behaved inappropriately at other schools.
The schools will be able to see the results of any substantiated inquiry conducted by either office that investigates allegations of misconduct by school workers, not just inquiries relating to sex abuse. The department has an in-house investigations unit, the Office of Special Investigations, but also sends cases of misconduct to retired detectives at the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation. SCI had substantiated the abuse allegations against the school workers at P.S. 87 and P.S. 174. (more…)
January 20, 2012
A 2010 decision about how to grade Regents exams that a Bronx assistant principal made under pressure has landed him and a teacher in trouble with the city and state.
The decision, to have a teacher grade her own class’s Regents exams when no other teachers were available, has also drawn scrutiny to the scores. After state officials regraded the exams, they found that nearly half had received inflated scores and a quarter of students passed when they should have failed.
The findings are detailed in a report released today that sheds light on the inner workings of the state’s investigative unit, until this year an opaque component of the State Education Department. It also suggests that efforts to tighten test security could run into roadblocks in the form of individual schools’ practical realities.
The investigation began at the state level when David Abrams, the state’s testing director at the time, received a letter about “suspicious patterns in the students’ scores” from a former principal at the school in question, Bronx Collegiate Academy. The state department receives hundreds of allegations per year that are either logged through an anonymous hotline or directly to the Office of Assessment. Beyond that, there is no clear chain of responsibility.
In this case, Abrams asked Richard Condon, the city’s special commissioner of investigation to look into the matter. SCI in turn referred the case to the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations.
According to the report, Darryl White, an AP and testing coordinator at Bronx Collegiate, gave the go-ahead to Emso Asemota to grade her students’ 2010 Integrated Algebra Regents exam without the assistance of a co-grader. Investigators concluded that White violated state regulations in issuing the instruction and Asemota violated the rules by following White’s orders. (more…)
November 14, 2011
The principal of a high school under scrutiny for cheating has resigned — but not because investigators concluded he did anything wrong.
Henry Rubio, principal of Manhattan’s A. Philip Randolph High School informed staff members this afternoon that he was stepping down. He is taking a job with the principals union, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, where he is already a vice president.
An investigation into Rubio concluded on Thursday and found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, according to Chiara Coletti, a CSA spokeswoman. She said the union had waited until Rubio was cleared of suspicions before giving him the job, as a member of the union’s “supervisory support panel” that helps the Department of Education mentor principals. A prerequisite for that job, Coletti said, is that candidates must be “standing principals,” and the investigation had put Rubio’s status temporarily in jeopardy.
We reported in August that the city’s Office of Special Investigations had opened an inquiry into the school after receiving reports that students had been given passing grades that they had not earned. Teachers and administrators told us that students had been allowed to complete credit recovery work under illicit circumstances and, in some cases, cheated on the work itself.
November 4, 2011
The test was a joke.
That’s how several graduates of a Bronx high school under investigation for inflating test and graduation rates have characterized a Regents exam they took nearly two years ago.
During the 2010 Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents exam at the Theatre Arts Production Company School, the students said they were the beneficiaries of a rogue proctor who repeatedly broke rules during the duration of their testing period. The proctor, their teacher during the school year, roamed the room quietly and alerted students to questions they had answered incorrectly. When students asked for help, she responded with individualized attention. Students said they were allowed to talk openly and compare answer sheets.
In at least one case, the proctor even helped a top-performing student cheat when he hadn’t asked for help.
“I handed it in and she handed it right back to me,” the student said. “She told me, ‘These four questions are wrong. You should change them.’”
The exam experience was so well known around the school that it became an inside joke because almost everyone passed and moved onto calculus for their senior years.
“The students joked about it because everyone knew it was going on,” said another student who took the test. “She would pass by, look at our papers, and if we had the wrong answer down, she would point to the right answer and then quickly walk away.”
Eventually the exam became an open secret among students and even other teachers, the students said. It even became fodder on a Facebook group for the school. (more…)
August 19, 2011
A two-year-investigation found that a Bronx principal, Janet Saraceno of Lehman High School, illicitly changed students’ grades.
We first reported the concerns in October 2009, months after Lehman teachers went to the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations with their allegations. The teachers reported that dozens of students, at a minimum, had been given credit for courses they failed or even did not take. They charged that Saraceno was turning Lehman into a “diploma mill” in order to show gains on the city’s school performance metrics.
OSI’s report, sent to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott a week ago, concludes that Saraceno improperly changed some students’ grades but dismisses a host of other test-tampering allegations. It does not include a recommendation for Walcott to follow.
Its existence was first noted today on the Twitter feed of a New York Times reporter, Fernanda Santos. She wrote that it appears that Saraceno is moving on to a position in the DOE’s central administration, advising schools on instruction.
July 1, 2010
As the city’s investigation into grade tampering by a high school principal enters its second year, morale at the school has taken a turn for the worse.
A majority of teachers at Herbert Lehman High School who took the city’s annual survey said they don’t trust the school’s executive principal Janet Saraceno. And 81 percent said the principal is not an effective manager.
Results from the survey of teachers, students, and parents also show that in the “safety and respect” category, Lehman is getting poor marks. In total, 23 percent of the school’s teachers and 63 percent of students took the survey, which is below the city’s average participation rates.
Lehman has struggled with student safety this year and is likely to have full-time scanners installed by next fall. While most teachers said they feel safe at the school, a majority also said that crime, violence, and gang activity are a problem.
After I reported on teachers’ complaints that Lehman’s principal was changing students’ grades, Department of Education officials responded by threatening to investigate the teachers. Since then, teachers report that the DOE has not contacted them, nor has the Office of Special Investigations, which is tasked with following up on complaints. (more…)