4th-graders say principal urged MCAS cheating

Veteran educator put on paid leave

By Anand Vaishnav and Jared Stearns, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent | June 19, 2004

A Boston principal was put on paid leave yesterday, after a teacher and her fourth-graders alleged that the veteran educator urged the youngsters to cheat on the English MCAS test.

Jennifer P. Day's fourth-graders at the Eliot School in the North End accused their principal, Antoinette Brady, of asking them to change or add to their answers on the exam after they had finished. In the shaky, misspelled scrawls of 9- and 10-year-olds, the class recounted the alleged cheating in letters to their teacher, who reported it May 24 to the state Department of Education.

The children probably will not have to retake the test, a state official said.

Boston public school officials said an investigation had been underway for more than two weeks, but they did not place Brady on leave until yesterday when the allegations became public in the Boston Herald. Last year, 58 percent of Eliot's fourth-graders failed the English section and 81 percent failed math. Brady, who has worked at Eliot for nearly all of her 31 years in city schools, could not be reached for comment. A top district official told her not to come to work yesterday.

She did not respond to e-mails or telephone calls, but her husband, Bob Brady, spoke to the Globe last night from the door of the couple's home in Groveland.

He said his wife, in a conversation with him, denied that she told the students to cheat on the May 21 exam.

"When the truth comes out, she'll be vindicated," he said. "When every kid in the class writes a letter, you have to wonder."

He said he believed the teacher pressured the children to write the letters, adding that his wife was upset about the incident and school administrators told her not to talk to the media.

Day, who has worked for Boston public schools for three years and been a teacher since 1990, spoke with reporters yesterday. Day said a union official suggested she get letters from the students to get something on the record in the children's own words.

Day, who spoke after her classes yesterday, said that on the day of the alleged incident she was proctoring the exam and Brady came in and asked her to leave. Day said she thought "that was odd," but left since she hadn't had a break all day. She was told to pick up the students in 30 minutes. When she returned, she said she noticed that her students were bothered by something.

"My children were very upset," she said. "They knew it was wrong and they were told they had to do it."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/mas...mcas_cheating/