Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Teaching in the Bronx

This could be why the American educational system is so bad:

Rubin Leitner Wayne Brightly
A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in - who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly - not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.

"I was pressured into it. He threatened me," the bogus test-taker Rubin Leitner told the Daily News yesterday after Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon revealed the scam.

"I gave him my all," said Leitner, 58, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a disorder similar to autism. "He gave me what he thought I was worth."

Brightly, 38, a teacher at one of the city's worst schools, Middle School 142, allegedly concocted the plot to swap identities with Leitner last summer. If he failed the state exam again, Brightly risked losing his $59,000-a-year job.

"I'm tired of taking this test and failing," Brightly told Leitner, according to Condon's probe. "I want you to help me."

Along with being much smarter than Brightly, Leitner is 20 years older. He also is white and overweight while Brightly is black and thin. Yet none of those glaring differences apparently worried Brightly.

"He said no one would ever know," Leitner said outside the Brownsville, Brooklyn, building he has called home since briefly living on the streets.

The two men met years ago at Brooklyn College where Leitner earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history in the late 1970s, and Brightly got a bachelor's degree in 1992. After meeting in the alumni office, Leitner began tutoring the teacher as he struggled to pass the state exam, officials said.

But the relationship took a bizarre turn just weeks before the test last July, authorities said.

"He got tired of flunking it," said Leitner. "That was the thing that sparked this desperate act."

Brightly allegedly helped Leitner obtain a counterfeit state identification card that showed Leitner's photo with Brightly's name. Using the bogus ID, the pair conned city educrats into issuing Leitner a school ID card to use on test day, authorities said.

On July 17, Brightly allegedly picked up Leitner at his home and drove him to Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, where the test was given. The teacher allegedly came back after the test was over and drove Leitner back home, officials said.

After the exam, the state began investigating Brightly's passing score. He sent Leitner to meet with officials, and Leitner claimed to be Brightly - but the ruse failed, authorities said.

When The News went to Brightly's Mount Vernon home yesterday, a man who strongly resembled him insisted Leitner took the test on his own. The man, who appeared to be in his late 30s, denied being Brightly - saying he was the teacher's son.

Brightly has been charged with coercion, falsifying business records and other crimes. He has been taken out of his Baychester classroom pending the outcome of the case.

About 19,000 teachers across the state take the certification exam each year and roughly 95% pass. Teachers are required to be certified - but the city has a temporary waiver from the state because the Education Department has not been able to find enough qualified instructors.

In the news:

Bronx teacher enlisted disabled man in test scheme

DUMB DUO SCAM

Teacher Is Accused of Using a Stand-In to Pass a Test

Fake Teacher Plot Uncovered In The Bronx

Bronx Teacher Charged In Exam Hoax

Around the Blogosphere:

Brightly Shining Light

Heh. A possible reason why a NYC middle school is one of the worst in the city.

3 Comments:

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Daveg said...

I almost blew my coffee all over my keyboard when reading this

The story is sad, but it is also extremely funny. Thinking of dialog that must have gone on between these two brings me to tears of laughter.

Is that wrong?

 
At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a funny anecdote, and I'm not sure how you meant it, but I think the evidence is really overwhelming that when people say "bad schools" what they really mean is...bad students. This is certainly true in, say, California, where the drop in measured school outcomes ("bad schools") correlates strongly with the increasing fraction of students who are Hispanic.

 
At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Wilfrid said...

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