NY Daily News - A teacher appeared to give a classroom of 5-year-old Hasidic children multiple answers to an English assessment exam administered at one of the city’s biggest yeshivas in Brooklyn in May 2014, a video obtained by the Daily News shows.
In the video, the teacher at Central United Talmudical Academy repeatedly points to the correct answers on the tiny Talmudic scholars’ test sheets and later instructs them where to circle. “Everyone should make a circle by the bench,” the instructor says in Yiddish.
The exam appears to be a Title III Stanford English Language Proficiency test. At the yeshiva, the test is used to gauge English skills among students who grow up speaking Yiddish at home.
It is not required, but is typically tied to federal funding as an “accountability provision,” according to testing experts.
School officials claimed there was no cheating.
“This two-year-old video shows an in-class assessment of non-English-speaking 5-year-olds,” said Michael Tobman, a spokesman for Aroynem Satmar sect, which runs the school.
“The instructor used prompts with the first question to ensure that students understood how to take an exam later on,” Tobman added. Click Here to read more.
However, towards the end of the six-minute recording, the instructor tells the fidgety children, “Kids! Kids! Last question.”
The school on Whyte Ave. in Williamsburg is one of the biggest yeshivas in the country. More than 4,000 students are taught inside 15 different buildings. Critics have complained for years about the lack of basic secular education being offered at many of the city’s yeshivas. Graduates at the private schools struggle to read and write in English, according to former pupils.
The alleged cheating is “despicable and infuriating,” said Naftuli Moster, who founded Young Advocates for Fair Education, a group advocating for yeshivas to meet secular standards required by state law.
“Imagine how parents must feel sending their kids to yeshivas to get a good education, only to find out later that their children were robbed of it?” he said.
In August, the city Education Department announced it is investigating more than a dozen of those private schools to ensure their curriculum follows basic secular education standards.
But advocates who urged the city to launch the probe are worried that it only requires the schools to sign affidavits proclaiming they are providing adequate instruction.
The Department of Education needs to do more, critics say.
“We notified them several years ago of serious problems in those yeshivas, but they failed to act,” said Moster, who called the investigation a “sham.”
Moster and others have been trying to meet with Department of Education officials to discuss the problem, to no avail.
The Department of Education declined to comment.