The principal of Teachers College Community School in West Harlem reportedly threw herself in front of an oncoming train after a whistleblower notified the New York City Department of Education that she had altered third-graders' test scores.
According to the New York Post, Jeanene Worrell-Breeden's death April 17 came less than 24 hours after the DOE had been notified that the principal possibly tampered with Common Core exams. Common Core involves a series of tests used to determine a child's knowledge and skills in English and math. The tests can also have bearing on school staff evaluations.
Parents were given little information about Worrell-Breeden's death when it took place. Rumors began spreading that the principal died in a car crash. Parents were then sent a letter in June explaining that the children's test scores would be thrown out.
"The integrity of the assessment was compromised due to actions outside your child's control," Superintendent Gale Reeves wrote.
After weeks of calling the Department of Education and politicians, parents were given an answer.
"Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties," DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye told the Post. "An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing."
According to the Post, around 9:20 a.m. April 17, Worrell-Breeden walked onto the platform at the subway station at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem and threw herself in front on an oncoming train. She was rushed to the hospital, where she would die eight days later from her injuries. The medical examiner has ruled Worrell-Breeden's death a suicide.
Kaye did not tell the Post how Worrell-Breeden reportedly altered the exams or whether she was aware that the DOE was investigating her alleged involvement.
In total, some 47 English exams were invalidated, but according to the Post, math tests were not altered. Parents were assured that the test scandal would not keep their children from moving on to the fourth grade.
One shocked parent told the Post that in the days leading up to the exams, Worrell-Breeden had been confident that the children would do well on the test.
"She was reassuring us parents," Diane Tinsley, mother of a third-grader at the school, told the Post. "Her whole attitude was that they're going to breeze through this test and that she had prepared them to ace any test."
She added that the principal fed the students breakfast and created a celebration around the testing that included a pep-rally-like atmosphere in the gym on test days.
"She had them run around the gym cheering to get rid of their nervousness," Tinsley told the Post.
But a family friend described a different Worrell-Breeden, who had been struggling with a series of personal setbacks.
"Her grandmother died last year. Her husband moved out last year. He had a child with another woman. She was under a lot of pressure at home," the friend told the Post. "She was the first principal at that school, so she was trying to make … a good impression. Maybe all that pressure, added to what was going on at home, got to her."
Read more at the New York Post.