It was criminal detectives who had to do the toughest problem solving on a recent math test for Israeli high school seniors.
The Israel Police Fraud and Investigations Unit appeared May 30 to have cracked the case related to this year’s math bagrut, successfully determining the identity of those who leaked test material in the days leading up to the May 24 exam.
Erez Cohen, a teacher from the Haifa area, and Rachel Kedem, a member of the Education Ministry committee that writes the exam, are likely to be indicted for their roles in the scheme, which placed test questions in the hands of students as they crammed for the all-important year-end test, roughly equivalent to the math portion of the American SAT. Students cannot graduate high school in Israel without qualifying test scores.
Cohen, a teacher at the preparatory academy of Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is believed to have passed the material he received from Kedem to one of his own pupils, who in turn sold the questions to as many as several hundred other students. Cohen claimed in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that he believed he was supplying the student with questions from a “draft” exam, rather than with questions that would appear on the actual test. Neither he nor Kedem is suspected of receiving money from students.
Already a stressful day for high schoolers and administrators, the math bagrut caused more havoc than usual this year, with the Education Ministry initially uncertain about how to respond. After delaying the exam by 24 hours and assembling new questions, the ministry was flooded by complaints from teachers, who had problems downloading the new test from a specially created website.
Nevertheless, the ministry sought to put a positive spin on the fiasco, thanking the police in a public statement, and noting the “important educational and ethical lesson” students could learn from the incident.