More than 60 principals were urged to keep surveys rating their schools away from "toxic" students who might bring the results down, according to a smoking-gun document obtained by The Post.
The surveys, completed by more than 800,000 students, parents and teachers last spring, account for 10 percent of a school's A-through-F letter grade this school year.
A poor rating can be used to justify the removal of a principal or the closing of a school in the new high-stakes era of accountability ushered in by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Among the "suggestions" in the document, posted online by a Department of Education achievement director, was to "keep the surveys away from toxic person(s)," taken to mean troubled students.
Principals were also advised to have school staffers help parents not only with translating a survey, but with "filling it out," and to urge students and teachers to complete the surveys following "fun" events. Another suggestion was that principals boost return rates by making the surveys mandatory homework assignments.
The document went online in January, six weeks before the second annual Learning Environment Survey's distribution. The site was a support and resource center for 66 schools in an autonomous network overseen by Empowerment Schools CEO Eric Nadelstern.
Parents in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan told The Post of allegations that principals falsely warned that their schools would lose money if the surveys were unfavorable and that staffers guided -and even changed - answers on the anonymous forms.
"Where's there's a will, there's always a way," said Hector Nazario, president of the District 4 Community Education Council in Harlem. "Some schools' [surveys] project something that is actually not."
Education officials expressed confidence in the integrity of the survey process, but acknowledged that the online document went too far.
"Some of the suggestions in the posting demonstrate poor judgment, and we have taken it down," said Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob. "We have also made it clear that schools cannot require anyone to take the survey or influence responses."