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2009 report identified dozens of PA schools for possible cheating

By the Notebook on Jul 8, 2011 09:10 PM

by Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa

[Updates - school list; District says it never got report]
Dozens of schools across the city and state were flagged in a study of 2009 state standardized test scores that sought to use statistical analysis to ferret out possible examples of cheating on the PSSA exam.

The analysis, prepared for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) in July 2009, highlights roughly 60 schools with suspicious results due to multiple statistical irregularities, including 22 District schools and seven charters in Philadelphia.

Among the District schools referenced in the report is Roosevelt Middle School, which has been at the center of a controversy this year involving alleged cheating on the PSSA. In 2009, the analysis reveals, results of both the reading and math PSSA exams taken by Roosevelt's 7th and 8th graders showed a highly unlikely number of wrong answers that were erased and changed to the correct answer. The results also showed highly improbable increases over the previous year in the percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced.

For example, the odds that the wrong-to-right erasure patterns that showed up on Roosevelt's 7th grade reading response sheets occurred purely by chance were slightly less than 1 in 100 trillion.

The "data forensics technical report," prepared by the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) was made available to the Notebook by the state. At the Notebook's request, Andrew Porter, dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on testing, reviewed the report and some of its data.

Porter stressed that statistical analysis alone, without witnesses or confessions, cannot definitively prove that there was cheating. But he added that the report "describes a reasonable approach to identifying schools where there may have been cheating." 

Nevertheless, it appears that the state never followed up with any further investigations. The forensic data analysis was discontinued in 2010, although PDE spokesperson Timothy Eller said it would be reinstated this year.

"We’re going to reinstitute those reports this year and they are actually going to mean something," said Eller. He criticized the 2009 report as "convoluted."

Earlier this year, teachers from Roosevelt and FitzSimons High told the Inquirer that they had witnessed numerous instances of cheating at their schools in 2010 and 2011. The Roosevelt teachers also spoke to the Notebook. FitzSimons was not one of the schools flagged in the state report for suspicious results in 2009.

Eller acknowledged that the PDE has received two complaints from Philadelphia about possible cheating and said the department had ordered the District to investigate. Earlier this week, District officials said they found no wrongdoing at Roosevelt or FitzSimons. Friday, District spokesperson Shana Kemp told the Inquirer on Friday that the District is investigating 15 schools and would wait until all are complete before submitting the reports to the state.  

Eller sought to minimize the relevance of the 2009 report, pointing out that it was done under the previous administration of Gov. Ed Rendell and saying that “it is difficult to glean anything from that information.”

Eller stopped short, however, of saying it was wrong, emphasizing rather that it had not been presented in comprehensible form.

“It’s not information the average person would understand,” he said.

The report and accompanying analysis cost the state $113,000.

A DRC spokesperson said that the company could not answer any questions about the significance or context of report’s findings without PDE’s permission, which was not granted. 

Prominent in the DRC report is an analysis of erasures on the state tests. The study says that schools flagged for irregular erasure patterns are “of particular interest” because “these results may strongly suggest that a testing irregularity occurred in the school.”

At some Philadelphia schools, erasure patterns were flagged across numerous tested grades and subjects. For example, Olney Elementary, a K-8 school, was flagged for its erasure patterns in both reading and math in every tested grade at the school.

But the study looked at other possible evidence of test cheating as well.

A Notebook review showed roughly 60 schools across Pennsylvania received three or more “flags” in a single grade for improbable jumps in students’ performance levels and unlikely increases in schools’ scale scores on reading and math tests, as well as unusual erasure patterns. Nearly half of those schools singled out for having particularly suspicious results were in Philadelphia: 22 District schools and six seven Philadelphia charter schools had “flags” on three or more measures in a single grade.

“Multiple flags mean that the school data were highly unusual on more than one indicator,” said Penn's Porter. “There are many ways to cheat, so it’s not wise to look at the data in only one way.”

Six of the 22 District schools had more than three “flags” for more than one grade.

Wagner Middle School in West Oak Lane, for example, was flagged in the report six times for its 7th grade results and three times for its 8th grade results. Overall, the likelihood of the erasure patterns on the school’s 8th grade response sheets in reading and math occurred purely by chance was more than 1 in 100 trillion.

From 2007-08 to 2008-09, the percentage of Wagner 8th graders scoring proficient on the PSSA exam jumped almost 14 percentage points, from 56.5 percent to 69.3 percent.

Statewide, 22 high schools had three or more flags. Three of those were District high schools, including Northeast High, which was flagged on every analyzed dimension of its 11th grade math results. Three local charter high schools were also flagged, including Imhotep Institute Charter High School, which was flagged seven of a possible eight times, including for a wrong-to-right erasure rate on its 11th grade math results that had a one in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of occurring purely by chance.

Questions about test score cheating in Philadelphia come on the heels of the District’s recent announcement that Philadelphia public schools improved their test scores for the ninth straight year in 2010-11. Over the past several months there have been several cheating scandals across the country.

Earlier this year USA Today published a major investigation analyzing several years of test scores in six states and the District of Columbia that found statistical evidence of potential cheating. The series prompted a probe in Washington, DC, where unusually high erasure rates were found in more than half of the schools.

In Atlanta, GA, the state ordered an investigation into cheating after years of reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on similar unusual statistical patterns and other testing irregularities. The results, released this week, confirmed cheating in 44 of the 56 schools state investigators examined. Based on more than 2000 interviews, it named 178 educators as engaging in unethical behavior, said 80 of them had confessed, and concluded that the administration of former superintendent Beverly Hall had ignored or covered up evidence. Hall issued a statement Friday apologizing for any “shortcomings.” 

A focus in both of those scandals was on suspicious erasure patterns detected by testing companies on student response sheets.

Eller of the PDE said that new Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis, appointed by Republican Governor Tom Corbett earlier this year, has directed that forensic analysis and security audits be reinstated for the current year.

Eller gave no timetable for the completion of these reports. The PSSAs were administered in March.

To some, the need for more scrutiny of test score results grows in tandem with the intense pressure for schools to do well on standardized tests.

“As a general rule, the higher the stakes for high test performance, the more incentive to cheat, [and] the more cheating will be done,” said Porter.

The following schools were flagged in the 2009 report for suspicious PSSA results on three or more measures for a single grade:


  •  Catherine

  • Cayuga*

  • Franklin Edmonds

  • Frederick Douglass

  • Disston

  • Fitler

  • FitzPatrick

  • Lamberton

  • John Marshall*

  • Thurgood Marshall*

  • McClure

  • Muñoz-Marin*

  • Olney Elementary

  • MH Stanton

  • Ziegler


  • Penn Treaty

  • Theodore Roosevelt*

  • Wagner*

  • Woodrow Wilson


  • Frankford

  • Northeast

  • Strawberry Mansion


  • Alliance for Progress Charter

  • Charter High School for Architecture and Design

  • Imhotep Institute Charter High School

  • Maritime Academy Charter

  • Walter D. Palmer Leadership and Learning Partners Charter

  • Wissahickon Charter

  • Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter

* indicates schools that had three or more flags in multiple grades



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Comments (158)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 8, 2011 11:27 pm

What happened to David Weiner, the "data guy"? Wasn't he in charge of Accountability when this went down?

Submitted by Sanity N. Reason (not verified) on July 10, 2011 4:04 pm

Weiner's not up for the job ever since he started Tweeting his data.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 1:34 am

I am very concerned about my child's grades. She had the same math teacher 2 years in a row. In the 6th grade I challenged her grades on every single Interim Report and she corrected her grade as I had evidence that she had taken grades fom my child. She always gave me an answer when I asked about the grade but follow up indicated that she was wrong. This year the same thing happened several times. She even took points of for not completing homework and that was proven wrong also. @ the very end of the school year she gave my daughter a "B" in Math, even though she scored a 4 on End of Grade Test in Math and Reading. I know my child's capabilities and I know without a shadow of doubt that she is not a "B" student in Math. I challenged the teacher and principal and they refused to change her grade. I took the issue to the school district office and spoke with the person in charge and was told that she could not help me because, by the time I spoke with her last the principal had spoken with her and told untruths which made it seem as if the teacher was the victim and I was the one @ fault. I saw no real effort to look @ my child's grades or to take note of the accusations I gave her or follow up. If she was really concerned about doing the right thing I am sure there would have been some changes. My daughter obtained the principal award and outstanding comments from all of her teachers including her PE and Chorus teachers. Her Math teacher never gave me one report on how she was performing. I keep copies of all of her grades so that I won't be suprised with poor grades. Consequently the Principal indicated that I was pushing her too hard. I have a report of expectations from the Math teacher that recommend that each student keep their papers in the event that she makes an error in grading. So how that indicated that I am pushing her too hard is a mistery to me. For a child who has a history of making straight "A's" I don't understand how the Principal could open her mouth and say, "your daughter is just a normal kid." When the spokes person from the main office told me that she told her that my daughter was "Smart." The opportunity for all of us to set down and talk to each other was never offered. When I attempted to meet with the principal and teacher it didn't happen until I called the main office to have a meeting set up.

On the other hand I witnessed awards given to student who I toutored in elementary school and they could not add 1 plus a whole number without counting their fingers and one of these kids live in my neighborhood and I communicate with her family on a regular basis. I know she does not get toutoring or extra help. Please explain to me how she is entitled to an award. I am no complaining about anyone getting an award. I felt sorry for the child even when I toutored her. But when you speak of cheating I get down right angry when my child is cheated. I don't want the school to give her anything that she does not deserve, but for Heaven's Sake, she does not deserve to be cheated. Her Math teacher even wrote her a note about how hard she had worked. I know she worked hard throughout the school year because I worked with her on a regular basis.
I had one teacher take 10 points off of a project that was done simply because my daughter did it on computer. She puled my daughter to the side and said, I gave you a "B" because I wanted to see your penmanship. When I had my daughter talk to 4 other students on speaker phone neither one of them heard her say, Do Not Use the Computer or I Want To See your Penmanship. One teacher gave a quiz with 25 questions, my daughter missed 3 and she made 77. Handwritten quiz. When I asked her how she got the score she said it was checked by machine. I have yet to see that machine. One teacher who didn't even show up for open house so my first meeting with him was when I went to his classroom to pick my daughter up he told me, she was a hard working student and was doing a great job in his class. I asked if there was anything I could do to enhance her abilities in that class, he said no she was doing well. When the Report card came home she had a "B" in that class. When I called to speak with him about how she got that grade he changed it to an "A" and said it was an error. I asked him to find my daughter and give her the grade. He sent home a sheet of paper with every student's name on it and their grade. Only 2 students in that class had made B's. That spoke volumes to me. Even her classmates were saying to my daughter, "you should have gotten an "A" in that class."

I would love to know where I should go from this point. My daughter works hard to maintain good grades. I would hate to see her discouraged because of teachers who don't care. I am not trying to make her look like a Scholar, she has to work for what she gets. She does seem to have the idea that good work ethics produces success and I would not want that to be destroyed.

I would be elated to hear someone follow up on this issue and well as investigate my daughter's school to see just what is happening with the grading system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 12:14 pm

you sound like one of those parents all teachers hate and bc you have nothing better to do with your time except obsess and harass a teacher just bc she doesn't think your kid is a genius...btw, what adult takes the advice of a child in qualifying a grade?'ve only taught your daughter that being annoying and pestering people will ultimately get you what you want...more than likely, there are now rumors about you circulating around the school and no teacher probably wants to have your child as a one is even going to bother teaching her anymore if they're smart, they'll just give her the grade YOU want and not what she has earned to avoid ever having to interact with are so pathetic and trust me when I say you have successfully made every adult in that school hate your child...i hope you're elated now dummy

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 13, 2011 3:10 pm

Completely inappropriate response. Parents and teachers often have different points of view and they are best served - as is the child - by sitting down together and discussing the issue without either party feeling defensive. And we have to remember that it's a parent's job to advocate for her or his child.

I'm a parent and a teacher and I often cringe when I hear how some (but not most) of my colleagues talk about parents.

We say we want parents involved. Do some of us really mean we want parents to compliant?

Submitted by tom-104 on July 13, 2011 4:50 pm

Thank you Teach. You are right, a totally inappropriate response. We constantly hear teacher's complain that their students aren't motivated because the parents are not pushing their children to achieve. Here we have a parent doing that and she gets called a "dummy". My apologies to the parent. Not all teachers are insensitive to your concerns.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:57 am

Sorry for the typo - I meant: Do some of us really mean we want parents to BE compliant?

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 2:30 pm

completely agreed. Keep on caring -- a lot of teachers want parents like you that care. My advice (or what I do when a parent is concerned after a grade is posted) is to go over the progress and grades before the report cards come out & fix it before "it's finalized"

We can always override grades at the end of the year, but before the report comes out you can talk to the teacher and say, "what did my child miss?" "what can they do?" I hope, I sincerely hope you'll find that most teachers are more than willing to explain exactly where your child is an exactly how they can improve and how to team up to get _________ result by the end of the marking period.

I am sorry if this is not the case. Most of us really enjoy when both the student and the parent are like 'We're in this. What do we do?' It makes me happy, at least. Good to hear that many other teachers feel the same way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 7, 2012 10:56 pm

Yes, I am a teacher and you are correct in everything you say. No one will want her child. She will probably get inferior teachers now, too. You are horrible and I LOVE the word "perstering" LOL!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 9:09 pm

Technically, a "C" is "average," a "B" is "above average," and an "A" is somehow outstanding. 90% of students should not get A's, regardless of whether they simply complete all assignments. Completion does not necessarily indicate ability or comprehension. The teacher should be challenging your child and giving her higher expectations, differentiating the instruction to meet her higher ability. Part of the issue is that if an A is given and the child does not earn an advanced score on the PSSA, the teacher is questioned. The teacher is questioned by all sides, while everyone else just finger points and dismisses accountability. You can certainly find enrichment activities in libraries, online, and with other faculty both in the school and through community resources. If you know from previous experience that the teacher is not providing you the extra materials you believe your child should have, take some initiative as well and pull from whats around you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:49 am

Its interesting how a particular Charter school didn't make this list? WPACES should have been at the top of the list for Charters! It has been reported on many occasions about how corrupt the school is. But I guess its all in who you know.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 9:34 am

WPACES = West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 9, 2011 5:23 pm

First and foremost if WPACES staff cheated I'm sure flags would've been raised. Clearly this statement was placed by an irate parent. However WPACES has made AYP by putting strategies in place such as RTI, and after school tutoring to help close the gaps and that is why the school did not make the list. Furthermore feel free to come to the school and check the data and see for yourself the trend of why our students are makinf progress!

Submitted by enuf already (not verified) on July 8, 2011 11:37 pm

hey, 1 in 100 trillion... so it could've happened. not impossible is it? there is that one chance. you're all just a bunch of doubters who don't like it that arlene's educatin' ALL her babies...not just some like all you doubters and haters out there want to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:30 am

The only hate I've seen on here is coming from you! More evidence of how divisive Ackerman is.

Submitted by enuf already (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:42 am

i'm guessing your friends get tired of having to repeat punch lines for you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:43 am

ha, ha, ha. don't worry. . .some of us "got it!"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:09 pm

Hey, things have gotten so ridiculous it's hard to distinguish satire from reality!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:51 pm

agreed :(

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:01 pm

Add an "/s" after your post, and we'll know it was a sarcastic post.

Submitted by Sanity N. Reason (not verified) on July 10, 2011 2:07 pm

Cheating on PSSA and Terra Nova goes back much farther. Look at test results at POLLOCK SCHOOL in the NE from 1998 - 2001. They went from average to super during that period. That was a total cheat job orchestrated by the Principal and a few of the corrupt staff. They were convinced that they were going to be investigated but it didn't happen. I became suspicious and observed the cheating machine in action for a few years. One guilty aide, in a weak moment, confessed to me that that meteoric rise was because of cheating. She also named names and fingered two other fifth grade teachers. After that huge rise, they refined their cheating methods. Some staff reported this to district officials and Philadelphia Inquirer reporters and absolutely nothing happened. They couldn't believe that no one was interested. Maybe someone is listening now.

Submitted by D Paul (not verified) on July 16, 2011 2:45 pm

In the court system, DNA evidence that is 1 in 100 trillion is enough to send someone to death row.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:01 am

Another ploy by the state to take over Philly schools, this is a bunch of crap if they were so concerned about test score then they should have administered the test. We didn't go to college to learn how to administer a test, we learn how to make our own assessments! So just a ploy to turn more schools into charter nothing more

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:13 pm

Probably Right.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:45 am

::sigh:: My students, when they changed an answer, consistently erased the correct one and replaced it with a wrong answer All I could do was scream inwardly while maintaining the reassuring smile glued on my face during the entire six days of testing.

Maybe if the superintendent and her minions didn't repeatedly threaten to fire or demote principals whose schools didn't make AYP, there would be less cheating.

Submitted by Ron (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:08 am

You're right. And maybe if NCLB was repealed, and accountability wasn't equated with punishment, rampant cheating wouldn't occur.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 4:50 pm

I totally agree. NCLB makes it impossible to do our jobs without looking over our backs for the chopping block. They want a number and if you don't give it to them you are screwed. I would never condone cheating but I can see where some feel the pressure to just give them what they want. To the mother complaining about her child not getting that precious A, give me a break, Does she need the A or do you? I am also amazed how much backstabbing I see from fellow teachers. In this age of teacher bashing and disrespect for the profession we work so hard at it is sad that we would do it to each other. There are enough people out there bashing us without us helping fuel the fire.

Submitted by Anne T (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:25 am

You hit the nail on the head. The regions are trying to bully the principals into bullying their teaches to raise the scores. It's nice to know, though that our school's scores are fairly accurate. We have all agreed to deal with the scores in an honest manner and to follow the secruity/ test admin requirements. That means, some years we don't make AYP, but our report card/PSSA correlation is pretty good!

This is also why merit pay is not a good idea using test scores as the largest portion. My daughter attended a "Blue Ribbon" high school in Chester County and my head spun with the tales of the security breahes there. If that's how they have to reach Blue Ribbon status, then that status means nothing. Disgusting!

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:37 pm

There are other states - MA among them, where individual student growth is measured, rather than measuring how one fifth grade (for instance) compares to the previous fifth grade in a particular school. Additionally, they give English Language Learners THREE years to work their way up to grade level, rather than one (research shows it it takes 3-7 years to develop age-appropriate academic English).

If you want to rate me on my student's progress, fantastic. Bring it on. But the state of PA doesn't do that, which makes not a whit of sense. The current system of unfairness, bullying and political exploitation of students' scores hurts everyone except the politicians who manipulate data to their own liking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:09 am

Public sector...Private sector....all gone to hell in a hand basket!

Submitted by TR (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:49 am

Cheating is not defensible. I know teachers cheat, not only on these tests, but on year-end reading levels and benchmark tests. There are huge obstacles in teaching that will never be addressed if we allow ourselves to take the sole blame for low student levels. I am glad they are exposing this. I refused to cheat at my school and was ostracized. I know I do my job well. I am not afraid to show that a student who came to my class two or three grades grades below level and made at least a year's progress based on their September skills, may still be below grade level in June.
Our schools are set up to fail. There are large class sizes and many students start out their school careers having poor readiness skills that become below grade level skills as they are assigned (not necessarily promoted) to the next grade and so on. Parents are not held to any accountability. So, stop cheating and maybe we can make some real progress around here by addressing the problems, not covering them up!

Submitted by Citizen (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:20 am

Right on!

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:15 am

And don't forget how we are forced to waste the precious time on the test prep. we would probably able to raise our students' performance by two grade levels if we did not have to coach them how to answer poorly designed test questions.

Submitted by Anne T (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:25 am

TR it's only going to stop when the regional superintendents quit bullying the principals about the need for ever-higher test scores/report card grades/benchmark scores. I have witnessed verbal threats made by a regional superintendent about what would happen if goals were NOT met. Like you, I find too many students coming to my room who are 2 levels or more below grade level. I can work my buns off to get those students to make more than one year's progress, but at the end of the year they are still going to be 1-2 years behind. And don't get me started about Magic Summer School. Don't pass kids into the next grade if they are more than one year behind. Just. Don't. How are we EVER going to make AYP this way?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:28 am

By cheating......that's how. Disgusting

Submitted by Philly HS TEacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:14 pm

Wayman, high school regional superintendent, is very clear that all she cares about is test scores. All lessons are to be aligned with "eligible content" and must follow the "drill a skill" lesson plan. She also threatened principals - if the scores aren't up, she will be on them. The threat of Wayman at your door is intense because she is the most inhumane administrator I have ever encountered - and she has competition.

Submitted by Anne T (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:17 pm

I think the SRC has only hired Regional Superintendents who are merciless drill & kill proponents. None of the recent Regional Supes in our part of the city in the past 8 years have had a reward-what-you're-doing-right attitude and come in for observations that lean in the let's-catch-them-doing-something-wrong mode. With attitudes like that, it's no wonder the principals are so stressed out and subsequently the teachers.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:41 pm

They did. Many RSs followed Ackerman from SF.

Submitted by Philly HS TEacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:14 pm

Wayman is home grown - along with many others.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:26 pm

Just wait -- the division supts. are being replaced as we speak -- will it be better? I don't know.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:45 am

Nixon was the principal at Wagner Middle School. Are Wagner's scores not more authentic than Roosevelt's scores? Nixon climbed to the top based on her "success" at Wagner.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:57 am

Any idea why the Rendell Administration didn't follow up on the 2009 study? It is irresponsible to have a study and then not follow through to determine if there was or was not cheating. As with Atlanta, the losers in the long run are the students. While I don't think the PSSA is a reliable measure for how a student will necessarily do in class, it is a minimal standard. Students think they are "proficient" yet they can not do grade level classroom work which indicates they are receiving an inordinate amount of "help" on the PSSA.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:48 pm

It was not the state's responsibility to follow up -- it was the SRC's. They are the governing board of SDP. This is very similar to what happened in DC when state supt Gist told Rhee to investigate and improve test security. Rhee ignored her and got away with it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 7:46 am

The SRC is the state...

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 12, 2011 11:57 am

Yes it is the state's responsibility. They have totally abdicated their responsibility in that arena and it is the state's system of assessement which lacks credibility.

It is also the SRC's responsibility to govern what happens within the district.

There is no excuse for either of those entities.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 12, 2011 11:20 am

That is saddest thing of all.

We are telling students that they are proficient when they are not. Instead of remediating their disabilities, we are teaching them test preparation. In my mind it is just so unethical. We do not even tell their parents the truth.

There has been such a degeneration of the science of reading diagnosis and the art of teaching reading it is sickening. I ran a high school reading program for 20 years and we did things so professionally back then.

It is all so disengenuous and we need a collective look in the mirror and a sea change.

Thank you Philly Parent and Teacher for speaking the truth. We need more people like you. Please do not leave our school district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:45 am

My children go to a suburban school where they don't cover up the walls at all. Do you not think my students would do better if they could look at the wall and see that a pentagon is a 5 sided shape? I feel that we are being picked on and I would like an equal playing field for all.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:23 am

As a former proctor for the state (observer in a PA school for the entire testing session) and as a testing coordinator in 2 SDP HSs, I NEVER even suspected cheating at a classroom level. If there is cheating, it is more likely to be at an administrative level.

Submitted by Anonymous teacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:08 am

Umm, not my experience! To think that only administrators cheat is to have your head in the sand. (I've seen it from both teachers and administrators -- cheaters come in all stripes.)

Submitted by Anonymous teacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:29 am

PSSA progress charts are available on the district website. During site selection I interviewed at a school that climbed from around 2% to 30% one year, and then two years later went from 30% to 70% in one year. Hello? Somebody should be looking at this data more closely, and not just a passerby like me! [When asked about it, "nobody knew nothin'."]

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:05 pm

THEY KNOW IT but they don't care----as long as they're getting away with it, why stop???? These bean counters are experts in stats. Nobody down there is a dunce, not even the Queen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 11:47 am

Speaking of site selection, why have I not been contacted by the district about placement? Why is the site selection page still up?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 11:55 am

I was actually thinking the same thing. I was told that my paperwork was sent in for site selection, however, the district has not contacted me about my position. Hopefully, someone has an answer to this question.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 2:09 pm

Right now I am thinking HR is a mess. They just dealt with layoffs of summer school teachers. Rumor has it more layoffs are coming due to the $35 mil to charters and money they were counting on from union concessions. They will probably update the vacancy list after layoffs. Force transfers still did not pick yet. Who knows when that will happen. It is such a mess.

Submitted by TR (not verified) on July 15, 2011 3:20 pm

I called PFT and emailed HR about site selection because I, too, received confirmation from the school. HR has to confirm/approve the site selections but everything has been placed on hold until the layoffs have been finalized. So, try not to worry about it and enjoy your summer.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 10:16 pm

How did you receive your confirmation? All I have gotten thus far is a signed copy of a site selection agreement for my school---signed by the principal. Did you get something via e-mail or regular mail?
When will they be officially laying off more teachers? This has been the summer from hell with all of this fear and worry.

Submitted by TR (not verified) on July 16, 2011 4:57 am

What I meant as confirmation was that I received a phone call and a signed copy of the site selection agreement along with a welcome letter with a date to meet in August to discuss the details of my assignment from the principal in the US mail.
I was expecting to get an email from HR, but when none came, I called. They only said to wait, things are crazy there right now. I waited a week, then emailed Lissa Johnson in HR on 7/12 and her reply was - Everything is on hold.
Finally, I called PFT, and they said everything is on hold until the lay-off arbitration is settled= Not very helpful.....
It is our of our hands, as long as you're not getting laid off, don't ruin the summer thinking about it anymore- count your blessings.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 4:31 pm

I was forced transferred out of my position. I am now "homeless" and lack a school. I have chose not to partake in site selection, and simply roll the dice when I am called down to pick.
I actually consider it a blessing like you said. I have nothing yet to plan for for the fall, don't yet have a Principal to pretend to try to impress. Sweet Freedom!

Submitted by Tina (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:40 pm

Layoffs. That, again. And, again, I must say: Is it possible for any TEACHERS to be laid off after June 30? I believe that is against state law. That is what I've been told by the PFT.
Does anyone know - KNOW, and can cite it - if this is true? I would so appreciate an answer.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 1:38 pm

Yes, good point. Seems that no one is discussing this anymore. Does anyone know when the next "wave" of layoffs are expected? I got a signed "Site Selection" form from the principal of my new school, but I did not get a call or a letter from the district. When is this arbitration hearing supposed to take place?
I thought that those that were "laid-off" had been notified with a confirmation of this.
Any helpful answers would be most appreciated

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 1:55 pm

From July 2
Chairman Robert L. Archie said the SRC would meet "on or about" July 20 to receive an update from district staff on budget matters. It's expected that details of further cuts would be divulged then

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 2:38 pm

arbitration starts from Kristen Graham's twitter

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 10:26 am

So, everyone is supposed to have 100% proficiency in 3 years, but if you do too well at a school that usually doesn't, you're cheating?

Every school in this state cheats on one level or another. Even when it isn't pointing out incorrect answers or straight up telling students the answer, we all cheat. The test is supposed to be a snapshot of student learning. By attaching such high stakes, we have created a monster. Test scores are rising because of spending millions on things like Study Island, teaching only eligible content at the expense of everything else, providing meaningless interventions wherein students memorize one technique for something for the test but have NO idea how it applies to the real world or what it means...

We have lost sight of what education actually is. We all cheat on the tests, we all cheat the students out of a real education. Most of us try very hard not to, but in many cases administrators don't give us a choice. Schools that do nothing but test prep are lauded for results, schools with vibrant cultures and students who are really learning but maybe not doing great on the tests are labelled as failures.

Submitted by Anne T (not verified) on July 9, 2011 11:16 am

"Test scores are rising because of spending millions on things like Study Island, teaching only eligible content at the expense of everything else, providing meaningless interventions wherein students memorize one technique for something for the test but have NO idea how it applies to the real world or what it means...

We have lost sight of what education actually is."

A truer statement does not exist. You nailed it! Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:41 pm

Bingo !!

Submitted by Philadelphia taxpayer and parent (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:26 am

worth revisiting:
Some of us were discussing this cheating situation almost a year ago on this website.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:20 pm

I don't know that cheating on the PSSAs is even necessarily immoral. Magnet schools use test scores from as early as the 3rd grade to determine if students are "worthy." The district uses test scores to determine how much freedom a school has, whether it will be thrown into chaos and its teachers removed and scripted programs enforced. The state uses test scores to determine whether schools and districts get taken over by the state, get money, are overtaken by charters and "vouchers." They want to use test scores to decide if we are good teachers.

Aren't those the real immoral acts? The stakes attached to these tests are so high that many people can't resist the temptation to cheat. I think many administrators believe that they are doing the right thing by allowing cheating.

In my time in the district, I have noticed that cheating on PSSAs is a wink-wink-nudge-nudge wordlessly accepted and even encouraged thing in every school in this district. Most teachers don't want to do it, but then you risk being the one classroom who underperformed. Not because you are a worse teacher but because you didn't cheat.

That said, I don't think this is unique to the district. Most schools in the state cheat. The ones that don't are the ones that don't need to because their students come to kindergarten at a 1st and 2nd grade level.

And I fully expect a bunch of responses about "I don't cheat" and righteous indignation about telling children it is wrong to cheat. I'm not necessarily talking about erasing answers for kids, walking them through problems, etc. Take a look at the PSSA handbook, at every single thing that is prohibited, and then think about how many times you have seen and done some of them.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 9, 2011 1:02 pm

Not in every school. We loathe the tests and don't teach to it year-round, but take it seriously when it's time. There's no winking or nudging (lots of grumbling, though).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:26 pm

Of course, you are right and YES< the immorality is pushing the test in the first place. It's not teaching the kids, it's teaching the test.

Submitted by enuf already (not verified) on July 9, 2011 9:34 pm

"I don't know that cheating on the PSSAs is even necessarily immoral. ... The district uses test scores to determine how much freedom a school has, whether it will be thrown into chaos and its teachers removed and scripted programs enforced. The state uses test scores to determine whether schools and districts get taken over by the state, get money, are overtaken by charters and "vouchers." They want to use test scores to decide if we are good teachers.
Aren't those the real immoral acts? The stakes attached to these tests are so high that many people can't resist the temptation to cheat. I think many administrators believe that they are doing the right thing by allowing cheating."

well stated. isn't cheating just a logical outgrowth of people being put in a deliberately impossible situation i.e. all students will be proficient by 2014 or else. with all this emphasis (and cheating which i truly believe happens everywhere to some extent or another... running the gamut from honing in on eligible content (easily done since the test is basically the same from year to year) to actually changing answers...ahh what a slippery slope...what a web we weave...) pity is we lose any value whatsoever that the tests might have had as assessment tools. who can tell if kids have improved if there's no reliable baseline number to compare against from last year. besides, it really isn't fair to the kids who put the time & effort in to actually learn the stuff & perform at a high level on their own. the real immorality lies with the slick snakeoil salesmen who sold the public this NCLB crap to begin with.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:20 pm

Test scores are compounded for Philly students - especially in middle school. A student's PSSA scores determine the type of high school they will attend. This is added pressure that predates the PSSA. The fact that selective high schools put so much weight on test scores also adds pressure. Do you think Masterman, Central, etc. will accept a student who does not score "advanced?" Look at their requirements.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:49 pm

Masterman looks at THIRD GRADE test scores. If you don't score better than 98% of the other students, you can forget it. I have seen students whose parents put so much pressure on them to perform on their 3rd grade PSSA that they had panic attacks during the test.

Submitted by (not verified) on September 6, 2013 6:15 pm
Good day! I coould havve sworn I've visited this web site before but after going through some of the articles I realized it's neww to me. Regardless, I'm definitely pleased I discovered it and I'll be bookmaring it and checkingg back regularly!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 12:05 pm

If Ackerman survives this then she'll survive anything. Looking the last of schools on the list it is easy to surmise that cheating is actually rewarded. The report was released in 2009. Since then one in a trillion aka Penny Nixon is one of the three most powerful people in the PSD, the principal at Ethel Allen was featured on NBC's televised town hall and the principal at Roosevelt has been promoted to Wilson - while under investigation. The district has proclaimed its testing security "robust" even as they knew of this report. Anyone who defends this administration at this point is either blind, stupid or complicit.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:51 pm

How do you know that the District knew this?? Maybe I missed it and I mean that seriously. In any case, how is Ackerman herself to blame for this?? I believe the Queen should have been history LONG ago but it's the whole system that's screwed up and pushes teachers and administrators into ridiculous positions where they do things they never thought possible. EVERYBODY with sense knew Imhotep with their bizarre scores was cheating and all Charters are likely on the list for real for real but even there, I can understand why it happened. Ackerman has proven to have friends in very high places and this issue is small potatoes compared with the actual crimes she has committed in my eyes. They need to dumped NCLB, AYP etc. and get back to teaching the kids not teaching the test.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 9, 2011 3:26 pm

The Notebook is awaiting comment from the District and others about whether they were ever informed about the report and its findings. We know virtually nothing at this point about what was done with this report and who received it or knew about its findings.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 5:26 pm

The district claims to be data-driven. They should have qualified people who can assess and evaluate anything fishy. They are the ones that claim to have a "robust" system. The state report belies this notion. Whether they knew of the report or not, there should be some degree of self-policing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:07 pm

I don't think 1 in a 100 Trillion is that big a deal !!! The Queen says it ain't so and I believe her more than those odds. Repeat after me--The Queen never lies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:34 pm

I think it's the Disston School that the Queen just gave to John Q. Porter, head of Mosaica Charter. WOW---If you think cheating was bad then, now watch out. Porter was chased out of Oklahoma City for misuse of funds and he and Ackerman are buds. WHEN will this nightmare stop???????????????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 3:11 pm

In the previous state I taught in, when it was time for testing you were randomly assigned a different classroom with different students with two different staff members (from teachers to counselors to admins to cops to support). One of the two other staff was specifically assigned to watch the two proctors.

All booklets were locked in a random room in the school, two people had access, and when it was time to test, the one of three responsible proctors retrieved materials, gave the test and returned materials. Everything was timed as well. These procedures-- and some more-- were put in after huge testing irregularities.

Here, it's pretty much the opposite.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 6:38 pm

I read that the allegations were unfounded

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 7:25 pm

Not surprised!!!! If I was a parent of a student in the Philadelphia School District I would go and have my child independently tested. Please do not believe the results from the PSSA. Stop making this everyone vs. Dr. Ackerman because that is not the issue accountability is - if everyone else has to be held accountable so should Dr. Ackerman. If Cheating is going on under her watch then she is accountable to parents, students, and the taxpayers. If we want to hold students, parents and teachers accountable then principals and administration should be accountable as well. Everyone is screaming hurray Dr. Ackerman is getting rid of all the "poor teachers" but leave the principals who are the leaders in the building. Better yet transfer them out of "her" promise academies and place them in the non renaissance schools. Just like teachers if their not good enough for the "promise acadamies" then their not good enough for any of our schools, including principals.Where are those principals whose schools were sited for cheating - Oh lets transfer them out of Dr. Ackerman's promise acadamies and put them in a non-renaissance school. Its ok to mess those schools up so we can take them over next year. How many of our young people will we lose in this cat and mice game of poor administration. Lets stop making this a black and white issue.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 9:13 pm

It is Black and White. Or would you prefer poor and rich. These carpetbaggers and politicians focus on the poor and unempowered. There is no even playing field. They're skimming money off the backs of kids under the pretext that they're trying to help the kids. They're helping themselves, lining their pockets the whole time. Ackerman, of course, is complicit and likely so is Nutter. People like Corbett and his corporate big money friends are pulling the strings.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 8:17 pm

your right the suburbs don't even cover up walls etc, we go all out changing hall way boards, class boards, and they don't and they score well are their schools being taking over by business men no! like I said before if the state want schools to give state assessments than hire people to go out and monitor the dumb a test, but no that would be tooo much like right and too much money, so they don't have an argument

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 13, 2011 3:12 pm

There should be consistency in whether or not boards are covered, but let's face it - it doesn't make much of a difference, at least when it comes to reading scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 9, 2011 9:56 pm

Franklin S. Edmonds definitely cheats on the PSSAs... I know this because when we first started taking the PSSA, I was a student there and, under the direction of the teacher, people in the class cheated.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 6:13 am

I heard that in July we would be able to print stubs at home. Still can't access it and stubs are not coming in mail. Did anyone get their paystub?

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on July 12, 2011 8:58 am

Received a stub yesterday along with a letter stating that the online system will open on July 15.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 9:27 am

What about the schools that didn't cheat and are unfairly on that list? They are labeled cheaters without any verification. And some schools improved their test schools because of changes in that school ex. became a k-8 and stopped bussing and became a neighborhood school and their scores immediately started improving. From the outside might look like cheating but really was improvement in student behavior and that school received more high achieving neighborhood kids from the catholic schools. Stop slapping labels without proof!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:42 am

WHAT???????????????? Can't you read and comprehend?????? The schools listed are DEFINITELY GUILTY unless you are the Queen herself.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:50 am

This is simply a list of statistical irregularities. No one is unfairly on the list--it is just an analysis that needed further investigation. Sometime statistical anomalies can be explained. It is pretty hard, however, to explain the number of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets. But, if the state would investigate the way they should, even some of those would probably prove legitimate. This list of irregularities is simply a starting point, not an indictment.

Submitted by Anonymous teacher (not verified) on July 11, 2011 9:55 am

Do you understand statistical modeling? The point of the list was to identify schools that had THREE OR MORE unlikely outcomes based on statistical probability. The next step should have been to have reputable outside examiners (NOT the employees of whichever district) examine those schools further.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:19 am

That's what they did !!

Submitted by Anonymous teacher (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:30 am

No, they didn't. READ the article!

"....Porter stressed that that statistical analysis alone, without witnesses or confessions, cannot definitively prove that there was cheating. But he added that the report "describes a reasonable approach to identifying schools where there may have been cheating."

Nevertheless, it appears that the state never followed up with any further investigations...."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:25 am


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:48 am

I am glad the report included charter schools. Now, maybe people will investigate them some more. To clarify, there are good and bad people in public and charter. However, charters are deemed as the "savior of public school children". If anything adversive happens to public, the charters should get the same treatment. If it means closure, so be it.

If charters want to be exclusive, let parents pay. What if parents can't pay? They can pay something to contribute to their child's education. I don't have any money, but I sacrifice to make sure my child gets the extra help needed in school.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:48 pm

Let them also investigate the while some charters claim to work on a lottery system they interview students before they are accepted. I know the only children accepted into the charter from my school are the well behaved ones with good grades. How can charters be lottery based if they interview and make parents send in IEP information with the application.

Submitted by Emma (not verified) on July 11, 2011 11:00 am

Unless some of the naysayers are lottery winners (3 or more times!), then I would have to say the proof is in the pudding... One in 100 TRILLION odds are extremely large odds to beat. Heck, even 1 in 1 million is very difficult to beat.

But moving on from arguing whether the statistics definitely mean cheating occurred, the new focus should be on closely monitoring all of the identified schools in ALL future testing, as well as improving testing security (before, during and after) and improving testing conditions for all Philadelphia schools.

I've seen situations where the testing materials are treated like top-secret materials throughout all phases of the test and conversely, situations where the materials are kept in an office where multiple persons have keys, where there is no monitoring of classrooms by district staff during the test, and where post-test handling of the materials is so security-lax that wrong-to-right erasure patterns are not entirely surprising. I am HIGHLY interested to see (assuming this statistical analysis continues) what this year's report will reflect. I suspect that 2010's and 2011's report will show even greater evidence of highly probable cheating. I would even "bet my last dollar" on that!

I personally have misgivings about the whole idea of standardized testing especially in a system that puts pressure on achieving impossible results (within very short spaces of time) and blame on teachers and principals who don't achieve/maintain those results. In my opinion, the system (with testing security and conditons WAY too loosely monitored) is designed in such a way that cheating becomes "necessary" and inevitable. I'm in no way condoning cheating, but I say necessary because the pressure applied to get good or improving test scores is so great from the top, that I can see how many principals and grade-level teachers become trapped and fearful for their jobs. Coupled with that is a system that allows (even encourages) academically weak students to move along the the next grade level.

There are no easy solutions for this problem, only hard ones. However, I would first start (IMO) with addressing the impact NCLB and its resulting mandates has on state-level achievement. (I think there are at least a few writers on Notebook who've discussed this.) On its face NCLB seemed great, but it has also created monsters out of school districts and administrators all in the name of ' improving results'.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 11, 2011 1:28 pm

Yes, It is time for an open and honest discussion and debate about the whole high stakes testing issue. The discussion must take place locally, state-wide and nationally.

The re are many more issues than just cheating. There are serious issues of the validity and relaibility of the the PSSA tests themselves even if administered in a sound manner. Has anyone really sat done and looked at those issues. The question is what do they really measure? Especially since we teach to the test and teach the test so much.

There are also very serious pedagogical issues which have been raised by many teachers here on this site. Is the test taking curriculum imposed upon teachers, not only in Philadelphia, but all across our nation, really in the best interests of our stuents and their total cognitive growth?

I was fortunate to have led a team of reading specialists for almost 20 years at University City H.S. (Back in the day.) We did diagnostic - prescriptive instruction and measured reading development both formally and informally. The PSSA test is one of the worst assessments I have ever seen and have been forced to use. The classifications that are used are not developmental levels but arbitrary cutoffs.

When we administered assessments, we never ever thought about cheating. We were only interested in accurately measuring each student's present reading level and monitoring growth with pre-tests, mid-year evaluations, and post-tests done in a non-threatening, low pressure, supportive climate. Yes we amalgamated their scores to determine mean gain, but only to assess how effective our program was -- not to judge each other.

What I have witnessed reading assessemt turn into in recent years is sad and counterpoductive to what we really need to do for children.

That is one reason why I am attending the Save Our Schools Conference in Washington this month.

While I am all for giving each and every student a professionally sound, valid and reliable diagnostic assessent every year. We need to change our present standardized testing culture.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 11, 2011 3:24 pm

PS. Sorry about the typos. My eyes are over the hill....

Submitted by tom-104 on July 11, 2011 12:21 pm

The cheating scandal was inevitable given the pressures to make AYP. Now add in merit pay based on testing scores and you have the making of a total breakdown of the educational system. In addition, merit pay will lead to favoritism in classroom appointments by principals, pressures to keep Special Ed and ESOL students out of a class, etc. Testing should only be used to monitor how a school can be improved, not as a punitive measure.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 3:52 pm

Yea, but where's the skim money in that. These pols and their district friends need kickbacks etc. It's like putting all positive news in newspapers--ain't goin to sell squat.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 3:24 pm

Notice the location of all of those schools:
Catherine is on Chester Ave (79.9% Black)
Cayuga is on North 5th (61.4% Latino, 33.7% Black)
Franklin Edmonds is on Thouron (98.1% Black)
Frederick Douglass is on W Norris (I'm going out on a limb, but mostly black?)
Disston is on Cottage Street (36.1% White, 30% Black)
Fitler is on Seymour & Knox (96.1% Black)
Fitzpatrick is on Knights Road (63.7% White)
Lamberton is on Woodbine Ave (94% Black)
John Marshall is on Griscolm (57% Black)
Thurgood Marshall is on N 6th (64% Black)
Mcclure is on Hunting Park Ave (63.1 Latino, 33.4% Black)
Munoz Marin on N 3rd (88% Latino, 9.6% Black)
Olney is on N. Water ( 52.6% Black, 26.5% Latino)
MH Stanton is on N 16th (97.2% Black)
Ziegler on Saul Street (50.9% Black, 28.5% Latino)
Penn Treaty Middle on E Thompson ( 50.4% Latino, 28.9% Black)
Theodore Roosevelt Middle on E. Washington (96.7% Black)
Wagner Middle on W. Chelten ( 97.1% Black)
Wilson Middle on Cottman Ave ( 35.1% Black, 22% Latino)
Frankford High on Oxford Ave ( 58.3% Black, 30.6% Latino)
Northeast High on Cottman Ave ( 35% Black, 23.8% White, 16% Latino)
Strawberry Mansion High on Ridge Ave ( 99.3% Black)
Alliance for Progress Charter (295 Black kids, 2 Hispanic, no others)
Charter High for Architecture and Design (497 Black, 15 Asian, 36 Hispanic, 50 White)
Imhotep (100 Black - 100% Black)
Maritime (290 Black, 148 Hispanic, 328 White)
Palmer ( 616 Black, 124 Hispanic, 5 Asian)
Wissahickon ( 92.3% Black)
Philadelphia Electrical (385 Black, 45 Hispanic, 187 White, 23 Asian)
Do you notice a pattern with the types of schools that are engaged in cheating?
And we wonder why these kids aren't succeeding at getting into college.
Please stop providing excuses for these children to fail. Fire every teacher that thinks Black Kids and Hispanic Kids are being cheated by the system, and hire teachers that are willing to TEACH the kids and get the parents involved, and REVOKE the charters of every one of those charter schools above.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 4:09 pm

Actually, I am quite confused by whatever this is you posted. What pattern are you referring to? You went to a lot of trouble here, and this is rather confusing.

I am assuming that perhaps you mean a lot of minority students... which is pretty much the rule for every public school in Philadelphia (I know there are some exceptions).

Submitted by unmemorab13 (not verified) on July 12, 2011 1:12 pm

Agreed. The student are not cheating, the school district employees are the people cheating.
Ps. The poster's writing is tenebrous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 11:19 pm


Submitted by Charter School Teacher (not verified) on July 11, 2011 5:21 pm

I totally agree with this poster. I would also like to add that I wish lawmakers would stop cutting funds to education. Many school buildings old and outdated. Why is it TV shows have Smartboards and our schools do not? Our students live in homes with technology (computers, flat screen tv's, IPads) but they are taught in schools that are still using chalk and/or wipe off boards. Many classrooms do not have enough computers for at least 3-4 students to use at once. Some schools do not have up to date computer OS's. If our teachers had more use of technology to use as teaching tools in our classrooms it would motivate our students to want to learn.
I would like to see schools go back to separate buildings for K-5 and 6-8 unless 6-8 class are self contained like they are in parochial schools.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on July 11, 2011 5:22 pm

 You can count on 2 hands the number of schools in the SDP that are not majority african american or latino. What would be more interesting analysis is poverty levels, unemployment levels, and violence levels for these schools. I think the data would further the thesis that cheating occurs not because of who the kids are, but because what the consequence of failure to make AYP are.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 6:17 pm

Bingo !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 6:29 pm

I'm not sure that you're right but maybe you are. I believe ALL Charters should be shut down. Either you're on to something or you're related to Glenn Beck.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 11, 2011 10:42 pm

My favorite story from testing time was when the principal pulled all kids in testing grades from their preps (so the classroom teachers couldn't do anything about it), stuck them ALL in the library, and told them they couldn't leave until all lines for the constructed response were filled in. My students told me later that even though they explained to the principal that they had used the TAG method, and fully answered the prompts, the principal wouldn't let them leave. So... to appease her, they started copying the text to fill up the lines.

If anything, that LOWERED the scores!!!

Submitted by Anna (not verified) on July 12, 2011 11:24 am

My son's charter school was at the top for PSSA scoring....his charter school is in the suburbs, and it overwhelmingly white, too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 5:40 pm

I'd like to note that the principal of at least one of those schools is now at a Promise Academy and runs the school in the following manner: Do whatever he says and he will let you be a complete waste of school district $. Do anything to challenge him and get attacked at every possible opportunity. In other words, he encourages cheating in his "inner circle" or turns a blind eye so that he can attack anyone whose students don't fare as well. Union and district know of problems with him, yet just continue to bump him up in the ranks. It will catch up with him!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 5:37 pm

The principal at mine is, too and the scores at his old school almost doubled in the few years he was there -- you can check on the districts site for his old school -- and then all of the sudden at our school, jumped dramatically--especially in the one grade he had "allies" in (people who "buy in" as he boasts of them!).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 6:26 pm

Yea, ours calls it being a "team player."

If anyone thinks that cheating on PSSAs isn't a very fundamental aspect of Ackerman's reign, they need to think again. Cheating is rewarded, realistic gains are punished (see: Audenreid).

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on July 12, 2011 8:18 pm

The Notebook is actively seeking firsthand accounts from teachers, administrators, students and parents of the administration of the 2009 PSSA exam at all 99 Philadelphia schools that were flagged in the erasure analysis commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  We are willing to grant anonymity. 

Those willing to share their experiences should contact Notebook/NewsWorks reporter Benjamin Herold, 215.901.9774,

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 8:13 pm

I'm more surprised at some of the schools where I've witnessed some pretty outright cheating that WEREN'T listed. This makes me think they've got a pretty high threshold.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 7:00 pm

I taught at MYA within the past three years and I witnessed our principal "coaching" during the PSSA. I recall her saying things like, "You are not done, go back and find two more reasons from the text," while handing the booklets back the student."

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on July 12, 2011 9:04 pm

Reminds me of my principal who walked around during testing and made comments like "You need to check that one again." The assistant principal at the same school took kids from prep periods to finish sections that she deemed "incomplete."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 12, 2011 11:21 pm

The test cheating problem in Philadelphia goes at least back to the 70's if not longer. I taught elementary school in the School District of Philadelphia from 9/70 - 6/84. Back them the standardized test given were the California Achievement test. Many of the teachers gave the students the answers or erased wrong answers. I personally did not cheat and my class scores were always lower than the other in the same grade. I attempted to speak to my union representative about it and was told something to the effect that the union realizes it happens but they would not address it. I do not regret that I did not cheat on my classes CAT scores. The cheating on standardized tests is an iceberg. Most of it is below what we can see. After I moved on to other positions in other school districts I realized it was not only Philadelphia's problem. The entire testing system in out schools needs to be rethought!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 12:55 am

I found it interesting that people were so against charter schools. As a teacher at one, who was interestingly on the "flagged" list, I know how hard we worked that year to get kids up to level. We had after school programs and in school programs, special tutors, boot camps, and all sorts of programs to get our kids to preform. Our school, like many knows that our charter relies on those test scores, if we do not improve steadily then we risk losing our kids, our jobs, our school. We go to great lengths to secure the tests and cover anything that could be considered "educational" on the walls, for the week or so of testing the classrooms are a mass of brown paper and covered posters. Needless to say, not a very warm enviornment for test taking.We stress our kids out and daily tell them how important these tests are... but in the end.. so many come in late, hungry, tired, unprepared with calculators for the portions that they are allowed to have a calculator for. We have kids planning to go to college and they are shocked that schools couldn't care less about these PSSA's. What then too about our special needs kids, who by some brilliant snafu, the state has decided that kids who are mentally retarded need to take the 11th grade test. Seriously. I have read many essays for college bound kids and I am horrified, the tests prepare them to take tests and not to read, consider, analyze and interpret the material in a thoughtful way. So many of our kids who the tests deem "proficient" end up at CCP after a first failed college try, because the material was way over their heads.....
so much to consider with testing but abolishing charters is not the answer, maybe seriously re thinking the testing process is!

Submitted by MS. MATTIE DAVIS (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:48 am

Believe it or not,when the public gets enough of this form of standardized testing(and the confusing results), this issue will cease. However, while the debate rages on, let us push for an invitation of other forms of assessment...Student Observation/Teacher Made Assessments/Portfolio Assessment,etc. gives a better description of each student's areas of weaknesses and strengths.
Educators have allowed other "professionals" to write educational policy. Why did we allow that to occur?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 8:09 pm

If you would like to see the latest technologies in use, walk around 440 N. Broad Street. Plasma TVs on the wall etc It looks like a successful corporation. Go into a school and you will see none of that.. The principals get the newest Macbooks etc. If you are one of his favorites you might have a four year old I book.The students have little or no access to technology. How much time is spent in Computer classes t on "Benchmark Tests"? Every school should have a library staffed by a State certified Librarian. The library should have a Laptop cart with a laptop for an entire class Computer teachers teach the use of technology but the Librarian teaches about information literacy..Students are being cheated out of a decent education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 7:57 pm

For a visual of how many schools, therefore students, do not have access to a certified school librarian, go to this web page to download the first .pdf at the top of the page.
To see the precipitous decline of SDP certified school librarians over time, go to this webpage to download the chart in .xls.
To view the SDP's own Research and Evaluation Department's statement about the benefit of maximized school library services to low-income students in the SDP, go to the Offenberg and Clark study on this page.
These pages are on the Association of Philadelphia School Librarians' wiki at

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:30 pm

For a visual of how many schools, therefore students, do not have access to a certified school librarian, go to this web page to download the first .pdf at the top of the page.
To see the precipitous decline of SDP certified school librarians over time, go to this webpage to download the chart in .xls.
To view the SDP's own Research and Evaluation Department's statement about the benefit of maximized school library services to low-income students in the SDP, go to the Offenberg and Clark study on this page.
These pages are on the Association of Philadelphia School Librarians' wiki at

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:11 pm

Not only does my school not have a librarian the library was turned into a classroom and the book shelves were boarded up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 9:25 pm

Will those generations of children, viewing the boarded-up shelves and for whom the SDP is responsible for educating for a lifetime, become lifelong readers, in love with books?
What does this say for the future of Philadelphia and our nation's democracy?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 11:12 pm

Did anyone check tests scores in private schools? I have had personal problems when my daughter told me she was taken out of class to a private room to be given the standardized tests un-timed and alone ' SO THAT SHE HAD MORE TIME". I was never made aware of this by her school, and after asking why this happened, found out that she was not the only child pulled aside, but many children were given the tests un-timed, When I asked if that was fair, I was told that this had been going on for years, and that it helped the school with getting better scores as a whole, and I should not worry about it. I never felt this was fair, but made to feel I was stupid for questioning a Catholic school for how they did things....So maybe the problem is even more wide spread than just the public schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 11:43 pm

Private schools don't take the PSSA.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 4:14 pm

The PSSA is an untimed test. While they give estimates of how long it may take the children have as long as they need. The rule is that they have to finish the section once it they start it. As far as being pulled out of the classroom this could happen to help with focus, test anxiety or behavior. Many children are taken our of the classroom because it is part of an IEP. Don't jump to the conclusion that it was to cheat.

Submitted by future prep school parent (not verified) on July 14, 2011 1:36 am

My son scored advanced on the PSSA test 4 years straight and was placed in mentally gifted classes. I took him to test for prep school (SSAT) and he was average & below average. I was hurt and steamed. I marched right down to the school board and was sent to at least 6 different people and NONE had any answer that even a mentally challenged person could make sense of. My son is working with a tutor & we have 2 SSAT practice books that we are working out of. I met with a Dean of Admissions at a local prep school and when he saw my sons report card, pssa scores and ssat scores, he gave me some very intelligent answers. Im working 2 jobs now because i am determined to get my 3 children OUT of the philly public school system. I hate it, i dont trust it and i know its full of teachers who DONT give 2 cents about real education. They only care about getting vested and teaching TO the pssa test.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on July 14, 2011 7:31 am

I would be interested in hearing more about your story.  Can you please contact me at 215.901.9774 or

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 4:10 pm

You are looking for backstabbers and angry people wanting to condemn the system. Why do I never she you asking for the positive statements to contact you?

Submitted by tom-104 on July 15, 2011 5:33 pm

I totally disagree with your attitude Anonymous. Yes there are angry parents, but do you really think it is going to help to attack them for being advocates for their child. No matter how hard we work the conditions in the schools are awful and getting worse. Do you really think treating parents as the enemy is going to help?

I know there are some parents who can't be reasoned with, but if a parent is genuinely looking out for their child it is incumbent on us to explain to them the problems with testing and how the administration is forcing us to teach to the test.

Do you really think we should ignore angry parents as "backstabbers" when they are just looking out for their child's interests. They should be encouraged and helped. Who's interests are you looking out for?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 6:54 pm

First of all let me correct your idea that I was calling this parent a backstabber. I was referring to some of the comments made by teachers in regards to their colleagues.

To address your other comment let me say first that I myself am the parent of two students in Philadelphia schools. I am a strong advocate of standing up for your child. I applaud parents who are knowledgable and involved. I keep in close contact with every one of my student's parents. I invite them to ask questions about any concerns they may have.I have had to deal with this same situation, when a child suddenly does not get the grades they had in the past or what the parent expects. My comments to this parent were based on her story, attending assembly programs and taking notes on who got what award, her displeasure about the grading style of the teacher, her placing children on speaker phones, her fixation on the grade. The conclusion I drew was that she wanted her child to get straight A's and no less than straight A's. She balks at the fact that the teacher told her that her daughter was doing great and then had the nerve to give her a B. Well, a B is an above average grade. She comments that her daughter will get discouraged because a B will show her that teachers don't care. If her daughter begins to feel that way then it is only because she is being told that a B is not good enough. The parent should be assuring her daughter that a B reflects that she is doing well and that she is proud of her, not showing her that the B is something she should be ashamed of receiving. From the story that this parent told I believe her problem was examined by the teacher and the administration. We do not know the background of this parent and her daughter's school before this situation arose.

As far as your final statement goes I am not looking out for anyone's interests. I do not know this parent, the teacher involved or the school where this occurred. I was looking at it as a parent and as a teacher and gave my opinion just as you did.

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 16, 2011 3:40 am

The only "angry person" I read was the anonymous post by you. Do you honestly think a parent working TWO JOBS to get their children the education they feel they deserve is doing something negative? Do you honestly think that every teacher in the school district of Philadelphia -- any school district in the country -- is without fault? There are bad superintendents (we know this?...) bad administrators, bad parents (I think that a person that works two jobs to do anything for their children, especially for their education is to be commended, although they might have different perception of the system because they were hurt by it...) But we most certainly have bad teachers also.

Do you think we should hide our faults in teaching, or do you think we should talk about them? Teachers aren't perfect and if we always go on the defensive we will never do what we do best: which is teach. Our initial reaction is to say, "I care!" "I give 2 cents!"...I think it's a very natural inclination when the majority of teachers feel that way. Future prep school parent & other "angry people" or "backstabbers" cannot begin to understand us until we show them we understand where they are coming from. And sometimes the people that are the most hurt and frustrated by the system are that way -- not out of "let me just go start hating" -- it's because they've actually felt wronged by something that happened.

I see a parent that is reaching out for help and a reporter reaching out directly to that person so that their ONE story can shed light on many parents "one stories" and help people see the truth. Until we all really start to step out of our own belief system and see the other side (which helps when you read about someone's problem that you don't agree with necessarily) we will never make progress. We'll be in a perpetual labyrinth of unresolved problems.

Positivity is contagious. If you want to see some -- think about the comments you put out there. Every time you post ask yourself, "is this attacking something or teaching someone something?" You'll probably find that you are sending out more negative energy than promoting growth and understanding in others.

No need to argue the point with "all my other comments are productive" -- I can't argue with a facade afraid to stand behind their comments shrouded with a mask of anonymity. Perhaps they condemn the system because it isn't perfect. Maybe we should listen to them and figure out how to fix it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 10:51 am

The comment thread that you are referring to had nothing to do with the parent that is working two jobs and is upset about her son's prep scores. The reference to backstabbers was not directed at any parent but at the reporter who was asking for teachers to contact him with cheating stories and gossip.Get your facts straight before you go on the attack. You need to look at the whole story before you react. As far as anonymity is concerned isn't everyone posting using a facade of some kind. I truly doubt your given name is Inspired_Apple. Just because someone chooses not to think up a cute name doesn't mean they are hiding.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:20 am

The teachers did not decide to teach to the test. The test taking curriculum was imposed upon them. I ran a high school diagnostic - prescriptive reading program for 20 years. The PSSA exams are the least valid and reliable standardized tests I have ever seen. The standards for proficient and advanced are not high to begin with.

The vast majority of teachers care about their students and their instruction. They are really good people who went into teaching to help children learn and grow and achieve. I certainly can not go into all of the reasons why high stakes testing is counterproductive of what we need to do for children, but your post is one prime example of what is wrong with it.

Assessment is properly done authentically and for the purpose of getting accurate diagnostic information so students can be taught at their instructional level.

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:40 am

You had me until the last two sentences. You should be commended for caring so much about your children's education, but ashamed for jumping on the teacher scapegoat wagon without having any idea why your son did poorly on the prep school test.

There is no such thing, btw., as being "vested" as a teacher. After three years, if you fulfill certain requirements and pay the state $100, you are marginally "safer" than a newer teacher, but if your principal decides he or she doesn't like you, you're gone.

Teachers who do not teach as instructed by their principals are written up and eventually fired. But test malfeasance may not even be your son's issue. You don't state whether or not he claims to have been given answers or told to erase anything, nor do you mention the quality of his report card grades. If they are high, then the PSSA scores were probably correct and you may have to look to the nature of the prep test to understand what went wrong there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 9:33 am

1. Technically teachers don't have total job security after three years, true. But it's hard to fire them. The objective statistics on that are pretty indisputable. There are scattered anecdotes about principals getting rid of people they don't like, but very few teachers actually get dismissed once they are tenured.

2. Not doing as instructed by your supervisor results in getting fired in pretty much every profession. Teachers actually have a lot more protection from that than most jobs, and from my experience, at least in the School District, you have to be pretty out of line to actually get fired over that (and the principal has to go through numerous steps and documents things rather thoroughly, unless the teachers gets caught doing something very illegal)

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 3:20 pm

::waves hand like a lunatic::

That's me! That's me! I teach The Scarlet Letter to 11th graders. Nathaniel Hawthorne is incredibly difficult for my students. While reading literature, I was questioned, during class about the PSSA objective of the day. I felt like shouting "STUDENTS WILL BE ABLE TO READ" but I know that would have not gone over well. In the end -- it was 'suggested' I change a poster of Hester Prynne's scarlet letter A, to a scarlet letter pssA. I never laughed and cried simultaneously until that moment.

The idea was The Most Ridiculously Obnoxiously Asinine idea I had ever heard. Ever.

My students started to get pulled into clandestine meetings about my PSSA prep approach & let me tell you this, I escaped termination by a hiccup this year. The focus on testing has to stop. The PSSA needs to GO AWAY.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:06 pm

I teach middle school and I do give "2cents" not only about my students but also about myself ! I do NOT do MY job for test scores but because of the crappy teachers who bored me to death and told me I did not live up to my potential! I do NOT label your child , please do NOT label every teacher. Give us the chance, we give your children, during our lunches, before school, after school and emails we return at all hours of the day including nights, weekends , holidays and summer vacations.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 8:42 pm

Children are given a test by a psychologist to see if they can meet the requirements for gifted. This test is requested by either the parent of teacher. Many times a teacher does not feel that a child should be in the program but because of the score the child is placed. Getting Advanced on the PSSA does not mean that your child is a genius. He showed an advanced understanding of the material that was tested. He used the strategies that he was taught to succeed, he took his time. It is not proof that his teacher or the school cheated. His lack of ability would have stood out in other areas. What were his grades like before this run of Advanced scores/ Who requested testing for gifted and if it was the school did you agree that you felt he was gifted? During the 4 years that this was happening did you question his ability? Did you notice a problem? Did you compare the work he did at home to his grades? DId you see him struggling to keep up and meet with the teacher? Did you question his grades during conferences? Have you had your child tested independently to see what his levels are in various areas? What results did you get if you did? I hope you get it all straightened out.

On a side thought most of the teachers I know are dedicated and hard working. Speaking for myself and for the majority of my colleagues we are not interested in just getting vested and teaching to the test. You do not get into the teaching profession because you want to teach to a test. You get into it because you want to inspire children to become life long learners. You do not get into the teaching profession to become rich or to get the great benefits or because you will be looked at with awe, none of this will happen.

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 14, 2011 10:42 am

I have personally watched two teachers hounded out of the district because they rubbed their principals the wrong way.

Additionally, I've watched this move attempted on building representatives, especially those who have had to act in that capacity in response to principal actions that violated the PFT contract. In those cases, so far as I know, the reps' lives were made a living hell, but they were not dismissed prior to my losing touch with them.

It should not be agony to go to work because your principal has chosen to target you. It interferes with your ability to teach (and to sleep, which also compromises the former).

Much of this has occurred because principals are now forced to downcheck teachers so as not to bring on the wrath of regional superintendents. It also doesn't help that there is essentially no such thing as a staff meeting anymore. All professional developments meetings are designed by 440 and leave little room for productive discussions, teacher support and a real explanation of expectations.

I would not want to be a principal and am not sure why anyone else would, given the current climate. They are no longer allowed to motivate and lead educators, but rather spend their days desperately juggling reams of worthless paperwork and responding in panic to any indication that their school might not make AYP. How can someone under this sort of pressure lead effectively? Some extraordinary principals do, but most of them have the benefit of being close to retirement age so that they are relatively safe from the retaliation of their superiors. Others are lucky enough to have landed positions in middle-class schools where AYP is a given.

It's all just a mess and I wish enough people would get clear enough heads on this issue to understand both the learning needs of students and the way to lead adults so they can concentrate on those needs with enthusiasm and confidence.

Submitted by p.h. (not verified) on July 25, 2011 7:38 pm


Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 25, 2011 10:11 pm

I can appreciate everything you say, KeepOnTeachin. Some of us went into administration to change the administrative culture of the district. Most of us ran into adversity.

But with anything, to succeeed, you have to keep trying and keep speaking up. Good leadership is trustworthy, collegial, supportive, inclusive, nurturing and ultimately -- democratic. Our best schools are great school communities that function as a healthy community.

We need to go back to allowing teachers to design their own instruction to meet the needs, abilities and interests of the students in front of them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 8:53 am

Eye witness account and additional sources have indicated that certain teachers cheat at Catharine, including the principal. Catharine is a train wreck waiting to happen. That school is terrible. Spend a day there and all you hear is teachers yelling at kids, grabbing their arms, belittling them, and the principal knows what's going on and does nothing because she yells at the kids as well. The principal's sidekick, the IRK is extremely rude and needs to quit being around students. Catharine needs to fire everyone and do a rehiring process.....

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Submitted by backlinks (not verified) on December 22, 2011 9:42 am

I would not want to be a principal and am not sure why anyone else would, given the current climate. They are no longer allowed to motivate and lead educators, but rather spend their days desperately juggling reams of worthless paperwork and responding in panic to any indication that their school might not make AYP. How can someone under this sort of pressure lead effectively? Some extraordinary principals do, but most of them have the benefit of being close to retirement age so that they are relatively safe from the retaliation of their superiors. Others are lucky enough to have landed positions in middle-class schools where AYP is a given.

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