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District statement: We never got 2009 report

by Paul Socolar on Jul 09 2011 Posted in Latest news

The School District issed the following statement on Saturday in response to the Notebook's story on the 2009 state-sponsored study flagging dozens of schools for possible cheating on the PSSA test:


Unfortunately the District did not receive a copy of the 2009 forensic analysis released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Information from the erasure analysis would have been very useful in supporting the District’s investigations, although we agree with PDE’s spokesperson, Mr. Eller, that in its current format, it is not user-friendly. Given the resources PDE expended in 2009 to conduct the forensic analysis, as well as those used to conduct the 2011 analysis, it would be helpful if PDE had provided additional guidance on how to use the results of these important and useful analyses.

Below is description of the District’s very robust test monitoring protocol.

Approximately 75% of schools, including charters, are visited during PSSA testing. The visits are unannounced and the specific classroom visited at a school is randomly selected. Test monitors are provided a checklist that lays out “what to look for”, including inappropriate assistance to students while the test is being administered. All school Test Coordinators receive mandated training about six weeks before the test window and the training includes information on the type of assistance that is allowed and what is prohibited. Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), staff from the Data Recognition Corporation (PDE’s vendor) and staff from the Office of Assessment, present this information both orally and in writing. Test Coordinators then turn-around this training at their schools.

Reported violations of test security are investigated by staff from the Office of Assessment. In each of the past three years, the Office of Assessment has received about 10-15 allegations of breaches in test security and there have been a few substantiated cases. Allegations may come from parents, teachers, principals, test monitors, community members, PDE or concerned citizens. The allegations are communicated by phone, email, test-monitoring forms and by letter. The District does not use an outside service to investigate these claims. All allegations that are reported to us are investigated, but as it is an investigative process, whenever we are in the midst of an investigation, we have to maintain the fidelity of the process.

Once a test security violation is reported, staff from the Office of Assessment call the school in question and make arrangements to conduct an investigation about the validity of the alleged test violation. If the violation is considered low-level, the school is contacted by the Office of Assessment to correct the offense (e.g., failing to cover materials in the hallway during the testing period).

If the allegation is more serious, arrangements will be made to meet with the school principal and Test Coordinator—and arrangements may also be made to meet with (1) students, teachers, and or other people making the allegation, (2) witnesses to the allegation and (3) other individuals involved in the allegation. Staff members receive written notification of a test security investigation at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled meeting. All staff members are provided the opportunity to have union representation present at the meetings.

Once an investigation is completed, a written report and recommendations are submitted to the Deputy Chief of Accountability and a determination is made as to whether or not further action is required. The Deputy Chief will recommend the next appropriate action that occurs in response to more serious breaches in test security. In these instances, the appropriate administrator (Principal, Assistant Superintendent) will conduct a disciplinary investigation and determine if any disciplinary action is required. Office of Assessment personnel attend the disciplinary investigation as expert witnesses.

The District takes testing security very seriously and works hard to ensure that students are tested using all established protocol in order to ensure accurate results. Investigations determine that most of the alleged security breaches reported to the District annually are unfounded.

We entrust the care of our young people to our principals and teachers and the overwhelming majority of them are hardworking professionals who take on that task with fidelity. Until we have reason to believe otherwise, we stand on the integrity of these individuals who educate our students throughout the year.

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Comments (36)

Submitted by TR (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 16:27.

With all the turnover at 440 since 2009, it's no wonder no one read the report.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 16:40.

I don't believe they didn't know of it if not given to them officially. That is the question I asked an hour ago. Now, the Queen and her folks better hope they ain't fibbin. This could finally---long overdue--be the Queen's Waterloo.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/12/2011 - 19:47.

Given that there have been comments made by some that fraud did occur at some schools, I find it hard to believe that the district didn't receive the report. A smart administrator would look at massive test score gains with guarded optimism. Think of it this way: you open your bank statement and you see a deposit of $5,000 - an amount you can't ever remember depositing. Do you just say, "wow, good for me!" or do you try to figure out what happened.

If if comes to pass that these administrators knew about this and chose to ignore it, well that speaks to a much more serious problem than just cheating. Philly should look to what has happened in Atlanta over the past few days. Administrative heads rolled and rightly so.,

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 16:41.

Bull ish another way for the state to take over our schools! no one visited us and if they did they sat in one room, if the state is mandating the test they should monitor the bull sh test! not the districts that are taking the test

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 16:43.

I have no idea what you said.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 16:44.

As someone who works in research and education, that second paragraph about sums up the ridiculously lazy and ignorant individuals at 440. Any supposedly professional organization with salaried researchers that blames a report for not being "user-friendly" deserves to be slapped in the face. And the current spokesman calls it "convoluted" (in the other piece)? Really? What's convoluted about the study, Mr. Eller? I would love to know. I find it amazing that Eller and 440 basically have said, "Well, it was too hard for us to understand, so even if we had it we were too dumb to use it."

And so you the district wants to know how it should have used them? Really? Oh, here's one idea: look at the tables in the study, identify the schools in your district with more than 3 flags and visit them frequent them unannounced and perhaps even re-test their students in a different setting. Wow, that was really hard. Oh, oh, oh, I have another: ask the teachers anonymously. Ask the students too. 440 you are dumb.

Let's be amazingly clear what this is about: a 2009 study under Rendell clearly identified these improprieties. I find it insanely hard to believe that 440 never received the report. Or, even more importantly, why no one at 440 went out of their way to get it. Anyway, to do anything about the report was up to the SRC and district. Now, the district obviously did not. So now they have two options: explain why they did not, or instead they can basically call it too hard for them to get and then blather on about what they do. They have chosen the latter.

In terms of Mr. Eller, well, obviously 1) he has to call it hard to get because he is an idiot 2) he has to call it "convoluted" because it was from Rendell 3) he has to dismiss it because the district's reforms are in line with a more Republican ed. reform agenda (privatization=good).

You are an absolutely unprofessional organization, 440.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 17:48.

You are The Master of the Obvious !! I do agree that it's hard to believe they didn't know of it if not receive it. If they're lying here, not even the Queen can survive no matter how loud she yells about racism and sexism. I'm a black woman and disgusted with 440 under Ackerman--not even an ouch of dignity or grace.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 17:55.

Funny... I thought the exact same thing! They could have used "guidance" from the PDE on how to utilize the report?? None of those people making 6 figures at 440 know how to analyze a report from the PDE??!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 18:11.

Not if they want to keep deniability !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 18:53.

Same poster as the one above-- sorry about all the typos... bit of a rant.

Yeah, that is entirely true, and I completely get the political deniability ability they have maintained, but I mean, come on... your move is that it is too hard for you to get? They could have gone the route of, "Oh, pin it on David Weiner" (because he is leaving), or, "We are conducting an internal investigation to determine why it was never used." Instead they go with, "Well, hey, it was, like, long, and it had tables, and that methodology-- wait, methodologIES-- geeze, you expect us to get that? Do you know how hard it is to read something that is 44 pages long?!?!"

I especially love the end, where, despite 440's claims, the authors clearly tell us what this thing is: "This list serves as a good starting point when examining schools and students for potential testing irregularities. Of particular interest are the schools that were flagged by the erasure analysis indicator. The schools identified by this indicator had a very large number of wrong-to-right erasures compared to the state mean. Note that their total number of erasures was not much higher than the number of wrong-to-right erasures. Thus, most of their erasures were of the wrong-to-right type."

Or, we could have turned to the section on PAGE 3 that is called, "Proper uses of data forensics results." Hmm, do you think that might tell us the proper uses of it? I have a feeling it might.

But anyway, I am getting ahead of myself-- this report has things and words like "deviation" and "residuals" and "regression." Whoooooosh, right over my head. You know, Eller and 440, when words get over 6 letters, I stop reading too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 22:08.

Believe me, a very likely scenario is that some at 440 read it, understood it, brought it to their supervisors' attention, and were told not to say any more about it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 02:28. are pretty upset. You work in R & E? Your language is very absolute, pre-conditional, judgmental and may I say mean-spirited. Good thing you're an anonymous coward like me and you don't have the guts to sign your name to your declaration. You speak of "440" like a omni-present entity instead of what it really is...the physical address of a building that houses lots of office workers who happen to work for the public sector in a city with A LOT of challenges. Calling them all "dumb"? Some folks HAVE gone out of their way to deal with this issue that you so glibly pass judgment on but is it our fault that our efforts haven't risen to the level of public knowledge? Comments like this make it that much harder for those individuals who have ethics and standards to believe that they are doing something positive when they show up for work if this is the kind of vitriol that they come to expect from Anonymous cowards, er , "commentors" like you.

Let's be amazingly clear what you're about...dreaming up sinister conspiracies, tilting at windmills and generally just being a negative creep. Here's a piece of data to factor into your next research project...some people don't always do what's "right" or "expected of them"...teachers, principals, students, citizens, humans...but most people play by the rules...why should PSSA testing be any different? Don't act so shocked...are you an adult?

You are an absolute unprofessional commentor Anonymous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 09:47.

Some of the people who work at 440 are great. Some are horrifyingly bad. Some are just doing their job. Your response to the guy who says he does research has little to do with his actual post.

I don't think he was trying to be a professional commenter. I think he was pointing out one of the many ways in which the administration of this district is an utter mess. Unless you are in charge of whatever ghost department is supposed to be handling test security, then it wasn't directed at you. No need to take it personally.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 10:52.

That's a lot of personal attacks. Good for you. I am going to write to the only content you offered up: 440 as a whole and PSSA testing being different.

Do you really think I was referring to "all" the workers, from the warehouse in the basement to the security to the cafe to the staffing department to the researchers to the leadership, or to the ones in charge of the whole thing and the research department? You write "our"-- perhaps you work there? Well, if you are in research, in charge of a department or the leadership, you should have done something about it. I do hold you responsible. You can disagree with me all you want and call me childish names; I really don't care.

And your "positive" attitude at work depends on my (and others) anonymous comments on an internet forum?

To answer your question, "why should PSSA testing be any different?" Because it is supposed to be a definitive marker of student achievement and massive reforms rest on it.

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:25.

What is so frustrating is the 440, specifically higher level administration constantly claiming "I didn't know, so I can't be responsible" whenever they see fit without any level of accountability. And when they do actually find out some information that might not be to their liking, they shift blame or pretend not to know anything. For example, Ackerman claiming Asian kids beat up a black kid in a wheelchair before the Asian kids were attacked. Ackerman knowing the principal wasn't certified, but kept her on the payroll. I know teachers who were fired for not getting their certifications on time. The whole contract mess when Ackerman claimed she only knew of the minority firm because she had their business card in her pocket. What about the meeting Nunnery was at with Evans, Archie and the head of Mosaica? She said Nunnery reported to her that he was at the meeting and all he told her was that he was shocked. She said she didn't know anything that was discussed. Now with this report, the official word is "We didn't get this report and even if we did we can't understand it."

It does seem like either there is some conspiracy to hide the truth or unbelievable levels of incompetence.

Submitted by Markus (not verified) on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 07:10.

Are you serious? PSSA should be different because it is 50% of the weight of a school's AYP.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on Tue, 07/12/2011 - 18:20.

Thought it might be worth providing some follow-up information on the question of Mr. Eller's original description of the "Data Forensics Technical Report" as "convoluted" and "difficult to glean anything from."

Those comments were made to the Notebook on Friday, July 8, in response to a reporter's query. On Monday, July 11, Mr. Eller contacted the Notebook to apologize for those statements, calling them "incorrect information."  Mr. Eller said that when queried by the reporter on June 8, he was not aware that the full forensic analysis, which included hundreds of files, also included a 44-page summary report. After being made aware of the summary report's existence, presumably via the Notebook's June 8 coverage, Eller said Secretary Tomalis reviewed the document and was "concerned" about its findings.   

Here is the quote from Eller:

"On behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, I would like to apologize for the incorrect information that was provided to the Notebook [on June 8.]  After I spoke with the Secretary late Friday...we went through a full review of the files the Notebook reporter first referenced. It came to our attention [then] that there was a 44-page forensic report.  For some reason, it was not seen or picked up two years ago."



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 17:22.

This statement is hilarious. What is so "robust" about what they've described?

The monitor comes in, sits for about an hour, pulls out a laptop and does whatever.

The state identified improprieties at three grade levels at Roosevelt. The inquirer published a fairly detailed investigative piece, but the PSD found nothing AND promoted the principal to Wilson, which by the way, is also cited in the report.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 17:42.

Yes, but she was so slick at Roosevelt that the Queen wants her to do that at Wilson too. And I don't think 100 Trillion to 1 is that bad to begin with.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 19:50.

The only proper response to this statement is LOL.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 19:59.

I enjoy how this written statement presumes that the cheaters are most likely the teachers, possibly a test coordinator, and rarely someone a bit higher. I've known teachers to be dismayed at the silent expectation that they must cheat, and I've seen test coordinators actually writing answers on students' books. I suspect that principals all over may change answers in private, and I know some teachers are given test booklets way in advance.

Again, I say this: when states have given orders to schools to perform in a way that is actually impossible, with drastic consequences when that performance doesn't happen, the state is telling schools to cheat.

Don't hold people over a fire and then tell them not to use the fire extinguisher.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 20:48.

BINGO !!!!!!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 20:38.

There is no "rigor." I have not seen a monitor at our school - an empowerment school - for at least 3 years. Test booklets are available at least 2 weeks in advance. (At least in Atlanta the books came in shrink wrap that people opened and resealed. The tests in PA aren't even sealed.) Some teachers - certainly not all of us - "guide" students through answers, give directions, read the reading test, etc. Some teachers review what is on the test in the afternoon before the next section. When I've told an administrator, the administrator doesn't want to hear it as long as scores go up. I was also at one school - a magnet school - where the administrator told teachers to look at the tests when they arrived.

So, the SDP can claim all the "rigor" they want but it is a joke. It is a "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" mentality. I also know that the complaints have to go through the regional offices. I know at least two test monitors who told me the test irregularities they reported were not sent beyond the regional office. So, regional offices intentionally lose complaints.

As others have written, high stakes testing leads to cheating at all levels. Some schools are just more blatant to the point where they get caught.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 20:53.

Exactly and I see nothing wrong morally about cheating under these circumstances. Thomas Aquinas said you are under no moral obligation to obey an illegal law. This is the perfect example of that. The Authorities need to stop this testing hysteria and get back to allowing teachers to teach kids not tests.

Submitted by enuf already (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 01:13.

"Information from the erasure analysis would have been very useful in supporting the District’s investigations, although we agree with PDE’s spokesperson, Mr. Eller, that in its current format, it is not user-friendly. would be helpful if PDE had provided additional guidance on how to use the results of these important and useful analyses."

what part of interpreting - the odds of getting these (erasure) results randomly are greater than 100 trillion to one - doesn't this fool understand? the trumpeting of rising test scores that the queen has used to justify her running roughshod over the citizens of philadelphia is (in many instances) a fraud.

Submitted by enuf already (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 01:19.

"Information from the erasure analysis would have been very useful in supporting the District’s investigations, although we agree with PDE’s spokesperson, Mr. Eller, that in its current format, it is not user-friendly. would be helpful if PDE had provided additional guidance on how to use the results of these important and useful analyses."

what part of interpreting - the odds of getting these (erasure) results randomly are greater than 100 trillion to one - doesn't this fool understand? the trumpeting of rising test scores that the queen has used to justify her running roughshod over the citizens of philadelphia is (in many instances) a fraud.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 10:08.

Make that ALL INSTANCES. Let's be real--Charters are a joke but make money for the Queen and the politicians pulling the strings. Corbett is the biggest pull of those strings and the Queen is doing his bidding. Hopefully, this nightmare is finally coming to an end, Charters included.

Submitted by Anon and anon (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 04:45.

So.....if I claim that I never received a layoff notice, can I still assume that I have a job?
This statement is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. Considering that I read most of the district's statements, that's saying something.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 10:03.

If they sent it, the SD better not claim it wasn't received by them--ain't nobody goin for that. The Queen claiming this is a BIG deal and could sink her finally, long overdue but finally, thank God. Somebody down there will give her up for their own protection. Deniability is a funny but dangerous thing. It can come and get you.

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 09:00.

Wait...there is a simple solution here:

There are many people in the district who could help the rocks working with data at 440 read the report, show them how educational statistics are interpreted, and what the implications are. They could also be taught how to find the PA state dept. of education web site.

Someone versed in psychometrics in administration would be good, but given the current limited education and experience of those in charge, data can be simplified for the Queen's courtiers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 11:38.

These visits are not unannounced. We were told "they will be here tomorrow" and "don't forget they are coming this morning so make sure you are ready to be observed" and "I think they will probably go to this classroom."

The district has quite purposefully set up a system wherein cheating is not only acceptable but expected. Arlene must get her awards, after all.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 17:20.

Yes, 4 or 5 new awards were expected but maybe, the big one is coming to the Queen this time and it ain't good. Well, good for the kids and us but not so much for Ackerman. If she is fibbing about not receiving this document, she's gone. If Arlene can't play the Race Card or the Children Card successfully this time.

Submitted by Markus (not verified) on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 07:07.

Come on. They - Leroy and MIchael included - have all lied so many times that it doesn't make a difference. Sorry to burst your bubble, but nothing is going to happen. The lies will keep coming and she will keep getting her fat paycheck to buy fat flowers. Because she's pretty.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 08:00.

Marcus----All things come to an end and this potentially, could be the lie that finally brings her down. I still have hopes for Nutter but I agree, he doesn't look good right now, that's for sure. They all need to go to jail. Yes, I agree, the Queen is pretty in a sorta knda, roundabout kind of way and deserves more flowers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 19:49.

I hope you realize that constantly calling Ackerman "the queen" makes you sound like a queen. It takes away from any valid message you may have. Hate her or not, she is a person, and by refusing to acknowledge that, you refuse you allow yourself to be taken seriously.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 21:25.

Thank You sweetie.

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