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Pa. wants 90 schools investigated for 2009 cheating

By the Notebook on Jul 13, 2011 05:16 PM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook/NewsWorks

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced Wednesday that it is ordering 40 districts and nine charter operators across the state to investigate possible cheating at 90 schools whose standardized test score results were flagged as suspicious in a recently surfaced 2009 report.

The charters and the districts, which include Philadelphia, will be contacted this week and will have 30 days to complete their investigations, said PDE spokesperson Tim Eller. 

“We will work with them as deeply as we need to,” he said.

Eller also said on Wednesday that PDE is conducting an internal investigation into why the “Data Forensics Technical Report” and accompanying files, which were prepared by Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) and delivered to PDE in July 2009, were not acted upon at the time

“It appears that when the report was received, nothing was done,” said Eller. “It only came to light to us through [the Notebook].”

In May of this year, the Notebook requested of PDE any forensic analysis of state test score results. Eller responded by providing the entire set of DRC files from 2009, apparently without being fully aware of what they contained.

Last week, the Notebook first reported on the DRC narrative summary, which used statistical analysis to try to ferret out possible cheating on the 2009 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exam. The report identified dozens of Pennsylvania schools that had some combination of statistically improbable schoolwide test score gains, unlikely jumps in student performance levels across years, and highly unlikely numbers of wrong answers that were erased and changed to the correct answer. 

The analysis was commissioned by PDE while the department was under the leadership of former Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, an appointee of former Gov. Ed Rendell.

“That report never reached my desk,” said Zahorchak on Wednesday. “I don’t have any idea why it languished.”

Zahorchak, who is the current superintendent of Allentown School District in Pennsylvania, was adamant that he would have acted on the report’s findings had he been made aware of them.

“When you have allegations that this degree of cheating was going on, you have to investigate,” he said. “Why it wasn’t done is something I can’t do anything about from my desk here.”

Among the Pennsylvania schools flagged for irregularities three or more times in at least one grade were 22 Philadelphia District schools and seven Philadelphia charters.

On Wednesday, a School District of Philadelphia spokesperson said that District had not yet been directed by PDE to conduct any investigations, but reiterated the District’s willingness to reopen old investigations and start new ones, pending support from PDE.

One school that would seem certain to be investigated is Wagner Middle in Philadelphia’s West Oak Lane neighborhood. Wagner was flagged six times in the report for its 7th grade results and three times for its 8th grade results.

Penny Nixon, the Philadelphia District’s current associate superintendent of schools, was Wagner’s principal when the PSSA was administered in 2009. Nixon was promoted to an administrative post in the Northwest regional office in July of 2009, a District spokesperson said.

In response to a request for comment from Nixon, the District released a statement saying that “until we have reason to believe otherwise, we stand on the integrity of [the] individuals who educate our students.”

District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs also sought to allay concerns about District staff being called upon to investigate one of the District’s senior leadership team.

“If the investigation requires a conversation with Ms. Nixon, she will be available,” said Childs. “As with all cases, the District will ensure that these investigations are conducted in a fair manner and without bias.”

On Wednesday, the Notebook uncovered detailed school-by-school results among the hundreds of files included in the DRC analysis. The report for Wagner illustrates the extent of the statistical irregularities flagged by the test maker.

Between 2007-08 and 2008-09, for example, the percentage of Wagner 7th graders scoring proficient or advanced on the PSSA jumped 23.1 points in math and 23.2 points in reading, which DRC’s analysis deemed highly improbable. The report also flagged the response sheets of Wagner’s 7th graders for having a highly suspicious number of wrong answers that were erased and changed to the correct answer. 

The “wrong-to-right” erasure patterns on the response sheets of Wagner’s 8th graders were also flagged by DRC. According to the report, the odds against the school’s 8th grade erasure patterns in reading and math having occurred purely by chance were almost one in one quadrillion. The report flagged as suspicious the individual student response sheets for 19 Wagner 8th graders in math and 34 Wagner 8th graders in reading. 

In order to protect students’ privacy rights, the Notebook posted the Wagner report only after redacting the anonymous identification numbers of individual students whose response sheets were flagged as suspicious.

The anonymous student identification numbers of every student in the state who had a response sheet flagged are contained in DRC files reviewed by the Notebook for the first time on Wednesday. PDE spokesperson Eller acknowledged that this information should have been redacted before it was provided to the press.

Editor’s note: The Notebook is still reviewing the hundreds of files included in the DRC analysis and will make additional information public when possible.

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Comments (76)

Submitted by Anonymous on July 13, 2011 7:00 pm

Lois Mondesire is implicated in this too (she was at Strawberry Mansion, which has been rumored for years to have cheated on PSSAs).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 7:04 pm

LOTS of people at every school have full access to PSSA Tests not just teachers who,of course, will be playing the bad guys.

Submitted by Your Neighbor (not verified) on July 13, 2011 8:03 pm

Isn't one of our other Associate Sups the former Principal of Thurgood Marshall?? Wasn't he there as Principal in 2009???

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:35 pm

Who Cares?? The point really is that LOTS of people not only teachers have full access to tests. In fact, teachers have far less access to the tests than several other people in each school. Teachers only have access when the kids are in the room.

Submitted by Your Neighbor (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:13 am

I am well aware of who has access to these tests: AP's, Testing Coordinators, SBIS', most everyone but teachers. My point was that Ms. Nixon was not the only Principal promoted whose school is on this list.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 2:15 pm

No idea what you're talking about.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 10:14 pm

He was put in charge of Promise Academies but was moved to Roberto Clemente, where test scores magically jumped dramatically this year, even though eighth graders are still counting on their fingers and writing essays without capital letters or punctuation. I was told that at the school, the people sent in to "support" during PSSAs would read children's answer books and then make a list of the questions they needed to review. Everyone is afraid to say anything...

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

Clemente has had enormous problems this year under the poor leadership of the principal. He has instilled nothing but fear. He is another one of Ackerman's bullies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 8:23 pm

"One in one quadrillion?" When a serious news article uses the word "Quadrillion," the time for action has arrived.

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 13, 2011 10:19 pm


I'm thinking to myself, "I don't even know what a quadrillion is..."
...all I thought was 'quad' is more than 'tri' --

Weight this heavily guys: a 1 in 1 quadrillion chance is still less than 1 in 1 100 trillion.

I think this should be on next year's PSSAs < or > ???

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 13, 2011 8:03 pm

Ridiculous! How can you expect honestly from the Philadelphia School District when they just announced they found no proof of cheating at Roosevelt?

Send in independent investigators. If there was an elephant standing in the corner of Arlene Ackerman's office, she'd state with a completely straight face - and be outraged if you didn't believe her - that it was not an elephant at all, but a mouse with a glandular condition.

Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:32 pm

YES! An internal investigation will yield nothing but more cover-up.
And BTW, your elephant/mouse burlesque metaphor made my evening.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:09 pm

Thanks. In all honestly, I swiped it from a comment made by a member of the House Judiciary Committee during impeachment hearings for Richard Nixon. A quick google search indicates it's been used quite a lot since. : )

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:38 pm


Submitted by Mayday (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:25 pm

Calm down, Penny. You're still second in line for the Queen's next scapegoat, well behind Masch.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:32 pm

I'm not Penny, I'm sure she's busy doing more important things. I'm just someone with a brain! I have a PHD and I took many courses in research and I also have been taught to look for authors who write with bias. It's clear this paper is not in support of teachers or urban education! This article is weak! I am a teacher and I know that this article is an attack on teaching. I also read the report provided by the PDE many other neighboring school districts were mentioned, but they weren't urban schools so their names aren't mentioned, only the students in the "hood" get a huge article alleging that they cheated. Urban students aren't suppose to improve?

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 12:06 am *do* realize Benjamin Herold is not writing a "paper" but is reporting facts, correct? ...clearly the "Independent Voice for Philadelphia Public Schools" is secretly against all teachers and public / urban education!

ALERT THE PRESS! ...oh wait, you don't trust them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:02 am

It's a Ph.D.

Submitted by Michael Roth (not verified) on July 14, 2011 9:40 am

This article does support honest Urban Educators and students. We need to find out when something dishonest is occurring and fix it. For the sake of the students and the adults who actually care about them. This does not mean Penny Nixon is guilty, but something is suspicious about what occurred at this school and many others.

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 14, 2011 10:20 am


Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 13, 2011 10:51 pm


Whoever the anonymous person is only antagonizes Nixon's reputation.

If I were her -- I would NOT want this person defending me, nor would I want to be associated with this person bc all it does is destroy her credibility...I feel bad for her. And this is coming from me, who unintentionally yesterday asked the question "wasn't she the principal at Wagner in 2009?" ...I asked the question & it turned into WW440. World War 440 -- none of us are out to "get" anyone in that building [except the Queen], crazy-PHD-holding-Nixon-defending-all-caps-anonymous person, least of all the STAFF AT THE NOTEBOOK. I'm sure Mrs. Nixon, with or without fault in this, is a very nice person & I actually feel bad that her defense comes from nonsensical incoherent thought.

I literally laughed out loud & said, "this cannot be real."

Please keep in mind, Mayday, that this is a continuance (& the ranter) from a discussion buried in last week's article ***look for July 12 & 13 postings....they are a little crazy & Benjamin Herold had to moderate & post facts...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:45 pm

you do realize that 53 students in class or roughly 200 is 1 out of 4 students in the 8th grade? 25% sounds significant to me.

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 13, 2011 11:59 pm

I think this person means "the worst investigatory article"
not that it matters to anyone else reading -- I was just trying to make sense of it. ::shrugs::

Submitted by Tara (not verified) on July 14, 2011 8:42 am

I also read through the report. Yes, there are many other school districts mentioned as having some irregularities. However, if you look through the actual number of students and/or grades, many schools had irregularities with 1 or 2 students representing less than 2 or 3% of all students in the grade who took the test. This could be a student who put answers on the scan sheet wrong and then went back to fix it. Maybe they started the scan sheet at item 2, rather than item 1. So the scan sheet would show a large number of incorrect to correct erasures. But many of the schools that the Notebook article highlighted were significantly higher than 2%. Many schools had issues in multiple grades.

Submitted by Michael Roth (not verified) on July 14, 2011 9:30 am

It sounds like you may have worked at Wagner in 2009. Listen I have been with the district for six years. There are lots of different ways people can cheat; students can be "guided", teachers can give answers, administrators and colleagues can take the tests and change the answers. When peoples careers are tied to these high -stake tests some people are dishonest and cheat, it happens and everyone knows it. What's sad is that the way things are currently set up the honest suffer. Apparently those in charge do not want to know the truth, hence folks ignoring evidence of cheating for three years.
These high-stake tests should be administered by an outside agency, not the people being judged by them. They should also be given on Saturday, rather than waste instructional time. If people have been found to be cheating they should have there licenses revoked.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 11:05 am

Was an attempt made to reach any of the staff at Wagner? I know usually anonymous quotes are utilized in these articles.

Submitted by TR (not verified) on July 15, 2011 2:19 pm

I like the Saturday idea.
I worked at Wagner as a .5 special assignment in 2005. I did admire Ms. Nixon's work ethic- she was everywhere and knew everything! I don't know if they cheated or not.
This is a big mess and will only make the public perception of Philly schools worse. I feel bad for the kids and teachers from the schools that are on the list.

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 13, 2011 9:15 pm

The worST investigation article, you mean? The article doesn't accuse anyone of anything. It's pointing up some investigation results.

There seems to be one or more posters who are unhealthily obsessed with Penny Nixon. What's that about? Are they her relatives? Penny herself? Her fairy godmother? This level of reaction is just bizarre.

Let's say there was cheating at Wagner. It seems like there's a good chance of that. Nixon could have been

A) completely oblivious to it.
B) She could have turned a blind eye.
C) She could have encouraged it by letting teachers know they'd be punished if their students didn't perform.
D) She could have been actively involved.

Hopefully, our answer is A). But right now, the only thing known (and addressed by the notebook) is that this particular school has been flagged for cheating and Ms. Nixon was at the time the principal. That's nothing to shout (all caps = shouting) about. And if the district is responsible for the investigation, nothing will ever come of it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 10:25 pm

No it doesn't accuse anyone directly, but I fell to see any other principal's name mentioned or their current role in the district. Yes, she does have supporters and it's not unhealthy!!! They are many people in this district who have worked for and alongside of Penny and we recognize her work ethic!! She is a product of the public school system of Philadelphia and this paper continues to tear down a hard worker with minimal facts. We stand up for her as hard workers!!! We will continue to support strong women in the district!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 10:59 pm

Yes, thank youI I don't know Penny Nixon. I am a teacher and believe that 19 of 115 (from my understanding it was more than 200 students at Wagner)of my students could possibly erase without being prompted. I am looking beyond the surface of this personal attack. Our new governor is a proponent of merit pay and suddenly he wants to use an analysis report. This investigation can get more teachers in trouble than principals. Forget about Penny Nixon and any other official this is a direct hit on teachers. Every teacher at a high performing neighborhood school will be viewed as cheaters. It is not fair!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 10:21 pm

it wasn't 19 students, it was 53 in the eighth grade alone.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2011 6:04 pm

Couldn't the 19 math students also be part of the reading students?

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 13, 2011 10:51 pm

I support strong women who are reasonable in their attitudes about the merits of standardized testing as the sole assessment of students. I have no opinion of Penny Nixon, but I suspect the emphasis on her in this article has to do with her current position and also the fact that Wagner was flagged six times. It's also possible tomorrow's follow-up will involve another school/principal.

There have been some really nasty words exchanged over the past month involving feelings concerning Penny Nixon and it has reached unhealthy proportions. Honestly, it might even make her feel uncomfortable (don't know her at all, but it would make me feel uncomfortable to know people were slamming each other on the Notebook in my name).

Please let's all work together and focus on getting things right for the kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 10:59 pm

You fell to mention the 90 schools!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 13, 2011 11:20 pm

It would be "fail" to mention the 90 schools.

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 13, 2011 11:34 pm

you beat me to the punch, KeepOn... I think the shouting actually draws more attention to the situation & makes it worse than it is, don't you?

& I'm sure if A isn't the correct answer someone can just erase it & get the right one. Our district seems to be really good at that. [I'm not exactly stating a FACT, just a 1 in a quadrillion chance that we can do it!!!]

Submitted by KeepOnTeachin' (not verified) on July 13, 2011 11:23 pm

LOL, Inspired Apple!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:54 am

I bubbled in "D" but someone erased it and made it an "A"

Submitted by Tommy (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:58 am

I bubbled in "D" but someone erased it and made it an "A"

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on July 13, 2011 11:05 pm

 This is one of a series of articles.   All the Philadelphia schools were listed in an earlier article.   Roosevelt and Wagner have been two that have gotten additional attention.   Roosevelt because of earlier allegations by school staff that were widely reported on and because the District cleared the principal and staff of any wrong doing.   Wagner because of the multiple flags and, yes, because the principal at the time is now a leading figure.   This report does not accuse Ms. NIxon of anything but it certainly raises questions about her credibility, questions that only an impartial investigation can answer.

But the more important point is this discussion needs to focus on the larger issue...the way education (and educators) have been degraded by the whole NCLB regime of high stakes testing.   Otherwise the conversation is just going to be about improving test security.   The educational bureaurcracy from Washington to Harrisburg to 440 N. Broad are invested in the testing regime and can be expected to try to narrow the debate.   We need to make the point that the growing testing scandal is not fundamentally about security procedures or corrupt people but rather is the logical outgrowth of a bad policy.

Submitted by Andrew Saltz (not verified) on July 13, 2011 11:09 pm

Thank you to the authors. You have given me hope for real journalism (outside of the Daily Show, of course).

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 1:21 am

Ron Whitehorne: yes.

Yes, yes, yes! What can we do with Pennsylvania, though? Check out our PA Secretary of Education's bio:

Ronald Tomalis, and I quote, "joined the Bush Administration in that capacity in May of 2001. During his time at the Department of Education, Tomalis has had an active leadership role in the implementation of No Child Left Behind." That's just beautiful. How the heck are we supposed to move anywhere when our own Secretary of Education helped draft the ideals behind NCLB?!

Did anyone read this though? The July 1 educational budget for 2011-12 by Corbett? Apparently he INCREASED funding? Am I reading this correctly or do I need to check my eyes?.... ***check middle of page, first link posted on July 1, entitled: Secretary of Education Announces Governor Corbett's Investment in Education

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 7:04 am

I read awhile ago that in the end, the education budget was cut a measly 3%. In the suburban districts, they're getting more than 90% of the funding they did last year. However, the two "distressed" districts are getting 65-70% of the funding they did last year. This is because Rendell created a bunch of specific funding areas that applied overwhelmingly to Philadelphia. Corbett took from the poor to give to the rich.

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 8:08 am

oh, oh, oh.

I see. He didn't necessarily cut funding -- just the districts that need it the most?! What a jerk. The letter sounded so hopeful...even I had a little twinkle of hope in my eye. Tue statement did say $62 million would be put towards career & tech Ed & 2.1 million for school bullying Prevention / school safety improvement. I guess the numbers don't mean much unless we compare them to our direct piece of the pie. :(

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 16, 2011 6:15 pm

What piece>> You mean the crumbs, right?

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 1:21 am

If that's true...Corbett didn't CUT 1 billion, he added 200+ million to last year's budget.

I don't understand financial matters much & might need some help with it -- maybe we are losing money because we don't have the extra stimulus money to work with, but the state didn't "cut" money, right?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 8:54 am

If you are wondering about some of the budget stuff, go here:

The ELC provides a bit of an analysis and summary of the budget in a pretty clear way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 11:53 am

a good analogy is imagine your parent gave you twenty dollars for an allowance. then one day, they only gave you six dollars but a friendly uncle gave you fifteen dollars to cover the difference, so now you have twenty one dollars for allowance. but two weeks later, your uncle left and took his fifteen dollars with him. your parent doesn't want to give you the twenty they used to give you before, but instead will now give you seven dollars.

so yes, technically, you have more money from your parent in comparison to the six dollars they gave you before. but it is far short of the twenty dollars they used to give you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 8:24 am

Unfortunately, Penny Nixon is being attacked because of her position. However, we know that cheating on the PSSA is going on in the School District of Philadelphia and Mastery Charter Schools as well. I'm sorry but Scott Gordon is not the great white hope everyone believes. I know for fact that they (Mastery) review the students test booklets and allow them to go back and complete the test after students turn in their booklets. They (Mastery) request that students go back and rewrite or correct their open ended questions. Cheating exist on all levels administrators and teachers. Everyone involved should be held accountable and dealt with accordingly. What happened to the principals of Roosevelt and Fitzsimons that were accused of cheating on the PSSA? Oh they were investigated by the district and transferred to another school - to destroy some more young people. Imagine the future if we really believed that "Children Come First".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 4:25 am

At my school, the principal and SBIS went around and checked student booklets that were already turned in. They then returned the booklets to students and told them to look at certain questions again. This was done in the presence of the teachers throughout our school. They also had teachers "review" prior to the start of the test. They also had students write down their test "strategies" on scratch paper before the test started.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 9:12 am

Wayman's office suggested the "scratch paper" idea. We were told to have students write down what they should do with a constructed response. We were told since math has a formula sheet, students should have the same for reading. This, to me, is an example of "gaming" the system versus "cheating." It shows how the end all of the PSSA is the score - not the learning. Wayman's office certainly threatened frequently regarding scores. I feel for principals whose schools had scores go down - Wayman will be all over them. In turn, the principals will be all over the teachers. As a teacher, I'm on the bottom so I get to carry the "load."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 10:51 am

Our scores actually increased and Wayman's band of incompetents still treated us like garbage. They are extremely unprofessional in their conduct and it is a travesty that they make so much money.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 9:58 am

Those are pretty serious allegations against Mastery. It is interesting to note that, despite having some the biggest gains in the city, Mastery is notably absent from the list of school the state has flagged for investigation.

Submitted by TR (not verified) on July 15, 2011 2:16 pm

The list didn't include charter schools. I am sure that the Mastery at Mann Elementary does cheat- they hired the cheating lazy individual who worked there when it was a SDP school (and bragged about the cheating)!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 10:36 am

I would like to see the complete list of schools (in Philly) that got flags, not just the ones that got three or more flags.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 14, 2011 10:17 am

The most serious ramification of any cheating seems to be overlooked in all of the coverage of this matter that I have read: Students who are given the message that cheating is OK are being lead through a door none of us should want to open.

It should also concern us that like Jaime Escalante's calculus class in LA, students who have worked hard to achieve will now find others questioning their honestly earned grades. Every year, I have two or three students whose grades (all of them - PSSAs, benchmarks, predictives and teacher-made evaluations) have soared because they have become more motivated, confident (and sometimes simply more mature). I don't know what it would do to them if they learned someone believed they could have been cheating (fortunately, none of them attended schools on the list, but in the future, what if any improvement was questioned because of all of this cheating?).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 11:53 am

I agree! I am a teacher and feel like damn if you do and damn if you don't. I think that is why I am so frustrated because I make it a point to move students every year. Will I be considered a cheater? I agree that this isn't about Penny Nixon(it is obvious this is a personal attack). I am more concerned about what this says about teachers in Philadelphia. I hope PFT has our backs with all of these allegations being thrown out there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 11:08 am

For years Philadelphia has advocated for our own to be in the top positions. When one finally makes it every attempt is made to bring her down. Crabs in a barrel. Although, I think this was a failed attempt because of the weak reporting. How many principals administered the PSSA to all of their 7th and 8th graders?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 12:25 pm

Until politics is taken out of the classroom and teachers are allowed to do what they have been trained to do, teach, our kids are doomed to getting a sub-standard education. We need to get the fluff out of curriculum and get back to Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. All of these state tests are useless. Of course school districts cheat on scores - it is all tied to money. These tests do not give parents a true picture of where their students are at when it comes to overall performance - because the numbers are tweaked in order to make AYP. We need to get these politicians out of our schools.

By the way, Pennsylvania is way down on the totem pole compared to other schools in the nation. PA schools are not only failing- THEY HAVE FAILED. We are raising a whole generation of students with a inferior education. Don't even gt me started on the number of kids who cannot even go on to college because families can't afford it because of the economy. We are raising a whole generation, who will be running our country in about twenty years, with an inferior education. They will not only be able to compete for jobs on a national market, but will not be able to compete on an international market.

Where will our country be in twenty years if education does not improve?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 1:44 pm

Although I think cheating is inevitable in a system where the rewards and sanctions SO much depend on test scores, I believe there's an even bigger issue - what happens to our curriculum when our focus for instruction is based on the tests? Schools may be able to enable students to increase their tests scores without cheating, but are we, in fact, teaching urban students what they really need for future success in college or at work? Are the skills required for testing the same as the skills needed in higher education? As a K-12 and higher education teacher I would argue absolutely NOT. When we are so focused on preparing students for math and reading tests and we eliminate the arts (for example), what disservice are we doing to our children?

Submitted by LSMCCORD (not verified) on July 14, 2011 1:07 pm

I work and live on the western side of the state. I am the principal of a highly proficient school. We do well on the PSSA. This is my worse nightmare. First can anyone cheat?--YES. Can you put safety measures in place, yes. All of our teachers are in-serviced on testing protocol. Two people are assigned to each room. No visible cell phones or cameras are permitted. Teachers must return all books promptly. I am in and out of those classrooms HOURLY during the test.
There are districts on this side of the state that have been flagged as well. Both urban and suburban districts. My concern is we are dismissing the fact that kids can do better. Teachers can learn to become more effective teachers. Students can be taught to be better test takers. The pressure to perform has led many districts to only do PSSA prep and not to educate. I am very concerned that my livelihood and my ability to take care of my family may be determined by 9 year olds and if they FEEL like performing. This is not why I became a teacher. I am scared. And I want out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 2:34 pm

When the students know that the test counts for nothing, as far as they as concerned, it is hard to motivate them. If they "fail" the PSSA do they fail the grade? NO. Does the score show up on their report cards? NO. What does the test mean to them? Nothing. What does it mean to us? Our paychecks, a place to work, food on the table. So the 7th and 8th graders ask, "What happens if I don't finish the test?" What can you honestly tell them? The school may close. They don't care. Too much emphases is placed on these tests that the students have no vested interest in unless they are in the 7th grade and are on track to go to a magnet high school.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on July 14, 2011 1:26 pm

So three times as many district schools as charters are implicated. This smacks of union fraud to misrepresent test scores. There will be no transparency in what is going on until the PFT is taken down. We have to outlaw collective bargaining for them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 3:05 pm

Even you, Taxpayer, ought to be able to figure out that if public schools outnumber charters 3 or 4 to 1 then there will probably be alot more public schools accused of cheating. It has nothing to do with the union. If the union was involved why did they only pick a handful of schools instead of all? Why don't you whine about the lack of transparency for Ackerman and her SRC buddies? Oh, that's right, never bite the hand that feeds you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 2:40 pm

Folks, don't respond to this troll. He is here to provoke. We know he hasn't a clue about what he is talking about and there is no hope of educating him, so don't bother.

Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on July 14, 2011 3:39 pm

Troll=someone who disagrees with the union.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 3:14 pm

There's 3 times or more public schools than charters, it's a relative number. But Imhotep CHARTER got more flags than any other school in the state. And the City Council person was screaming at the budget hearings to increase funding so Imhotep can expand.

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 14, 2011 4:03 pm

And according to some allegations, they learned how to cheat smarter (see the post on Mastery).

Submitted by Inspired_Apple on July 14, 2011 5:51 pm

Can we do something? Most of us are educators & relatively free this summer. I'm seeing the number of posts grow -- with each successive article we are all wildly tap tap tapping away to talk about our individual schools and problems.

Notebook staff: can we all meet up? Coffee shop? Lunch gathering? PARK?! Let's meet and talk about this so we can get together and DO SOMETHING! It's very cathartic, writing & agreeing (or some people disagreeing) on the testing issue -- LET'S MEET.

The Cheater's Club. We can talk about how to start pushing education & effective practices. We can't just complain! We have to come up with solutions!

~What do you guys think? Maybe the notebook staff can make a little announcement...on this such and such time -- we meet & share ideas! I'll wear an Inspired Apple Tee!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 14, 2011 6:22 pm

It's what happen when stakes are so insane to make the impossible, possible. NCLB and AYP are just crap, teaching to the test 24/7.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 1:37 pm

did anyone hear about more layoffs occurring the first week of august?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 3:27 pm

Perhaps Queenie could cap her French vacation by pleading (No - not her style: DEMANDING) political asylum. At least then she would no longer jingle the keys for the Arkham nuthouse she's made of this District.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 3:57 pm

When Einhorn wanted to escape the PA law he headed for France. Why the suddern interest in France, Arlene?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 15, 2011 4:28 pm

You know the saddest part is that no one is thinking about the fact that the kids can not read and can not do the math. In many cases the new teachers can not either. There have been so many "extra" jobs put on the teachers like we are the parents now. Then we are told what to teach, when to teach it and our every minute is measured. I am not able to actually teach my students because the crap they buy for curriculum isjust that crap, but I must follow it completely. It doesn't meet the needs of many of my students but I can not waiver no matter how much i know is wrong. I know how to teach students to read, I know the secret but no one will listen and because of that I spend countless hours after school tutoring my students for free because you know what I don't give a &hit about the scores, I do care that my kids learn how to read. Get the government out of my classroom and let me teach.

Submitted by hilda (not verified) on January 23, 2012 8:15 am


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2014 1:45 am

In 2009 already heard about it, there are a lot of fraudulent activity on the inside, such as on behalf of other students exam students can, in my friend's blog already had a comment. Teacher can even sell the answer in private, administrators, and they colleagues to take the test, and change the answer papers. sounds very strange thing for you, but it happened, I think most people know it, but no one stood up said.

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