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Scores plunged in many schools targeted in cheating probe; early grades did poorly

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 16, 2012 03:54 PM

By Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

Standardized test scores dropped precipitously in Philadelphia District schools this year, with most of the biggest declines occurring in schools under investigation for possible cheating and in the early grades.

According to preliminary results from the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks, districtwide scores fell roughly 8 percentage points in math and 6 percentage points in reading.

In a year when stricter test protocols were in place, 51 of 53 District schools involved in a statewide probe of suspicious erasures on standardized tests saw scores drop in both reading and math. In the vast majority of the 53, the drops were more than 10 percentage points. Two schools saw scores in one subject increase slightly.

Some of those schools saw scores plummet by as many as 30 or 40 – in one case, 70 – percentage points. These results were accompanied by new evidence suggesting persistent cheating on the state test at the 53 schools through 2011.

Across the District, the test-score declines are most stark in the elementary grades.

In 3rd-grade math, for example, the number of students scoring proficient or above dropped from 66 percent to roughly half. Third-grade reading scores fell about 13 percentage points.

Similar sharp decreases occurred up through grade 6. Scores leveled off somewhat in grade 7 and 8, and actually rose slightly in grade 11. 

The PSSA results obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks are preliminary and still subject to some minor adjustments, but are not likely to swing significantly.

Spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the District is disappointed in the results and is still attempting to determine the reasons for the drops.

In Pennsylvania, the PSSA is administered to grades 3 through 8, and again in grade 11. Between 2002 and 2011, there had been a consistent upward trajectory for both reading and math scores in nearly every grade – a trend often touted by District and city leaders.

Some of those results have been thrown into doubt, however, by the combination of this year’s PSSA results and a developing scandal involving possible cheating on the exams between 2009 and 2011.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education launched a statewide probe into suspicious test score results last summer, after the Notebook/NewsWorks reported on a previously unreleased 2009 “forensic audit” detailing suspicious erasures and other statistical irregularities in the results of dozens of schools across the commonwealth.

Confidential information obtained by the Notebook/NewsWorks shows that nearly all of the 53 District schools currently involved in the state’s investigation were flagged for extremely high numbers of suspicious “wrong-to-right” erasures in multiple subjects, grades, and/or years between 2009 and 2011.

Guided by those findings and by directives from the state, the District last spring imposed tough new test security measures in schools across the city, with the harshest measures reserved for the schools under the greatest suspicion of cheating. 

It is not possible to quantify the impact of the new protocols.  But a Notebook/NewsWorks review found that 48 of the 53 schools involved in the cheating probe saw noticeable test-score drops in at least one subject in 2012, with all but two showing declines in both.

Some of the declines at schools being probed are mind-boggling:

  • Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson saw its 11th-grade math scores drop more than 70 percentage points. 
  • F.S. Edmonds, a K-6 elementary school in Northwest Philadelphia, saw its schoolwide scores plunge nearly 50 points in both reading and math.
  • Emlen, another K-6 elementary school in Northwest Philadelphia, saw its schoolwide scores drop roughly 40 points in both reading and math.

All told, 19 of the 53 schools involved in the cheating probe experienced drops of at least 20 points in both reading and math.

By contrast, only a two of the nearly 200 District schools not under investigation showed drops of 20 points or more in both reading and math.

Many of those other District schools, however, did show declines of 20 points or more in one subject, double-digit declines in both subjects, or huge fluctuations in proficiency rates from grade to grade.

Nebinger Elementary is one of a number of schools flagged for suspicious erasure patterns in the 2009 state analysis but not included in the current list of 53 schools under investigation. Its math and reading scores dropped this year by nearly 25 and 20 percentage points, respectively.

At Jay Cooke Elementary, which has not been flagged for suspicious erasures, there were still unusual patterns. Only about three in 10 3rd graders scored proficient in math, down about 50 points from the year before.

Cooke was also one of a number of schools that showed wide swings in proficiency rates from grade to grade – another statistical sign that merits a closer look, according to experts.

Some special-admission schools also showed significant declines. Scores at Girls' High dropped more than a dozen points in both reading and math, while Academy at Palumbo experienced a double-digit drop in reading.

Fewer than 30 schools across the District appear to have improved test scores in both subjects. The largest gains were made by High School of the Future, where scores went up roughly 25 points in both reading and math. Parkway West High School also showed more than 20-point jumps in both subjects.

It is not yet clear how many District schools met their federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress performance targets, which were raised this year.

On Friday, District officials will recognize principals of those schools that hit their targets during a ceremony at Fels High School. A ceremony recognizing schools for making AYP that was scheduled for Friday has been cancelled until new Superintendent William Hite officially takes over.





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Comments (106)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 5:22 pm

Ceremony was cancelled as Dr. Hite couldn't be there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 6:04 am

Yes, that is what principals were told. It was cancelled because they knew information about the cheating scandal was coming out. Why celebrate deceit?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 6:15 pm

It is a huge disappointment for urban education. It can be argued pressures to do well caused cheating. However, it is a choice to be ethical. Many made the wrong choice and are poor role models for kids. This scar will take a long time to heal. The district needs to complete the investigations as fast as possible and excise the cancer. It won't be able to move forward until this is done.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 16, 2012 6:05 pm

Ben and Dale,

When you say that scores at one school plunged 70 percentage points, do you mean that they went from, say, 90 percent proficient to 20 percent proficient?

Do you use the terms points and percentage points interchangeably? I know there are numerical ranges that are used to rate the level of achievement, and I wanted to be sure you weren't talking about those numbers (eg, a 1200 in reading moving down to an 1150).


Submitted by Benjamin Herold on August 16, 2012 7:46 pm

Thanks for the questions, Joan.  Responses below.

When you say that scores at one school plunged 70 percentage points, do you mean that they went from, say, 90 percent proficient to 20 percent proficient?


Do you use the terms point and percentage points interchangeably?




Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 6:43 pm

So, how many schools made AYP? Scores don't just have to "go up" to make AYP.

Since Ackerman fled last year, after concerns of cheating were raised, I assume she won't have to add to her resume a cheating scandal under her watch. Knowing Ackerman, she will not take any responsibility. This leads to Penny Nixon - the cheating not only occurred at her school but at a number of schools in the Northwest Region under her reign. Will principals, such as the principal previously at Roosevelt Middle and now at Wilson Middle, have sanctions that include losing their administrative certifications?

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 16, 2012 7:59 pm

I understand that Joel Boyd, formerly principal at Wilson, is now the superintendent of Santa Fe schools. I believe he is only 33, so he's had a meteoric rise...not a lot of teaching experience on that resume!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 8:55 pm

Boyd only taught a couple of years - TFA 2 years and out crap. He jumped from job to job in Philly under Ackerman's reign. Now, Boyd is hiring her to "help" him in Santa Fe. Foolish Santa Fe School Board hired him.

The notorious cheating that took place at Roosevelt Middle was under Stefanie Ressler. Ackerman and Nixon rewarded Ressler (remember Nixon was head of the Northwest Region when Ressler orchestrated the cheating at Roosevelt) by giving her Wilson Middle School.

I won't hold my breath to see if anyone is held accountable for the cheating - there are plenty of administrators and regional office staff who need to be held accountable.

Submitted by Philly Activist (not verified) on August 16, 2012 9:25 pm

Joel Boyd looked good on paper and that was it. He was pompous and didn't really do much for parental involvement. When he became Assistant Superintendent in Academic Division 6, he had an excuse every month for why he couldn't attend meetings where parents were involved. What a waste!

I believe he is another "Broadie." I pray for the students and people of Santa Fe. They now have "Pretty Boy Boyd" and the thief Arlene Ackerman within their District.

Arlene will pilfer another school district and she has already taught her "Golden Boy" well. I can't wait for the headlines in a few years down the line when they all realize they have been had!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 16, 2012 10:16 pm

It won't take years, maybe around Thanksgiving. They do get cable in Santa Fe. Bottom line is that Ackerman did what she was hired to do here and did it well, destroying the finances and credibility of the District to pave the way for the privateers to save us from ourselves.

Submitted by Teacher (not verified) on August 18, 2012 6:41 pm

It won't even take that long. Boyd has already begun his assault on small schools in Santa Fe, and brought in a "transition team," including Ackerman at a reputed cost of 25k + expenses, for a couple of weeks vacation in Santa Fe. The school board loves Boyd because they wanted a corporate reform super. Well, they got one.

Boyd is not a Broadie, neither is Ackerman, but they might as well be. They both came out of Harvard's Urban Superintendent's Program. The agenda there is the same as at the Broad: bankrupt public schools, sell them out to corporate interests, fire teachers, and, ultimately, privatize.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 18, 2012 7:14 pm

What makes you think Dr. Ackerman is not a Broadie? She was on the Board of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent in Philadelphia.

When Mayor Nutter had the report written about the conflict over who would take over Martin Luther King, which played a major role in Ackerman being bought out for $1million, the report stated on two occasions that during her interviews Ackerman was being "shadowed" by trainees from the Superintendents Academy at the Broad Foundation.

Submitted by WatchingItGoDown (not verified) on August 18, 2012 7:49 pm

I stand corrected. I was referring to her degree-conferring institution. You're right, she's plenty tight with the Broad. The Harvard program is the same kind of sad joke as the Broad.

I'm in Santa Fe, and still learning the extent of the mess we've gotten our schools into with Boyd. Makes me wanna cry. For our schools.

Submitted by mike (not verified) on November 9, 2012 10:55 pm
We're just getting it now. He screamed at a union rep at a school board meeting Wed. Lunatic. And it is not the usual famous Philly bad manners.
Submitted by Cate Moses (not verified) on November 9, 2012 11:03 pm
Yes, he's an arrogant little boy in a big suit. Anyone who is paying attention here in Santa Fe could see before Boyd even moved in that he has a pathological hatred for teachers and doesn't care about kids or anything other than his own self aggrandizement. We need to stand up and send this nasty little piece of work packing before the real damage begins, which it already has. His accomplishments to date include totally fabricating "data" about our teachers being absent at twice the national rate--a lie he pulled out of thin air; bragging about building a rubber room for teachers; and forcing teachers to sign a rambling, incoherent document agreeing to quadruple their workload. He's also fond of popping into classrooms and yelling at teachers in front of their students and colleagues. I attended a "listening session" in which he was supposed to be listening to our community. He talked for almost the entire 2 hours, interrupting every speaker, calling every woman "Miss," and trashing teachers at every opportunity, which seems to be pretty much all he does. Ackerman taught him well. She's lurking in the shadows here in Santa Fe/Albuquerque, siphoning consulting fees out of district funds.
Submitted by Joe. (not verified) on November 10, 2012 7:53 am
Yes, he's a trash talking know nothing. That's just the way it is, was and likely will be. A zero.
Submitted by mike (not verified) on November 10, 2012 11:12 am
I think I know or have heard of you, Cate! I'll try to hit you up on fb. All of the above I heard is true. I had a kindergaden (sp!) teacher tell me he came in and humiliated him in front of the kids. We are in grave trouble here in Santa Fe. Steve Carillo has lost his mind. He is either blind to it or . . i dunno! The board has to wake up soon. Hopefully he will have a warrant for his arrest issued over the testing scandal and then he will be out.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:21 pm

Interesting...Another Broadie like Ackerman. Does anyone anywhere know of a Broadie that has had a positive impact on an urban district?
I, too, feel sorry for the children of Sante Fe.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 1:32 pm

Hite is a Broadie...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:00 pm

You won't have to hold your breath. The letters from the state are scheduled to be received today. Watch for news to break soon.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 1:48 pm

Please clarify. Do you mean anyone connected with cheating will be canned? Does this include "I-can-not-tell-a-lie" Nixon?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 1:01 pm

No it refers to the top 11 or so.
"Anyone connected with cheating" is painting with a rather broad brush. I would hope that only the guilty are penalized. And also I am only referring to the action by the state of removing their certification. The SDP has remained silent on this issue, perhaps because PA is requiring them to. I don't know. I don't think they can keep their positions w/o certification.
I have known Penny Nixon for years. I worked closely with her for a year right before she became principal at Wagner. I do not believe she had actual knowledge of the cheating at Wagner or Roosevelt. In fact, she always seemed to have a high level of integrity in all of my dealings with her.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

Nixon is tied to many of the schools form the Northwest Region. Nixon did the bidding of Ackerman. Integrity - that is not a word I associate with Nixon. She needs to resign. Quickly.

Submitted by gitarrenunterricht (not verified) on March 23, 2014 6:27 am
gitarrenunterricht, münster
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 2:03 pm

True leaders take responsibility. Nixon needs to take responsibility and resign.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2012 6:32 am

As a teacher, I believe that this scandal is too widespread not to have a negative impact on Penny Nixon. There were issues with test results during her tenure at Wagner according to the erasure report. There were also issues with the administration of the test this year that were kept quiet because the current principal is a friend. This makes it difficult for others to function when you know nepotism continues to exist. One need only to look at the list of Central Office staff to understand that to be a friend of Penny Nixon guarantees protection and promotion. My principal and SBTL did a great job in coordinating PSSA testing and our test scores went down. Is this an indication of cheating prior years? To those that have allegedly plead guilty shame, shame, shame on you. To all others let's continue to do the best we can under dire circumstances.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on August 18, 2012 8:40 pm



I'd be interested in speaking with you more about your experience with this year's PSSAs.  If you'd be willing, please contact me at




Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 20, 2012 12:21 pm

There were no issues with test administration at Wagner this year. You should refrain from gossip unless you actually know what you are talking about. Having a seating chart on the wall shaped like a rectangle is hardly grounds to suggest inappropriate behavior. We are bordering on the absurd.

Submitted by WatchingItGoDown (not verified) on August 18, 2012 7:53 pm

I'm in Santa Fe. Yes, we are in for it with Boyd. He's brought in a "transition team," including Ackerman, for a week or two of all-expenses-paid vacation in Santa Fe, at a cost to taxpayers of 25k + expenses.

He's not a Broadie, but he may as well be. He and Ackerman are products of the Harvard Urban Superintendents' Program, which has the same agenda as the Broad Foundation (sell out public schools to corporate curriculum and e-school interests, fire teachers, bankrupt the school district, then say it can't be fixed and privatize it.) Most of us here cannot afford private schools, and there are only a handful of community grassroots charter options. Our kids and teachers are screwed.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 18, 2012 7:48 pm

Note my post to a previous comment below. On the Board of the Broad Foundation in 2009 along with Ackerman was Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach for America. Boyd started in Teach for America and went straight into Ackerman's administration in Philadelphia. Do you not see the connection? My post to a previous comment:

What makes you think Dr. Ackerman is not a Broadie? She was on the Board of the Broad Foundation while she was Superintendent in Philadelphia.

When Mayor Nutter had the report written about the conflict over who would take over Martin Luther King, which played a major role in Ackerman being bought out for $1million, the report stated on two occasions that during her interviews Ackerman was being "shadowed" by trainees from the Superintendents Academy at the Broad Foundation.

Submitted by WatchingItGoDown (not verified) on August 18, 2012 8:11 pm

Re: "On the Board of the Broad Foundation in 2009 along with Ackerman was Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer and founder of Teach for America. Boyd started in Teach for America and went straight into Ackerman's administration in Philadelphia."

Teach for America; it gets worse by the minute. I'm catching on fast. Thanks.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 18, 2012 8:45 pm

While your at it, you should check out these gems from the 2009 Mission Statement of the Broad Foundation. The statement on Page 5 is the crown jewel. I know its hard to take, but our eyes need to wide open!

Page 5
The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned. With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.

Page 10
Prior to becoming U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he hosted 23 Broad Residents. Duncan now has five Broad Residents and alumni working with him in the U.S. Department of Education.

Page 20
2007: Encouraged by the progressive leadership of Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, The Broad Foundation invests $4.5 million for Chicago Public Schools to launch a new data system to streamline its human resource systems.

Page 22
2008: The Broad Center names an independent board of directors chaired by New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein and including Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan (later named U.S. secretary of education), retired IBM Corporation Chairman and CEO Louis Gerstner, and former Harvard President Larry Summers (later named assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council).

Page 22
2009: Broad Superintendents Academy graduate Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana is appointed by President Barack Obama as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education for the U.S. Department of Education.

Page 23
2009: Three members of The Broad Foundation executive staff are loaned to the U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The “loaned executives” assist in the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as it relates to distribution of education funds.

Page 23
2009: The Aldine Independent School District outside Houston wins the 2009 Broad Prize. Their win is announced at the U.S. Capitol by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Finalists Broward County Public Schools, Fla.; Gwinnett County Public Schools, Ga.; the Long Beach Unified School District, Calif.; and Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas are celebrated in remarks given by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and other members of Congress.

Page 25
In 2009: The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems Board of Directors includes:

Joel Klein, Chair, Chancellor New York City Department of Education
Barry Munitz, Vice Chair, Trustee Professor California State University, Los Angeles
Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools
Richard Barth (Chief Executive Officer KIPP Foundation)
Henry Cisneros, Chairman of City View America, former U.S. Secretary of HUD
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education (on Board until Feb. 2009)
Louis Gerstner, Jr., Retired Chairman and CEO, IBM Corporation
Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent Seattle Public Schools
Dan Katzir, Managing Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Wendy Kopp (CEO and Founder of Teach for America)
Margaret Spellings, President and CEO of Margaret Spellings and Company, former U.S. Secretary of DOE
Melissa Megliola Zaikos, Autonomous Management and Performance Schools Program Officer, Chicago Public Schools
Michelle Rhee, Chancellor District of Columbia Schools
Lawrence Summers, Director National Economic Council
Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, U.S. News & World Report; Publisher of the New York Daily News

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 20, 2012 7:38 pm

Maria Goodloe-Johnson is no longer the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools because of a financial scandal in the SPS which occurred under her watch. See for details.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 20, 2012 7:00 pm

This is another example of problems with the Broad Foundation trained leadership. The SDP is bringing in another Broad Foundation trainee - Hite. This does not bode well for Philadelphia.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 9:45 am

Those administrators who were principals/ assistant principals at the time of cheating should be forced to give back the perks, accolades and cash bonuses they were given for their "fantastic" results.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 7:38 pm

The trap was set, and the School District dutifully fell into it. The culture of fear created by Ackerman played a large part in this scandal. People were ordered to squeeze blood out of stone and many, fearing for their livelihoods, fell into the trap.

Arne Duncan is wrong. Education cannot overcome poverty. Poverty is destroying education with the assistance of those who want to turn these schools in low income areas into a profit making enterprise from tax payer dollars.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 16, 2012 9:50 pm

Exactly right--The Poverty Cycle destroys everything it touches. Duncan knows that and here is comes, so does Obama. The privateers see the golden goose in Urban areas to make the already rich, richer. It needs to be stopped by any means necessary.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:03 pm

The culture of fear created by Ackerman -- so true. I agree that people should have been stronger and have had the backbone to look Ackerman and her assistant superintendents in the eye and simply say they will do their best, but when directly threatened - and they were both publicly and privately -- with losing their jobs, having their schools' reconstituted and having the faculty spread to the winds, some succumbed to the threats. They shouldn't have but they did. It is really so unexpected?
It is a crime to make terroristic threats and these were.. why not charge AA with making terroristic threats.
BTW, education can overcome poverty, it's just not easy and instead of being willing to do the hard work, people want a silver bullet. There isn't one, just hard work.

Submitted by Sandra A. Fields (not verified) on August 16, 2012 9:22 pm

Maybe if teachers were allowed to just teach, stop trying something new every year. In math, stop trying to teach why 2+2 = 4 and have kids memorize the facts through daily drills in 1st and 2nd grades. When I was taught at Ivy Leaf School we drilled the kids every day on a fact every two weeks. Tests on that fact the first week and the 2nd week test on all the facts learn thus far. My students knew the facts when they were tested in April. None of my students used their fingers either. Sometimes old works better than new. The best math program by far is Saxon Math. Use that and the children will never have a problem with math.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 10:16 pm

You'll be happy to learn that the Common Core State Standards, that our new Planning and Scheduling Timelines are based upon, allow teachers to do what you said, daily drills to help kids memorize facts. Out with Everyday Math, and in with whatever it takes for students to master the learning objectives. I'm really excited about it!

Submitted by RogueTeacher (not verified) on August 17, 2012 1:41 pm

I am much happier with the 10-week timeline. However, there are no plans to provide supplemental materials for math. Therefore, that means it comes out of the teacher's pocket, or we need to spend time applying for grants. I wish the SDP would think things through more clearly before implementing changes. It's like saying here you can do what you want but you have to pay for it. Teachers in my school are already saying they are sticking with what they know because they don't want to have to a) pay out of pocket, and b) spend too much time planning. I feel differently, but I just wish the SDP would allow more money for supplemental resources.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 6:20 pm

HI Rogue,
I feel your frustration, and I agree with you. From reading some of your other posts, I think that we have some similar views of education, including a willingness to step outside the box and do whatever it takes.
I think that teachers in my building will say things that are similar to the things that your teachers are saying, once they take the time to consider what the Common Core State Standard implementation will actually look like in the classroom, especially as they relate to math.

I have a suggestion- Why don't we be proactive and band together, and set up some informal grade-level teacher groups to map out some lessons for the first quarter? We can reference materials, including which Everyday Math lessons fit with the desired learning outcomes. It makes no sense for all of us to reinvent the wheel. What do you think?

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 3:51 pm


I have heard good things about Everyday Math. What are your thoughts about Everyday Math? Based on your comment, it sounds like it was hard for you to meet the objectives using Everyday Math. Can you elaborate? Thanks.


Submitted by ka3kcj on August 17, 2012 4:02 pm

Everyday Math is an excellent Math series if taught the way it is supposed to be taught. With the Do-Nows and sample tests and PSSA Test Prep activities imposed on us the past two-three years, It was not taught the way it is supposed to be. Part of the problem is there has been no ongoing support in the form of staff development offered with any regularity. Drill is present in Everyday Math on the form of the games like Top-It, Multiplication Baseball, Division Dash, etc. If the teachers don't use the games, then there is no drill. Early grades should all have 100 CHarts at every desk and activities should be done with them every day. Everyday Math is not the way you and I were taught, but I sure wish I had been taught with it in Elementary School. I would not have had so much trouble with math. Our school switched to it a couple years before the District did. The first year it really made a huge difference in problem solving/open-ended items on the PSSA. It takes a teacher out of his/her comfort zone and I think that is why so many teachers don't like it. I love it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:59 pm

Not for Kindergarten it isn't!!!! I know first hand.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:44 pm


Thank you for your comments. I had an instructor who is a principal in the District and who also taught math for many years. She really likes Everyday Math because it is a constructivist curriculum. For example, it provides multiple ways of teaching the operations, namely with 3-digit addition, subtraction, and multiplication. For example, a student can choose to use the traditional multiplication algorithm or the lattice method. When I was in school, we were all taught the traditional algorithm of solving problems. Allowing students a choice in which algorithm works for them gives them some ownership over their learning and makes them feel that they have some power in their own learning.

Also, Everyday Math comes with so many manuals and activity books, allowing for the teacher to integrate a number of hands-on activities, drills, and teaching techniques. It does not rely exclusively on direct instruction. Direct instruction is important for teaching new concepts, but other instructional strategies can help students master content. For example, games are often much more engaging for students than just doing a worksheet or timed test. Also, a curriculum like Everyday Math does have the open-ended questions and and activities to help build higher-level thinking. These are probably very good preparation for open-ended questions on the PSSAs.

However, if there is no training or professional development, I can imagine that many teachers, especially new teachers, may struggle with implementing Everyday Math because it has so many components and uses a different approach than many other curricula. Also, if there is test prep which amounts to a regurgitation of knowledge and facts using pencil and paper, I can imagine that these could be difficult to integrate with Everyday Math.

This highlights a problem with standardized tests. There are different curricula in every district. In addition, my understanding is that the PSSAs focus on procedural knowledge of mathematics more than on conceptual knowledge. However, the conceptual knowledge is the most important because when a child understands concepts, he or she can use this knowledge and apply it to different situations and types of problems. Procedural knowledge does not build this kind of cognitive flexibility. Everyday Mathematics does address conceptual knowledge, but if it puts students at a disadvantage on the PSSAs, then in terms of accountability, Everyday Math isn't the right curriculum, even if it is better long-term for building mathematical knowledge and skills.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 5:52 pm

All of that Monkey See, Monkey Do stuff is nonsense and that's why it's NOT used in the more affluent districts. Real Mathand Reading Series are used. Reading Mastery, Distar Math, Everyday Math, The Corrective Series are all the same--drill and kill. They don't work and everybody knows it. The kids are bored to death and learn nothing useful.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 18, 2012 4:11 pm

Lower Merion uses Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space ( The site for the program is

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 18, 2012 4:28 pm

Everyday Math isn't drill and kill. Central Bucks SD uses it ( and Radnor Township SD uses it ( Both of these are affluent districts.

Submitted by Sandra A. Fields (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:02 pm

Several years ago when I was a teacher at Ivy Leaf School, I had the opportunity to attend a training for Everyday Math. I left after two days still not understanding the program. If I cannot understand it how am I suppose to teach it to my students. Luckily my director decided to go with Saxon Math. If the program had not been expensive, we would have continued to use it. It was a hands on math program that engaged the students in fun and interesting activities and sometime tasty treats like apples. It was a lot of work on the teacher to make various manipulatives such as a bar graph that the children completed as a class activity.
One thing that much be done in schools especially the lower grades - strict discipline and serious consequences. There needs to be an effective discipline plane instituted in the school, not just the classroom. When rules are broken there should be a graduated consequence that fits the offense. Parents must be involved on a daily basis. If the discipline was handled more effectively I believe there will be a drastic difference in what one would see in these schools. How can a teacher work with small groups or test individuals reading abilities if her students are walking around, talking, fighting one another. If children are suppose to be in an assembly listening to someone talk about their career then there should not be a child walking around hitting her classmates and running away from adults who are trying to contain her. These are just a couple of instances that I have seen during this last school year. All of these things work together effective academic programs and discipline policies - help to make a productive and successful school year.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:11 pm

I'm happy to give you my thoughts about Everyday Math. It's something that I feel quite strongly about. I'll give you an abbreviated version, and please don't think that I'm a negative person/teacher, because I'm anything but :)
I've never had trouble creating objectives for EM, but getting most of my students to meet them most of the time... That was a problem.

In theory, EM seems like a great program, research-based, and all. Here are my issues with it-
1. EM covers a LOT of content over the course of the year, and there is not enough time for most students to reach mastery of the content and skills. When people tell you you, "Time for review is built in," know that the amount of time is insufficient. Besides, review does little good for children who still haven't gotten it yet.
2. When students move on to the next grade, already weak in certain skills, the pace of the curriculum is fast, and it becomes almost impossible for them to catch up. Small group instruction helps, IF you have enough support in the building to make that happen. It's difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do it by yourself, depending on the students, their needs, the year...
3. The curriculum is all over the place, which adds to the difficulty with mastery. In one week, students: gather data and create a data table and graph a chart, learn how to solve 'Frames and Arrows' problems that have two rules, and learn how to make change by counting up. This is an actual example of 3 sequenced lessons from a Teacher's edition. The EM texts are on the District website. I'm not sure if you need a password to access them.
4. The EM program requires a lot of support from home. The Homelink (homework) is connected to the lesson that has taken place that day. If children have no support at home, they miss out on an opportunity to get extra support and reinforcement for what was taught that day.

I'm sure that there are teachers out there who will slam me for my criticisms- Oh well. I've experienced EM as both a teacher and a parent, and I feel how I feel.
I hope that this helps.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 5:21 pm

You make very valid points and you sound more realistic than overtly negative. It sounds like Everyday Math may work well at a school like Penn Alexander or Greenfield, but not at the majority of elementary schools in the District. I cannot access it from the website, but my school has it in its library. It sounds like EM is not a good fit for most of the District-run elementary schools where many of the children to lack at-home support, there are many special education students, or many students are below grade level. I appreciate your points and your perspectives.

Submitted by ka3kcj on August 18, 2012 9:42 pm

I also feel strongly about Everyday Math. In the old days, there was a specific order to the Math books, In September, we did numeration, in October it was addition and subtraction, November meant multiplication, December was division. January was problem solving, February brought in fracions, then there was the test review which was difficult since everyone had forgotten how to do expanded notation and rounding from September. March/April was reserved for the TEST and then May and June , since it was after the test, was a mishmosh of topics, probably NOT Data, Geometry and Measurement that would be in the back of the book.

The whole purpose of Everyday Math being "all over the place" was to never allow the students to forget numeration or problem solving or data, etc., because you were always reviewing it in Math boxes and homework.

There were a lot of concepts taught because some were just bring introduced, some were expected to be mastered and some would be mastered the following year. Each skill was planned to take 2 years and 5-6 lessons for the skill to be mastered. It doesn't mean that you don't address problems with it if you see them, but it means the skill is being honed throughout the year(s). Now, the PSSA sometimes was not in sync with EDM, but mostly was right on the money. SOme PSSA are almost verbatim taken from activities in the EDM book for that grade level or the previous grade level.

I had small group math lessons at least 3 times a week, treating the period like a reading block. Worked like a charm. Kids that knew what they were doing were assigned Math Boxes, those that needed a little help had a short lesson and were assigned games to reinforce skills. Some went on the computer and did First in Math, some needed a LOT of help. But everyone got help on their level and everyone did hard problems in 5 herterogeneous groups. I had 25 kids and no help. Some days worked better than others, and I had to accomodate the Special Ed kids.

It was no better in the old days. The kids know so much more math now than they did back in the 80's and 90's. I was the Math teacher and test coordinator back then so I know what our scores were. The upper grade teachers stated just last year that they are happy with the EDM program because they don't have top introduce so many new toplcs - the kids are already familiar with them.

Parent help at home will always be a problem since the parents didn;t learn the concepts this way. Parents can be engaged though if you invite them back to school for Math night and teach them some of the games that are the drill and practice. Invite them to sit in on your class at math time. Assign your students homework that is teaching an adult how to compute with a new method or play a game. Parent comments are required. There are so many ways teachers can make EDM easy and efficient. It goes back to enough staff development. There HAS to be planned PD. so that teachers can feel comfortable with the system

Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on August 17, 2012 10:21 pm

Thank God that Everyday Math is gone. It all it does is confuse the kids because they are literally learning something new everyday without mastering any concept.

My son would bring his math homework home and it was a nightmare! It does nothing to teach the kids the math facts. Multiplication being taught using latice??? The worst thing ever! Neither my son (or I) understood it - it made no sense.

Enough parents complained last year that the teacher started actually sending home homework that included write your times tables 2 or 3 times. It took my son 2 days to learn his times tables.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 9:58 am



Our children AREN'T being drilled in math!!!! Why not?????????

Every other day, they're leaning a new one day, telling time the next, estimating (guesstimating) the next!! It's ridiculous!!!

They need to be drilled every day on additon and multiplication!! Every Day!!! These are the basics!! If our kids aren't drilled with the basics, how can we expect them to know and understand ALL forms of math!!

We are failing our young kids and we are producing a world of uneducated adults!!! SHAME ON US!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 10:55 pm

Teaching to the tests, hours administering the tests, cheating on the tests, reorganizing the School District based on the tests! Just look at all of the instruction time wasted in the lives of this generation of students. On top of this Ackerman deliberately bankrupted the District, with Corbett's help, in order to advice the privatization agenda. This is a historic crime for which no one will probably pay anytime soon. History, meaning the next generation, will judge these crimes harshly!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 16, 2012 11:48 pm

I agree and ALL by design, none of it was accidental.

Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on August 16, 2012 11:50 pm

Just a few comments in response to a few assertions:

"Across the District, the test-score declines are most stark in the elementary grades."

It is erroneous to think that elementary school students would do just as well testing with a stranger as they would have with the teacher that engaged them all year long!

"Scores leveled off somewhat in grade 7 and 8, and actually rose slightly in grade 11."

No kidding! They are older and more mature mentally than a third or fourth grade student. They are accustomed to seeing many teachers throughout the day anyway!

It is my belief that in the elementary grades, the students would have performed better on those ridiculous tests if their homeroom teacher was in the room, even if s/he didn't say a word! That teacher knows that Billy needs to stand to take his test, Susie needs to be next to a window, Johnny needs a little pat on the pack, while Beth needs a rubber band to play with while she reads. A different teacher wouldn't know that!


Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:27 am

Any teacher proctoring an exam would know which child needs which accommodations. Most accommodations would occur due to an IEP.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on August 17, 2012 1:49 am


you need to get your head out of your books every now and then and breathe some real air.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:13 pm

You are right, my comment was a bit simplistic. I should have said major accommodations would typically be in an IEP or 504 plan, e.g. extended time or needing the test read orally. I have seen Terra Nova testing but not PSSA testing, so I don't know the nuances of the PSSAs. I would expect that a teacher may write down individual testing preferences such as sitting near a window or having a squeeze ball. I understand that this could be time consuming, especially if detailed descriptions of preferences are necessary for some students. I can understand that some of the students may have been less comfortable with a different teacher proctoring the test. My question is, How long did schools know that teachers would not be proctoring exams in their own classes? Did students have an opportunity to take a practice test with the teacher proctoring their exams?

One issue I had with this year's PSSAs was that the School District of Philadelphia was the only school district which the state required the shuffling of teachers for proctoring the tests.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 17, 2012 4:50 pm

EGS, we were only given about 10 days notice. Not really enough time to prepare students or run practice tests with different proctors.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:56 pm

10 days notice? Seriously? I can understand how not having the regular teacher in the classroom could have been detrimental. 60 or 90 days notice would have allowed for teachers to do some alterations to units in order to accommodate practice tests and acclimate students to a different proctor than the regular teacher. 10 days is completely unfair!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:22 pm

Welcome to education after grad school. :)

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 5:14 pm

It doesn't surprise me, I know that things are shady with the powers that be in the state. It sounds like the state and PDE wanted to stick it to Philly and its students.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 17, 2012 4:50 pm

Yes, I actually just went back and checked. The State's decision about Philadelphia PSSA testing was delivered on February 28th. Testing started on March 12th--this is actually 8 SCHOOL days before the beginning of testing. Since Philly public schools were the ONLY schools the be subject to this protocol, the ensuing results are hardly comparable with the rest of the state.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 9:51 pm

Huh? You have to prepare students and run practice tests with different proctors? Why? Do you really think children are that fragile?

I think that teachers have been doing a lot of "soft" cheating. I have in fact witnessed it.

Having different teachers proctor the tests should in no way make the scores drop as they did. The reason that the scores dropped more in the lower grades is because teachers could get away with soft cheating. Students wouldn't be as aware of it as older students are.

The test results you are seeing now are better representations of how our students perform on standardized tests.

I don't, however, endorse the idea of using standardized tests as the be-all and end-all measurement of academic achievement. I just think that justifying the lower scores by claiming that children were harmed by having a different teacher proctor the test or that there should have been practice tests with different proctors is ludicrous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 10:43 pm

What is "soft cheating"? You witnessed it? How many times and in what capacity? It sounds like you have never taught if you can't understand why a different teacher in a classroom would make a difference in scores dropping. A child that does not want to be bothered taking the test isn't going to care if there is another teacher in the room. Put back his own teacher, who has discipline plans for his own kids, and the child will be alot more likely to care. Scores dropped because the collection of jackasses running this school district keep cutting services and supplies, but expect the same results, if not better ones. That and the SRC's touchy/feely approach to student misbehavior are the main reasons scores dropped and will continue. But go ahead, it must be those bad teachers at it again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2012 1:04 pm

Soft cheating is not erasing answers or directly giving students answers. It's doing subtle things like shaking your head as you review a student's answer, pointing out something on the test to a student without saying a word, making a statement to the whole class reminding them to round their answer first before filling in the bubble. It's reviewing student tests and noticing that some answers have not been filled in, then calling students back to fill them in after the test is over and has been collected.

Yes, I have witnessed this.

It sounds like I have never taught because I disagree with you?

I taught 3rd grade last year. They were the youngest test takers. My students cared about the test because they knew that I did. They knew that I expected them to do their best even though there was another teacher in the room with them. They didn't need me in the room holding their hand. They knew I was right down the hall. They knew their proctor teacher well.

By the way, most proctors are not "strangers". They are other staff in the building whom students know. Assuming that the test scores dropped because students felt uncomfortable with their proctors prevents you from being effective in bringing those scores up higher.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2012 1:13 pm

I don't teach in a tested grade, and I haven't proctored any of the exams, but I know that our teachers are frustrated when their students skip entire pages of the PSSA test, but the teachers are not permitted to tell the students to go back and do the skipped pages. That doesn't seem right. Nor does it seem like cheating to simply tell a student that he missed some questions. I think that there has to be some degree of common sense used. Oh, I forgot- This is the SDP.

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 18, 2012 1:03 pm

The description of "soft cheating" has to occur in many testing environments - including magnets, suburban, etc. schools. This year we were not able to tell a student individually to make sure they answered all questions. While some younger students may forget, some high school students just won't continue with the test. They know it doesn't have any influence over their future.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2012 2:18 pm

You still haven't answered how you witnessed this "soft cheating" if you were a teacher. You would have been in another class proctoring that test so how could you have seen what other teachers are doing elsewhere? How many of these cheating teachers did you witness?

Just because you're part of the staff that does not mean other classes are going to follow your requests. Being "down the hall" means little to students, especially in upper grades, if you are not their homeroom teacher. Even the homeroom teachers have problems with their own students (especially when you have a weak and inexperienced principal at the helm) so why would they care about a staff member they see in the halls?

As far as cheating I know that students are watching me throughout the test. They have already been told that I can't help explain a question or point out what they have missed. They know what I expect and what to expect from me during the test. When you put another teacher in there the expectations will not be the same no matter how many times you stress the importance of the PSSA.

If the state wants to truly cut down on cheating in Philly it is the administration they need to make changes with for giving the test.

Submitted by Concerned Phila. (not verified) on August 18, 2012 2:39 pm

Some people co-proctor tests - at least in high schools. Others, in high schools, may "tag" proctoring to give the proctor a break. Next year, with the Keystone, this won't happen because the test will include groups of students in 9th - 11th grades.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 18, 2012 3:57 pm

I, too, witnessed "soft cheating" in my school this past school year. Our testing coordinator went through ALL of the student's PSSA books after the tests were done for the day, and then called students to the library to either fill in missing answers or fix the essays that were incomplete. She called down my most proficient students, conveniently. I called the state cheating line and reported what I had witnessed. After what happened in years past with cheating in the district, I absolutely could not believe that this was happening in my school. When my students returned from the library, I asked them what they did, and they told me not only did they go back and fix answers, but also rewrite their essays.

I teach older students, and I drilled into them prior to testing about cheating and explained to them why I wasn't allowed to be their proctor (that whole situation was a joke too...If teachers wanted to help students to get high scores, it wouldn't matter what students they had. Plus, I had so many students in the class I was proctoring NOT listen to me, it caused MORE of a problem and disruption).

After my "chosen" students went to fix their answers, I had to answer to a classroom full of 30 kids as to why fixing answers wasn't considered cheating. Like I said before, I absolutely could not believe that this cheating was occurring, and I promptly reported it AND the name of our testing coordinator. There was no way I was losing my job or my coworker who proctored my class' job due to the idiocy and dishonesty of my testing coordinator.

Submitted by Benjamin Herold on August 18, 2012 8:06 pm


I'd be interested in speaking with you more about your experience with this year's PSSAs.  If you'd be willing, please contact me at



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:29 am

The examples listed above are not in an IEP. They are examples of a teacher making the testing environment a bit less stressful by knowing his/her students. I agree that having an unknown proctor for lower elementary grades was probably very disconcerting to the children. Remember, almost no charters were under this stipulation for testing. Philadelphia public schools, Hazelton public schools and a few charters were singled out.

In high schools, the only stipulation was that the English and math teachers of record could not proctor the reading and and math test with their class. This may have led to a drop in scores if, for example, the math teachers in the past provided extra help during the test. Nevertheless, it wasn't as disconcerting for the students.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 17, 2012 2:04 pm

You are absolutely correct. I, too, believe that the drop in the scores for the lower grades has quite a bit to do with the fact that students could not test with their own teacher. This holds true for schools that did not participate in the cheating. The little things that homeroom teachers know about their students help make the testing environment more comfortable for students. Indeed, the examples given by the commenter above are not official accommodations on IEPs, but are ways kids need to de-stress during the very stressful testing week. When we announced the new testing regulations to our 7th and 8th graders (this was announced only about 10 days before the test, remember), they were very upset. We were able to talk them through it and process it together, but I believe the younger kids (especially grades 3-5) were negatively affected by it. Even some of our middle school kids had a hard time with it. One of my very bright, but very hyper and irritable students had a little freak-out on the first day of testing and was almost removed from the room. Should this student have been able to handle his/her situation? At age 13, perhaps, but the fact remains that the freak-out would never have happened if I had been in the room. Ideally, we want kids to be able to eventually take tests like SATs, LSATs, MCATs, and GREs no matter who the proctor is, but remember, those tests are voluntary and taken by subsets of highly motivated, older, and mature students. PSSAs are forced on kids, and they need a comfortable environments in which to take tests.

Submitted by ka3kcj on August 17, 2012 4:49 pm

I know that I was very worried for the way my students would respond to another teacher in the room. I had a room foull of misfits who didn't quite fit with the program, but I had worked with them all year and had made some headway. None of the problems in the room were Special Ed. kids, One kid sat on an exercise ball because he couldn't sit still in a chair and pay attention, One had to sit under his desk to do anything worthwhile, others needed very frequent checks for frustration because if they got frustrated they were apt to have a temper tantrum worthy of a two-year-old and would curse up a storm. In my room they were challenging but sort of functioning. When not in my room they were always on the cusp of upheaval. PSSA testing was...testy. They were resentful of the fact that I could not be there and did not like the teacher assigned to monitor them. Several had to take their test separately in o rder to get it done. I am sure they did not do as well as they could have. It was not a kid-friendly situation. I could recognise when they were getting overwhelmed, the teacher who monitored could not or didn't care to. We were not one of the schools suspected of cheating, because we do not cheat.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 18, 2012 12:50 pm

Good use of an exercise ball...and good use of the area under a desk. Some kids need to move. Some kids need to feel safe. You are responding sensitively to your students. It's nice to hear.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:26 pm

You are correct!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 2:38 pm

Yes, they would, or should if the teacher took a moment to jot down all the "particular quirks" about his/her students. I had to monitor several classes in elementary schools and one teacher took the time to write "motivation" notes to each of her students, that addressed their particular strength or quirk. It was a wonderful strategy. We cannot afford to keep making excuses. It IS what it IS.

Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on August 17, 2012 3:45 pm

"We cannot afford to keep making excuses"
"It IS what it IS"


To comment number one, I disagree that what we assert are "excuses", but rather the reality. I'm not sure if you were/are a teacher, but any teacher knows that it takes time to get to know students. The first few WEEKS of school are important for the establishment of that teacher-students relationship. To expect that a different teacher can understand the dynamics of a new class (i.e. simple things like...oh...their names/faces) in less than a week is unrealistic.

Students also tend to react differently to different teachers, their mannerisms, styles, etc. While the proctor isn't teaching, their presence makes quite a difference one way or another. Our children aren't robots, they're human. They too have emotions, the metaphoric security blanket, etc. How many teachers leave buildings or are apprehensive when new principals come around? So, no Mr./Mrs./Ms Anonymous, these aren't excuses, it's the truth.

"It IS what it IS" I agree. We know that NOW, months before the next unnecessary test is to be administered, proctored, guarded, esteemed, worshiped or whatever other verb we want to use. We are not learning a new policy just DAYS before a major exam. We can better prep our children to the idea that it's not just the bubbles that are "important" (cough cough) but that their teacher who knows them best and can be a positive reassurance and presence "isn't" important.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 17, 2012 3:09 pm

Absolutely, Stephen. These sorts of things are the small subtleties that many non-educators do not realize make a difference, but that they would surely want for their own children.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 17, 2012 12:42 am

Widespread cheating on test scores completely undermines the reliability of the School Performance Index (SPI) metric since it relies so heavily on test scores and test score growth ( Reliability refers to the stability and dependability of measuring the same thing each time while validity refers to how well a metric measures what it purports to measure (( There is reason to question the validity and utility of test scores as a measure already (See Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, This cheating scandal underscores the fragile nature of test scores and renders them effectively meaningless.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:04 am

It will be very interesting how Knudson/SRC justify which schools will close. Will it merely be enrollment? school building condition? How much test scores dropped?

The erasure process is not the only way cheating occurs in the tests. I'm sure at some other schools students were prepped before the test (e.g. teachers sees the test, goes over the questions often at the direction of the administration - I saw this at a "high performing" magnet school in Philly). Others may have coached students during the test. Students could also copy - they basically receive the same test and questions are not scrambled.

Cheating on test is obviously not new but the past decade of testing mania and the high stakes nature of the tests has exasperated the problem.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 5:41 am

One thing the author left out was that this year there was a higher "cut score" to be considered proficient or advanced. Not that I believe that is responsible for ALL of the drops in scores, but it should be mentioned.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 6:27 am

The article is NOT about AYP (e.g. "cut scores"); it is about drops in actual percentage points. There is no mention of AYP - which can be achieve in many ways other than actual "cut scores" (e.g. 78% in math and 81% in reading proficient/advanced). Schools actual PSSA scores (e.g. 60% proficient in 2011 dropped to 30% proficient in 2012).

AYP can be met in many ways other than actual "cut scores" of the level of proficient/advanced in math and reading. The scores will have to be higher in 2013 but most schools make AYP through Confident Intervals (CI), Safe Harbor (SH), Growth Model (GM), Safe Harbor with Confidence Intervals (SHC). Many schools, district, charter and suburban, make AYP with these "supports." If schools relied strictly on "cut scores," very few schools would make AYP.

This is from PA Dept. of Ed:
"Confidence intervals take into account the fact that the students tested in any particular year might not be representative of students in that school across the years. Confidence intervals control for this sampling error or variation across years by promoting schools or subgroups that come very close to achieving their performance goals, thus meeting their specific goal. In 2004, the United States Department of Education approved a 95% Confidence Interval (C.I.) in Pennsylvania for AYP performance calculations.

"Schools or subgroups that do not achieve Performance thresholds can still meet AYP by meeting the Safe Harbor requirements. To make Safe Harbor, a school or subgroup must reduce its percentage of students who performed below proficient in the previous year by at least 10%."

"The Growth Model recognizes the efforts of schools whose students have not achieved proficiency but are on trajectories towards proficiency on future PSSA exams. The Growth Model will be calculated for Performance Indicators (i.e., the all student group and up to nine subgroups). Projected scores are calculated for all students - including students who are proficient. If a projected score cannot be calculated for a particular student, the student’s actual score is used. The Growth Model will be applied to an AYP Performance Indicator only if the indicator cohort has not met AYP performance by any of the existing goals or targets. Actual, not projected, PASA scores, PSSA-M scores, 3rd grade scores, and 11th grade scores are always used, as well as the scores for any students with insufficient data points to make a projection. "

"Confidence intervals take into account the fact that the students tested in any particular year might not be representative of students in that school across the years. Confidence intervals control for this sampling error or variation across years by promoting schools or subgroups that come very close to achieving their performance goals, thus meeting their specific goal. In 2004, the United States Department of Education approved a 95% Confidence Interval (C.I.) in Pennsylvania for AYP performance calculations. A 75% C.I. can be used for meeting the Safe Harbor target."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 6:00 am targets (cut score) increase fewer schools will make AYP. Every student in every school will not be proficient in any school district across the entire country.

This fiasco goes back to the Bush era with the implementation of NCLB. The voucher/charter/privatization plan has come to fruition.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 7:38 am

You are confusing cut scores, which determine student proficiency levels on each test, with AYP targets, which determine school performance. They are separate calculations....AYP targets use percent proficient....Proficiency uses cut builds on the other but cut scores don't change or go up..just AYP targets.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 7:26 am

True, cut scores which determine basic, proficient, etc. are different than AYP percentages. That said, cut scores did not increase. Only AYP percentage for straight AYP (e.g. not Safe Harbor, Confident intervals, etc.) went up.

Submitted by Jake (not verified) on August 17, 2012 9:00 am

I hope that all the studies of charter vs district student improvement are recalculated, given the large swing in district scores and thus working with inaccurate data from prior years. While during the course of the review some charters were found in violation, the overall statistics skew to a much higher decline in district scores. The reality of district vs charter education can now be reliably calculated now that cheating has been taken out of the picture. I look forward to future studies that can now base their findings on reliable data.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 17, 2012 10:27 am

You're making a big assumption, which is that cheating only occurred in public schools. I highly doubt that. If we are going to use the PSSA or other standardized scores, all publicly funded schools need to use the same measure. Complete forensic data should be released on all schools. We need to stop letting the PA Dept of Ed (with either party in power) and the SRC control how the data is interpreted. They have proven to be untrustworthy. They have too much at stake to risk honesty.

Submitted by Jake (not verified) on August 17, 2012 10:10 am

Joan, I'm not making an assumption at all. As I stated, there were charter schools that were found to be cheating, just not the extent of pervasiveness that the PSD experienced.This can be ascertained by the investigation counts provided on The Notebook and other sources.

I look forward to seeing the 2012 test results to be able to truly compare schools without the cloud of doubt that comes from prior years. If school can show that it improved test scores, I welcome that. However, it sounds like the scores took a nosedive after anti-cheating measures were put into place.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on August 17, 2012 11:50 am

We see the data we are shown by the PA Dept of Ed. Why didn't the scores come out in June as in previous years? Could it be because at the state level they were busy massaging the data so that PA would be in better shape for NCLB? The dishonesty of the testing system permeates all levels, not just at the level of the hand holding the eraser. Until we can look at all the erasure and other data, and I mean all data for all schools, and then let disinterested members of the education community work through them, we won't be able to know which scores are honest. Only an administrative program like the NAEP, where outsiders distribute, monitor, and collect tests, can guarantee honesty throughout the system, and you can bet that no state will put their education system through such a hands-off evaluation.

As a society, we are too cheap to pay for quality education for all.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 17, 2012 7:43 pm

Joan--It is not about cheap. It's about marginal kids of color for the very most part. They're not worth the money and that's why Corbett is busy building prisons to house them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 10:56 pm

"They're not worth the money" I hope you're not a teacher!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 18, 2012 8:48 am

You boob ! I was speaking from the mouth of Corbett. Have another drink too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 11:49 am

The vast majority of Philadelphia charter schools were not under the microscope this year - they did not have to follow the same testing protocols. I assume the biggest change for K-8 was not having the child's teacher proctor the test. Even if the proctoring teacher did not more than say "good luck," "stay on task," and smile, the students knew the teacher would see them again and they were probably more accountable. It might also have impacted behavior during testing.

At the high school level, one issues has always been "reviewing" similar items from the test after it is available. Since charters did not have to abide by the same testing requirements, windows for providing students with assistance were greater in charters.

Until everyone tests under the same conditions, it is apples and oranges.

Submitted by Stephen R. Flemming (not verified) on August 17, 2012 4:38 pm

Exactly!!! Agreed!! I just said that too, apples and oranges! Exactly! At this point, a comparison CANNOT be made between district and the charters...apples and oranges indeed

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 17, 2012 7:17 pm

Jake--are you really this stupid or are you just trolling to get attention ??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 11:52 am

Where can we find the results for every school?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 2:02 pm

Charters were investigated using the same forensic method as district schools. At least two charters have had their renewals delayed pending the outcome of this investigation. To simply conclude that charters were given a benefit insults all public school students and educators. It also puts district teachers in the position of being victims. Instead, we need to face this issue head on and admit that cheating went on in many schools across the state. District and charters were faced with more scrutiny, informed of possible irregularities in testing, and penalized, when founded. Stop the constant excuses, finger pointing, and shirking of responsibility. Stand up and be real educators whether you work at a district school or a charter. There are plenty of great teachers in both schools who have helped all types of students to achieve. Cowardly excuses diminish the accomplishments of everyone doing real and honest work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 17, 2012 6:26 pm

The District will spend a fortune conducting their own forensic study on 2012 PSSA results. More tax dollars spent. Mayor Nutter make a statement please.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2012 8:13 pm

I have heard that Nunery (ended his consulting) and Penny quietly left the district on Friday... anyone else hear this??

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2012 9:00 pm

Haven't heard but if Nunery is still getting paid, there is certainly "fix." He has had nothing to do once they brought in Knudson - I don' t know what he did for Ackerman other than "fill in." Nixon needs to go because she was responsible for a school, region and central office noted for "cheating." Nixon climbed to the top because through her network of friends and needs to move on. I assume Hite wants to bring in his own team.

Submitted by Tina (not verified) on September 26, 2014 9:25 am

I know there are some range of values ​​used to assess the level of achievement, and I want to make sure you're not talking about those numbers (for example, moving down to read 1200 to 1150).  swire mt

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