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As school starts, no action against Philly principals where cheating is suspected

By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 24, 2012 02:27 PM

by Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa

For months, state and local education officials have had ample evidence pointing to likely cheating on standardized tests in some Philadelphia public schools.

Yet as the 2012 school year gets underway, the principals of some of those schools -- including Stefanie Ressler and Evelyn Cortez -- will not only remain in their jobs but will coordinate groups of their fellow principals charged with sharing strategies for improving student performance.

Pennsylvania's probe into possible cheating on state tests in 53 District schools is entering its second year, but the investigation apparently has led to no action against administrators or teachers suspected of wrongdoing.

Both Roosevelt Middle School, where Ressler was principal, and Cortez's Cayuga Elementary had unusual patterns of test score erasures between 2009 and 2011. Anonymous teachers at both schools have also told journalists of cheating behavior.

Andrew Porter, a national expert on test cheating scandals, said that despite such evidence, school personnel shouldn't be punished without conclusive proof of cheating.

"You're innocent until proven guilty," said Porter, the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

But with lingering questions about the integrity of dozens of school leaders as school prepares to open, the Philadelphia School District has a big problem on its hands, he said.

"If [the investigation into possible cheating] would have been vigorous and immediate, we'd either have these individuals cleared, or they would be sanctioned for their inappropriate behavior, and this wouldn't be an issue," Porter said.

Tough to prove, tough to punish

Last summer, the Pennsylvania Department of Education launched an inquiry into possible cheating on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams in 38 districts and 10 charters across the state, including Philadelphia. The move came quick on the heels of a Notebook/NewsWorks report about a previously unreleased "forensic audit" that revealed statistical evidence of possible cheating at almost 90 Pennsylvania schools in 2009.

A year later, there is widespread evidence of high rates of suspicious "wrong-to-right" erasures in multiple grades, subjects, and years at dozens of Philadelphia District schools. Sources have said publicly that there have been "confessions."

But to date, said principals' union president Robert McGrogan, he is not aware of any local administrators who have been formally charged or sanctioned in connection with the probe.

Some find the lack of action galling.

"It's a farce that we're going to start the school year with investigations incomplete and principals returning to buildings when there's confirmed wrongdoing," said one source with knowledge of the probe.

But with careers in the balance and the threat of lawsuits looming, District and state officials are under tremendous pressure to make sure they get right any accusations, and any punitive actions.

"It is important that the investigation be thorough. Therefore, the district is committed to taking the time necessary to ensure its integrity and accuracy," wrote District General Counsel Michael A. Davis in a statement.

For both state and local education officials, it's new ground; in recent memory, few, if any, educators in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania have been sanctioned for cheating.

The first challenge facing investigators is definitively proving what specific individuals did. Regardless of how damning statistical evidence may seem, conclusive proof can come only through confessions or credible eyewitness accounts.

Obtaining that kind of proof demands time, money and tenacity.

A recent state probe of cheating in Atlanta is generally considered to be the gold standard for such efforts. There, 50 trained investigators worked full time for more than a year. The resulting report documented cheating at 44 schools and formally accused 178 teachers and administrators of wrongdoing. The vast majority of those accused have since retired or resigned.

Here, a comparatively small team from the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General has been conducting on-the-ground investigations at 11 District schools since January. Sources say those investigations are nearing completion, but there has been no official word.

At 20 other schools, the district is receiving pro bono investigatory help from the law firm Morgan, Lewis, Bockius LLP. After getting a late start, the volunteer attorneys have made contact with only a small handful of schools under their purview. District officials say they expect their investigations to be complete by the end of the calendar year.

At 22 other District schools involved in the probe, many of which show strong evidence of cheating, state officials have mandated only further "analytic review," not direct questioning of personnel who may have witnessed or participated in improper behavior.

Even if investigators do prove cheating by specific individuals, meting out punishment to the adults responsible will not be simple.

Under the Professional Educator Discipline Act, the state commission that certifies and monitors teachers and principals has the authority to issue a reprimand or suspend or revoke an educator's license.

Under its collective bargaining agreements, the District can discipline, fine, suspend or terminate an employee "for cause" after extensive due process.

According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, District officials are waiting for the state to act first.

"They have the ability to preempt anything we do here, [but] they haven't given a clear signal," said one source.

State Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller declined comment on the state's intentions, but noted that "personnel decisions remain the purview of local districts."

If there is confusion or reluctance, it can be attributed in part to the utter lack of precedent.

"We have never had this kind of situation before," said one source.

Rewards, not penalties?

In the meantime, a new school year is beginning, and administrators who ran a number of schools under investigation have been bumped up to better assignments or given new responsibilities.

Stefanie Ressler, for example, was the principal of Roosevelt Middle School between 2009 and 2011.

During that time, Roosevelt saw astronomical test score gains. But those results have since been tainted by overwhelming patterns of suspicious erasures on student test forms and accusations by teachers of pervasive cheating by school administrators.

According to confidential documents obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook, Roosevelt was flagged for suspicious "wrong-to-right" erasures 12 of a possible 12 times during this period – in every tested grade and subject during every year covered by the investigation.

No hard evidence of cheating by specific individuals at Roosevelt has yet been made public, however.

In the meantime, Ressler is beginning her second year as principal of Woodrow Wilson Middle School in the Northeast.

At Roosevelt, one of Ressler's former assistant principals, Cassandra Houston, will begin her second year at the helm. And the school's former testing coordinator, Leta Johnson, will begin her first year as principal at Pratt Elementary.

The cloud of suspicion is taking a toll on Roosevelt, Houston said.

"The school is making efforts to recover from past accusations and trying to make sure that everything done at the school is done at the highest level," said Houston, who was an assistant principal at Roosevelt during Ressler's last year there.

Ressler will also serve this year as one of the District's 24 new coordinators of "Principal Learning Teams," – a volunteer role in which she will help organize collaborative learning opportunities for about 20 other principals.

Such trajectories are not unique to the former members of the Roosevelt team. Numerous other district administrators have been elevated to new positions and responsibilities despite being closely associated with schools under investigation.

All told, almost one-third of the new PLT coordinators led schools involved in the cheating probe.

Among those is Evelyn Cortez, who is still the principal at Cayuga Elementary despite extensive patterns of suspicious erasures under her watch.

Between 2009 and 2011, Cayuga was flagged 10 of a possible 18 times for suspicious erasures.

In February the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted anonymous Cayuga teachers who said they witnessed multiple irregularities, including administrators erasing wrong answers. They said Cortez told them to help students during the test, a clear violation of the rules.

Cortez emphatically denied the allegations at the time.

Cortez, Ressler, and Johnson did not respond to requests for comment..

District spokesman Fernando Gallard emphasized that the PLT coordinators are volunteers and were selected by their peers, but otherwise declined to comment.

It's a sensitive time, and caution is prudent, said David Adamany, the former chancellor at Temple University who is serving as an unpaid "testing integrity advisor" to the district.

"This is a sensitive process in which both educational quality in the School District and reputations and careers of district personnel are at stake," wrote Adamany in an email.

"There is a heavy burden on all of us to get this right, so that children are served and individuals are treated justly."


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Comments (87)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 5:18 pm

Cough cough...Penny Nixon.....cough cough

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 6:54 pm

Linda Wayman will be the Principal at Strawberry Mansion. Can anybody wrap their head around that? Yes, Nixon must have pictures and lots of them if even 5% of what I've head is true, make that 1%.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 7:01 pm

Penny Nixon was a great principal. I get so tired of hearing people who have never worked for her make negative comments. Say what you will, but she was a great leader at Wagner, and I always felt empowered and supported by her. ALL teachers should be so lucky. She created a climate of high expectations and enthusiasm. I've never met a teacher who didn't appreciate having her as a principal. Her biggest problem was being promoted under the reign of Ackerman. It's too bad.

By the way, she was promoted to NW for the 2009-2010 school year. That fact has been misquoted many times on discussion blogs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 8:45 pm

Penny, STOP !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 1:37 pm

I know right..... Penny, do you really have to resort to this? lol

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 2:32 pm

Nixon got that from Arlene, extolling all her virtues. Sounds like time for her to give herself another award.

I saw where Joe Watkins, another apologist for Corbett et al,, was given the leadership of Chester Upland. Joe is the proverbial WOLF in sheep's clothing. While using religion to hide his true agenda, Joe is about Joe, first last and only, a complete snake in the grass. Joe will couch and frame everything around "Christ" while cutting the legs out from under the people he "cares about so much." I know his act well.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on August 26, 2012 2:47 pm

That move is all about the privatization of public schools for the profit of those who run them. Joe Watkins is head of an organization which was specifically created to lead the charge of the privatizers and profiteers.

It is not about the children of Chester-Upland. It is all about the exploitation of the situation so unsrupulous people can profit off of the the backs of schoolchildren and redirect taxpayer money into their own pockets.

Corbett not only facilitates that corruption, but is the conductor of that corruption.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 9:19 pm

I hear her nickname at 440 is "One in a quintillion"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 12:29 am

Nixon is at the heart of the cheating regime of Ackerman. Nixon was at Wagner for 2009 testing. She led the Northwest Region which has many, many schools sited for cheating. Then, she was CAP under Ackerman. Nixon promotes her friends and trashes anyone who questions her. She has surrounded herself at 440 with friends who are often incompetent (e.g. LaTonya Miller). Nixon needs to go - she is a joke.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 7:01 am

Ms. Nixon, like her predecessor is ruining the SDP. The changes she is making within Central Office are despicable and stink of nepotism. Dr. Hite will replace her as leader immediately upon his arrival and begin to review and replace Central Office leadership. How can the SDP progress under the leadership of the very ones who got us into this mess? We won't have to wait very long for Penny Nixon to be replaced our new CAO from Prince Georges County will usher in a new day.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 7:50 am

And how do you know this information? Do you know Hite?

Submitted by tom-104 on August 26, 2012 12:51 pm

Hite is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy (whose first director was Arlene Ackerman). How many times must we naively go through this innocent honeymoon period without taking into account a persons history and background? I think we should be very cautious and critical. Hite has to prove by his actions that he is for the students, parents, and teachers of Philadelphia and not the SRC, Nutter, Corbett, the privatizers and the oligarchs!

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 9:49 pm

Can you say Stockholm Syndrome?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 8:06 am

You may have found her to be an excellent principal, however, the masses are not in agreement with you. As the old saying goes, "Where there is smoke, there is fire." During her tenue at Wagner, there is a cloud of smoke upon her that has not been cleared up to date. I don't know the lady personally, but there are smoking guns all around her and many of her cohorts. I don't believe for one second that some old meanies made up the stuff that is being said about her or her cohorts. In the end, the truth will prevail, but at what cost?

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on August 24, 2012 6:13 pm

Were anyone really interested in the truth, speaking with the teachers who were force transfered at the end of last year at the suspect schools, some in the last week of school, might give some interesting testimony.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 24, 2012 7:40 pm

Atlanta may set the gold standard for cheating investigations, but indications are that the state and SRC will go the way of Washington D.C.

"In a report issued Wednesday, city investigators said they found no reason to probe more than one elementary school, Noyes Education Campus, whose principal resigned in the wake of a USA TODAY story in March 2011. Investigators said they limited the probe because they believed news coverage of the scandal would limit future cheating — and because schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson handed over "no additional evidence" of cheating or "investigative leads to pursue."

There are those who believe it is a coverup to protect the credibility of former Chancellor of DC schools Michelle Rhee.

The Stonewall to Protect Michelle Rhee and Teach for America

Will there be a cover-up to protect the credibility of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman from the scrutiny of the cheating which took place during her tenure?

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 24, 2012 7:53 pm

Yes, everybody passed the age of reason, knows the truth but it all continues unabated so....................What do we do NOW ??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 8:54 am

Thank you for these links. Protecting pet programs and people - which include anything Teach for American (TFA) and anyone with TFA - seems to be not only on the agenda of DC schools but also the Obama Administration under Duncan, and major foundations that support TFA from Gates to Walton. The foundation and privatization organizations like TFA have set the education agenda with their lingo of "achievement" and "accountability." Apparently, people like Rhea, Ackerman, and Kopp (TFA) are not held accountable. The only people benefiting are those on the gravy train of so-called "educational reform" which includes Kopp, Ackerman, Rhea, etc.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 2:01 pm

keep bashing TFA and the like yet NONE of the schools or teachers in question of CHEATING are TFA or TFA alums.

Look at the data of TFA alum led schools across the country(and even here in Philadelphia) and compare it to similar schools..try and look at it without the TFA hater glasses on too.

Blaming TFA for every problem in education is getting old.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert on August 25, 2012 4:19 pm

Seriously? How do you know this? One of the worst cheating scandals took place in Washington DC under ex, TFAer, student mouth-taper, and "deformer" extraordinaire, Michelle Rhee. Of course, it has been swept under the rug to protect her and her millionaire buddies and their mission to privatize our public school system.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 2:46 pm

TFA is a joke. The focus on data is just a pop trend and when looked at from a veterans lens, accomplishes nothing. That's just corporate BS that you sucked in and believe because you (or other TFA-ers) were too young to have any original ideas. TFAers typically do not stay. They cannot handle teaching in a comprehensive high school and are often found huddled in dark corners of the school crying their little eyes out. Next......!!!

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on August 28, 2012 2:40 pm

TFA is at the forefront of the privatization, market driven agenda to dismantle public education. Very few TFA stay in classroom teaching - they want leadership/power if they stay in education. TFA is synonymous with the Broad Foundation, Walton Fund, etc. They are the neo-conservatives of education.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 27, 2012 9:57 pm

The lack of accountability in the School District of Philadelphia at all levels is egregious. It occurs at the school and classroom levels with discipline and violence problems as well as the cheating on the tests. It occurs at the administrative level in terms of nepotism, financial mismanagement and improprieties (e.g. Arlene Ackerman's $905,000 buyout and filing for unemployment), and the lack of oversight of charter school finances and practices. In addition, certain union policies, such as forced transferring, do not work in favor of children, especially those who attend the least desirable schools at which to work, which are often in the poorest neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, there is no longer any ethic of public service. In addition, the public lacks trust in many public institutions, which began during Ronald Reagan's presidency. He said that government was the problem, and unfortunately, too many Americans have adopted this mentality. Unfortunately, the adults who run and work for the School District of Philadelphia have too often put their own interests before the interests of students when these interests have been in conflict with one another.

Finally, the cheating results from viewing test scores as the end-all-be-all of what matters in education. Unfortunately, there are numerous problems with using standardized test scores as the primary means of measuring student performance and success, as well as for evaluating teachers. See the report "Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers" at We need to think seriously about the reliance on test scores, what they really mean, and their true value. There are better, more holistic evaluation systems, such as portfolios, but a portfolio evaluation system would likely be a more expensive evaluation system to implement than using test scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 7:52 pm

seriously, let's wrap this up already. do we need this hanging over our heads into another school year? seems like everything is fine now that big brother is watching.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 7:26 pm

It is time for a whole new era. The nepotism in the district is at an all time high. If the new superintendent is wise, he will HALT all new hires! All new hires! The current establishment has chosen their friends to run schools shipshod over people. Most lack the basic skills, especially the interpersonal skills to effectively move schools. Yet, they were chosen over top quality administrators. During the interview when Hite met with principals, he was asked by FOP (Friends of Penny) if he would keep her based on "all of her good works". How unfair was that question? Each of the FOP was given a question to ask to ensure that Penny remains at the top, thus, allowing the FOP to continue to make the entire field of honest, hardworking, administrators, look like incompetent imbeciles. Up with Hite and down with the FOP! If you research all members of the FOP, you will find that they lack the experience and skill of administrators that earned the job the right way, through hard work and by applying to move up, not by being given a bone by a chief,...looks like Penny is the new Arlene Ackerman! All unhail the Queen!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 5:39 pm

Who are these friends of Penny? Probably my new principal.....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 6:09 pm

Just look at people Nixon brought downtown without posting their positions. Also, look at principals who were placed without school based selection committees. Nixon has the final say in principal placements. They are "friends of Penny."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 8:30 pm

I know for sure that Linda Wayman and Sholanda Taylor are less than serious persons. From what I understand, they are microcosms of the Nixon folks--loud, uncouth, ignorant and really unintelligent types.

Submitted by Stefanie (not verified) on August 24, 2012 8:48 pm

Ha ha, ha ha ha!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 9:08 pm

Wayman:Ghetto, Ghetto and more Ghetto!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 11:16 pm

Perfect for Strawberry Mansion then...where cheating also took place. Everyone knows students were guided to the right questions

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 8:13 am

I was going to say that too but I thought I would be accused of being a racist or worse. Yes, she has no visible positive traits as a leader, just a lout of the first order, thrashing about sucking the life out of everybody around her, without any apparent consequences for her abuse. As they say in England, just a bad bit of business.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 10:15 pm

So they place those that cheated to lead the principal groups so that the cheating skills can be passed to others?
Those that work in the district know what Penny, Cortez, Ressler have done. Their reputation is all but clean.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 12:35 am

Ressler and Cortez are incompetent and self-serving. Their cheating was over the top. So what does Nixon do - promote them! The School District of Phila. is a laughing stock - this just adds to the roars... And who is getting the last laugh (all the way to the bank) - Queen Arlene.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 7:00 am

The Casinos hire cheaters to help them identify cheaters.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 11:06 pm

Ignoring these allegations of cheating sends a damaging messaged to students in the SDP - It's okay to cheat because there are no consequences. But, then again, it's never about the students. It's only about adults looking out for their own best interests.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 11:45 pm

Perfect alignment with the new code of student conduct where student do not get suspended for foul language and improper gestures to others...etc.
Same for principals who promote dishonesty, no consequences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2012 11:12 pm

Time to cut the cancer out (cheating teachers, principals and former principals) and move forward. This is unfair to the 200 schools that do the right thing and model morals and ethics. And it is a violation of the worse kind for the kids of Philadelphia who already have insane obstacles to overcome.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 7:45 am

We've read many articles on the importance of school leadership. In Philadelphia, far too often, leadership is based on nepotism based on membership in sororities/fraternities, religious affiliation, family ties, etc. We have principals who are vindictive, incompetent, etc. They do not "know instruction" nor how to lead. They are "Friends of Penny" or became "Friends of Penny" and will have their power affirmed by her (and Hite if he keeps them) if nothing is addressed regarding this scandal. Meanwhile, teachers are under the constant threat of being written up by principals who only care about one thing - their power and maintaining the "chain of friends" that lead to Nixon and it running this district. How can we start school in September with this huge cloud over our heads? (The "cheating" is not limited to the 53 schools - we know "by any means necessary" happened in many schools. PSSA scores dropped all over the District - not just in the 53).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 7:04 am

All of this just goes to show you how little our country cares about and values education. I understand and agree with guilty until proven innocent but since the scandal broke, several decisions continue to be made centered on people under investigation and falsified scores. As far as I can tell, the district and SRC haven't even acknowledged this scandal to staff. According to friends at top tier schools, state investigators were in for days and the District didn't do or say one word. Again, I don't advocate heavy punishments until facts are clear but maybe don't promote Nixon to CAO while an active investigation is going on. Don't publish a Blue Ribbon report on safe schools and use Cayuga as an example based on scores under scrutiny. I hate the idea of potentially guilty people earning money for nothing but rubber room them and come to a decision already!

i just keep thinking about the PSU scandal. The whole country was in outrage over the fact that the safety and well being of children was ignored for big money and football. An entire community is now suffering from the actions of few. While this cheating is far less severe then what those children endured, the impact is more widespread. Because it's not football, we can sweep it under the table? Any educated person who saw one of these schools in action and then saw their scores would be suspicious. The cover-up goes to the very top but because it's not football or hollywood, it's okay to ignore it. Sad!!!!!

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 10:32 am

They're more discriminating than that. They focus on the poor, generally urban areas where corruption and pain are considered normal. Plus, most of the kids are people of color with parents who are so beaten down that they have lost hope and don't vote.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2012 9:00 pm

Wow, it seems as if all across the school district there are bad corrupt individuals in leadership! Wake up Philadelphia! Wake up parents and get rid of the trash for quality education!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 10:27 pm

By the way, Andy Porter, who is quoted here as saying "innocent until proven guilty" is dean of a school of education that allowed one of its vice deans to lie about his Ph.D. until the newspapers published the story. So, he is hardly a credible informant on this matter.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 25, 2012 8:47 am

What's happening in Santa Fe?
from Parents Across America
"In Philadelphia, Boyd was assistant super to Arlene Ackerman, whom he has already brought in as a consultant and is probably about to hand a 6-figure job, as he has with several other Broadies, including Joseph Wise. These goons orchestrate exactly the same train wreck in every school district: swoop in to “save” it, provide a taxpayer-funded banquet for the corporate investors and purveyors of trash curricula, fire teachers, bust unions, close neighborhood schools, pad administration with 6-figure positions for their cronies, bankrupt the district, and move on. No sooner are they gone than a massive test-cheating scandal breaks and any gains in test scores they took credit for are found to be fraudulent. Then the mop-up crew of Broadies comes in and achieves the Final Solution: privatization–for the profit of the McCharters and “e-learning academies.
They know no shame."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 1:38 pm

It is the teacher's union that is ruining public education If we could just get rid of tenure and all the bad teachers, all the problems would be solved......sarcasm off.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 10:32 am

The cover up is appalling. It is more Philadelphia "as long as I get away with it, it doesn't matter" attitude. This reverberates throughout Philadelphia - from not paying gas bills, property taxes, nepotism in the Parking Authority to School District, etc. There can be no integrity of leadership as long as principals like Ressler, Cortez and other "Friends of Penny (Nixon)" are allowed to keep their positions. The quotes from Adamany and Porter appear to reinforce the notion that people in power are off limits. Yes, due process is important but if there is no systematic and concerted effort to investigate, this will be another victory for Ackerman and her cronies - not children / students in Philadelphia. Once again, the biggest losers are those of us who stay in Philly and take a chance with our children in Philly schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 10:48 am

Obviously, Mr. Porter has no knowledge of due process in the SDP. It is not "innocent until proven guilty". It is administrators deciding whether they or other administrators were right and being judge, jury and executioner.

Perhaps it is time for those administrators to be judged and sentenced in the same way. What's good for the goose...

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 11:49 am

Only charter schools in PA to be indicted have been in Philadelphia under SRC/leadership watch. All had connections to the district leaders or SRC. Top level administrators are quickly promoted, even when they are accused of cheating or worse. Violence and other reports are admittedly rigged and no prosecution or punishment. Public education in Philadelphia is under attack. Look for the real enemy. Broadies are in places of power to destroy PFT, parent groups, charters, and anyone that threatens their money machine. Where is the media?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 1:41 pm

Chester Community Charter is under investigation, but don't expect much since the owner is Corbett's big compaign contributer.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Yes, that's Corbett's buddy and he's been a weasel for a long time, very disliked and distrusted for apparently good reasons.

Submitted by tom-104 on August 25, 2012 5:47 pm

From the Philadelphia City Paper, May 3 (before the state take over)
"Who is killing Philly Public Schools"
"Chester upland public schools are going bankrupt. And so, this January, the school district joined civil rights groups and parents in filing a federal lawsuit against Corbett, demanding aid to schools that had been broke since Harrisburg ended 16 years of state control in 2010. Teachers pledged to work for free if necessary.

The judge forced the state to provide emergency aid. Two future trials will determine whether Corbett's cuts violated federal laws protecting special-education students, and whether the cuts were racially discriminatory, much as Philadelphia had alleged in 2001.

"Chester Upland is the canary of school districts," says Michael Churchill, a lawyer at the Public Interest Law Center representing the district. "They're just the first one to go. Most of the school districts around the state, except the rich suburban ones, are really suffering. And I don't see any solution that anyone is proposing in terms of legislative help. I don't see what the endgame is from the Corbett administration."

On the other hand, the outcome for Chester Community Charter School — which enrolls more than half the district's K-8 students — seems to be quite lucrative: $16.7 million of the charter's budget (more than 41 percent) will go to CSMI, the company that administers the school, according to the Inquirer. Where does that money go? Some point to the likes of CSMI's chief executive Vahan Gureghian — wealthy businessman, Montgomery County Republican Party powerhouse and a major Corbett donor. Last year, he spent $28.9 million on a Palm Beach oceanfront property.

CSMI's president, Jake Der Hagopian, is no better. He maintained numerous business ties to Leonardo Pelullo — described by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation as a "key organized crime associate."

Der Hagopian, who did not respond to calls from CP, spent much of the 1980s and '90s in Miami as executive vice president of the Royale Group. Pelullo ran the firm, and was convicted of defrauding Royale and the American Savings and Loan bank of $2.2 million partly to pay off a debt to an associate of vicious Philly mob boss Nicky Scarfo.

There is more: In 1990, Pelullo and his associates were accused of stealing $1.8 million from Transcom Trucking soon after they took over. Transcom's assets were turned over to another company, PIE Nationwide, where Der Hagopian sat on the board. Der Hagopian was never indicted. But former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald G. Cole, who prosecuted Pelullo, says the two were close: "Pelullo ... would bring Der Hagopian to be his muscle. I don't care about his title. There wasn't really anything going on in the Royale Group."

Back at Chester Community Charter, the federal lawsuit also alleges it inflates the number of special-education students it serves to up its state funding. CSMI is scheduled to open a new charter in Camden this September."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 1:52 pm

Further proof that Philadelphia School District principals can get away with anything and CASA will protect them. The SRC is merely a state appointed joke. Weaklings at the helm again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 2:08 pm

Actually, CASA had announced that action was happening and soon. They were not in any way given the impression that they were on the scandals side. However, just like with any union, their job is to protect their members. Just like PFT defends teachers who assault students, put a bad name to the teaching profession, are always late or absent etc..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 7:57 pm

However, I can point to teachers who were fired. I don't know a single principal or administrator that was fired. At worst they will be allowed to slip away into the night upon resigning. The PFT also protects teachers who are falsely accused of things they never did, but principals will try to accuse them having done.

Submitted by Pam (not verified) on August 25, 2012 8:59 pm

Were always talking about bad teachers - we all know of principals who are not leaders. What happens they are sent to another school or promoted to 440. Principals like the glory when things are going great but are the first to blame teachers when things are going wrong. Its time for them to go as well as teachers. I know administrators who come to work late, don't sign in ( " administrators don't have to sign in everyday or the correct time they enter the building"). Who is doing anything about it?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 9:35 pm

Principals have an "undefined" day. There is no official start or end time. The SDP can call on principals to serve at any time. Contractually, teachers have a right to be compensated for overtime when they work past the school day. A principal can be called into a last minute meeting at 5PM and be required to stay as late as the superintendent desires. Principal's must be available by cell phone until 10PM. When kids aren't picked up or a serious incident comes up, teachers can freely leave, principals must stay. To answer your question, because of the unpredictable hours that principals keep, they do not have a "sign-in" time. On the other hand, there is no "sign-out" time either.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 6:50 am

There are principals who abuse their "no-sign in" privileged. It provides flexibility and some are overly "flexible." They can pass the buck because they hold ultimate power in a building. Principals also receive a cell phone so they can take calls.

As a teacher who stays often 2 - 3 hours after schools hours WITHOUT compensation and then works at home, I put in more hours than my principal. S/he is not writing lesson plans, grading papers, calling parents, etc. S/he often leaves quickly after school and his/her day is done. Any time s/he works on Saturday is compensated. My weekends are donated.

Submitted by Works with Kids (not verified) on April 19, 2013 2:25 pm
Staying 2-3 hours after school working without compensation.. Blah.. Blah.. Blah.. Not many put more hours in than the principal. If you see your principal leaving, that does not mean her/his day is done. You don't know what they are doing or where they are going! LOL!! Stop worrying about the whereabouts of "your boss" and teach your students!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 26, 2012 6:44 am

Some veteran principals named in the scandal have begun to retire. What happens to those remaining principals is anyone's guess.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 7:03 am

Other principals have been moved around. Barbara McCreary was at Comm. Tech HS when it was sited for extremely unlikely erasures. It was well known that McCreary played games with testing to get an quick improvement in scores which then dropped dramatically once she left. Now she is at Bok - another school sited for across the board cheating. The SDP is recycling principals rather than holding them accountable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 7:17 am

Spelling error - it is McCreery (not McCreary). Nevertheless, there are far too "Barbara McCreery's " in leadership positions. Add Cortez, Ressier, Nixon, ETC. to the list.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 25, 2012 3:16 pm

First, thank you to the Notebook staff for publishing this story. Silence will not make "the cheating" go away. If the SRC supports transparency, there has to be an open process for finding out what happened. It is especially important for those in leadership positions to be open about the overt methods used to influence the results (e.g. changing answers, sitting with students to complete open ended questions, etc.) on the PSSA but the more "unassuming" testing protocols which influenced the results (e.g. instructing during proctoring, nodding about correct/incorrect answers, etc.) Then, those who have led this deception need to resign.

Next, there has to be a concerted effort to look at the implications of standardized testing on the quality of learning and instruction in schools. With NCLB and the standardized curriculum, we have created schools which primarily do one thing - prepare students for a narrow set of tests. In Philly, this started with Vallas and was expanded by Ackerman with her scripted curricula. Programs like Mastery and KIPP are praised because they raise test scores. The Phila. School Partnership gives funds to create more "high performing seats."

There are many teachers in Philadelphia schools - including neighborhood high schools - that still believe we teach and learn from children / students - not "data." We have found creative ways to comply with "downtown dictates" while trying to focus on student learning versus hallow "student achievement" or test scores. We've been told we will now have "autonomy." Will we be able to create learning environments to work with and learn from students which do recognize the "whole child" and not only foster a love of learning in students but also let teachers love learning / teaching?

As the Phila. Partnership disburses its millions, I hope they do not ignore neighborhood schools without the "high performing seats" based on test scores. All test scores are suspect - including those at magnet schools - because we have lived through a decade at "by any means necessary" when it comes to standardized testing. I won't hold my breath, but hopefully the Partnership, SRC, Nutter, etc. want to transform this School District - not merely erase it (no pun intended).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 6:36 pm

I like your post but why do you say that Mastery and Kipp perform well on the tests. How do you know that? Because they say they do?? The FACTS show that even with all the cherry picking of students and the designed lack of transparency and accountability given to/for them, charters still suck compared with the real schools. More and more, as staffs at MANY charters are complaining and speaking truth to power, the charter lie house of cards will come crashing down. The crooked pols and their buddies will be exposed and I hope, sooner rather than later.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 25, 2012 7:43 pm

I agree that Mastery and KIPP select students. KIPP has a poor track record of keeping students. If students don't "get with the program," they are encouraged to leave and apparently many do. Mastery has a "by any means necessary" contract that parents and students have to sign. Their admission process and contract keep students out. I've also had students who were "counseled out" of Mastery. That said, the SRC - especially Ramos - Nutter, Nowak / William Penn Foundation, and the Phila. Partnership love Mastery and KIPP. Mastery has applied for a grant to "train" teachers in SDP schools with "their method." This is extremely scary. It will put even more emphasis on standardized tests versus genuine learning.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 9:26 pm

For what it's worth, a KIPP principal recently wrote about some of these issues

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on August 26, 2012 3:51 am

While the blog post has a good list of critiques of charters, the post is about a K-4 KIPP school started in 2010. The post is an affirmation of the school written by its principal. I don't know the school so I can't comment on the "truths" but most KIPP schools start in 5th grade. A recently renewed KIPP school had its charter renewed despite its rating of "8" out of 10 with "1" being the highest possible score. KIPP schools statistically have a large attrition rate in their 5 - 8 schools so this K-4 school may be atypical. (It is also only 2 years old.)

There are some very good charters in Philly but all charters have an advantage SDP schools do not - they are not open enrollment. They do not have to take any student in their catchment any time during the year. (This makes them more akin to a magnet school.) They also can "counsel out" students as part of a "dis-enrollment" process. Obviously, parochial/private schools are even more selective so the fact these schools will get additional state funding through the "opportunity grants" is even more unsettling. (The state paying for religious instruction is another issue which, I believe, violates the PA Constitution.)

My original post mentioned Mastery and KIPP because the SDP leadership - especially the SRC - appears to think their models for instruction should be emulated in SDP schools - at least in neighborhood schools. (Magnets in Phila. are always "off the hook" since they have, by definition of being a magnet, so-called "high performing seats" because of the admission and selection criteria.) I don't think Mastery nor KIPP have a "magic formula" for instruction. I also have philosophical differences with Mastery's methodology. Therefore, I dread a possibly mandate to implement Mastery's "model" in neighborhood schools.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on August 26, 2012 7:25 am

Aside from the good points you made, I would offer basic corruption as another focus so far obviously ignored for the most part. Mastery is a joke, Gordon's fiefdom. Kipp, I know little about except for a teacher there who left on his own after less than a year because he claimed he wasn't allowed to teach and that made him crazy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 4:21 pm

Instead of teach for America, the newer principals are trained by cheat for America.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 5:56 pm

Imhotep so completely showed evidence of cheating that it separated itself from the larger pack of cheaters. Why are they still open?------Oh, I forgot, they have the hook up with Chaka's son--my bad.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on August 25, 2012 5:48 pm

Anyone who is failing in class on a regular basis and then is passing a standardized test is either A] bored to death in class and a genius or B] is not learning a thing and was told all the answers regardless of what the kids know.

Now I am sure that appplies to some students, how many I do not know, but really? Wrong to right erasures? Oh that's right, we expect all students regardless of level and learning style to maigically test proficient/advanced and then we can not believe it if it what are we saying?

Is it:"You can only achieve so much but only as much as we say you can achieve?"

We will never make ALL the children PROFICIENT and or ADVANCED. We as adults are not that way.

Let us teach each one to the best of our ability and encourage the abilities of as many children as possible because in the end, no one will remember their standardized test scores...I for one, can not tell you what I got on the CAT but do know that my teachers and parents encourged me...[so much so I now have a doctorate degree from Saint Joe's.]

Submitted by Rob (not verified) on August 25, 2012 10:49 pm

Can anyone else confirm that the lawyers coming in to do the investigating were working 'pro bono?'. The guys that did the interviews at my school came from Harrisburg and stayed at a hotel for the week. Did they cover that also? I am very interested to know who benefited from the investigation

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 9:28 am

What school are you at? If you were in Tier 1 then state was investigating you and they are not the is investigating Tier 2.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2012 11:01 pm

I really wish I didn't teach in philly sometimes! I love the way the suburbs run their schools.....cities take notes

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on August 27, 2012 9:38 pm

And most of the suburbs have far more money than Philadelphia. It's an apples to oranges comparison to compare Philadelphia with most of its suburbs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 8:20 pm

Penny Nixon nor other administrators listed in the tiered schools have to leave in order for you to do your job. Children come first.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 28, 2012 2:38 pm

OK, Mussolini !!

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 27, 2012 8:57 pm

As difficult as it is to block out all of this negative 'stuff' that's permeating the District, that's exactly what I plan to try to do, as I get ready to start the school year. My students deserve the very best that I can give them, and as long as I do that, I can look at myself in the mirror each morning, and feel comfortable with who I see.
The cheaters know who they are and they'll get theirs, someday- karma.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2012 12:04 pm

Penny Nixon..gone!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 31, 2012 5:21 pm

Paul Kihn in....Penny Nixon out!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 4, 2012 7:51 pm

If Penny Nixon is out, she has gone on to greener pastures. Dr. Penny Nixon is an outstanding leader and educator who will be a valuable asset to any school district. Obviously, you have never had the pleasure or opportunity to work with her. You are an asshole!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 4, 2012 8:51 pm

The conclusion of this exemplifies the kind of classy people that Nixon hangs with. It is easy to see why you like her.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 5, 2012 5:42 am

Spoken like someone "gifted" with employment within the Penny Nixon regime.

Submitted by Shantel Lee (not verified) on September 27, 2012 2:16 pm

I think it's the biggest delima which should be solved by the management staff of schools otherwise the ways of cheating will enhance the students to go to wrong side.

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Submitted by George Hunt (not verified) on October 8, 2012 12:27 pm

Although the great and famous schools are running on the strategy of principles and it's the responsibility of the principles that they add proper actions against cheating in their strategy plan of schools.

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Submitted by Harry del papeo (not verified) on May 22, 2013 3:51 pm
Cheating from the top is completely unacceptable, it sets a terrible example and gives a child the worse possible start to life. Children do what they see and if encouraged from an early age they will surely falter later down the line
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2013 7:48 pm
I really wish I didn't teach in philly sometimes! I love the way the suburbs run their schools.....cities take notes
Submitted by Richard P (not verified) on November 7, 2013 3:43 pm
Totally unacceptable, and needs to be clamped down on!

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