In 2011, the Notebook obtained a Pennsylvania Department of Education forensic analysis of state test results that found implausible numbers of “wrong-to-right” erasures and irregularities at more than 200 schools statewide, including nearly 100 in Philadelphia. News coverage triggered District and state investigations at many of those schools.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has filed criminal charges against two more former Philadelphia principals.
Barbara McCreery, 61, former principal of Communications Technology High School, and Arthur "Larry" Melton, 70, former principal of Bok Technical High School, were arrested Thursday as part of the state's ongoing investigation into adult cheating on standardized tests.
They were taken into custody and charged with crimes of "tampering with public records or information, forgery, and tampering with records or identification," according the attorney general's office.
The attorney for Ary Sloane, one of the educators from Cayuga Elementary School who was criminally charged in the investigation of cheating on standardized tests, has called the state attorney general's probe "an inquisition."
Sloane, former Cayuga principal Evelyn Cortez, and three teachers were arrested Thursday on charges that included conspiracy, forgery, and tampering with public records.
The School Reform Commission postponed scheduled votes on two charter schools Thursday, pulling one at the last minute for reasons related to an investigation of test cheating.
Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter High School was one of three city charters flagged by the state for potential cheating after analyses of test results for 2009, 2010, and 2011 showed statistical irregularities. The charter was directed by the state to conduct an investigation, which resulted in the dismissal of an assistant principal and the imposition of stricter testing protocols.
The renewal vote on PE&T was delayed, officials said, not because of problems with the school's own probe, but because the District is not yet ready to release its investigations into possible cheating at more than a dozen District-run schools.
Two icons of the progressive education movement spoke in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to decry standardized testing and urge that a “justice-oriented framework” drive school reform instead.
“Test score gaps are used to label schools as failures without providing resources or strategies to eliminate the gap,” said Stan Karp of Rethinking Schools, an education journal and publisher.
In the first fallout from Pennsylvania’s nearly two-year-old investigation into possible cheating on state standardized tests at 53 Philadelphia District schools, two city principals have surrendered their administrative credentials.
Barbara McCreery, who oversaw astronomical test score gains in 2010 at Communications Technology High in Southwest Philadelphia, was alleged to have “violated the integrity and security of the PSSA by erasing and changing student answers, creating an answer key and manipulating student data."
Lola Marie O’Rourke, former principal of Locke Elementary in West Philadelphia, faced similar allegations, including that she directly provided answers to students.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has taken over the probe into possible widespread cheating on state tests at Philadelphia's Wagner Middle School in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The investigation had previously been the purview of the School District of Philadelphia. District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed the switch, saying the state informed the District of its plan at the end of September. No reason for the change was given, Gallard said.
Tuesday night, Frontline is airing a documentary, by my friend John Merrow, on Michelle Rhee. Merrow, who has been following Rhee's career since her days with the New Teacher Project and was granted unprecedented access to her, includes allegations from a former principal that the Washington, D.C., school district failed to pursue allegations of adult cheating on tests.
I know -- many Notebook readers are growing weary of our coverage of cheating allegations in Philadelphia schools. But this is important stuff, folks. Whatever you think of the value of these tests or of misguided incentives attached to giving them such high stakes, we should not ignore evidence that educators may be behaving dishonestly, undermining the integrity of the whole educational enterprise.
Superintendent William Hite says the Philadelphia School District is "close to wrapping up" its piece of a far-reaching investigation into cheating on state tests, adding that some city educators may soon be disciplined.
"I feel very strongly about the evidence that is there," Hite said.
"We're intending to send a very strong message publicly about individuals who are found to have participated in cheating our students."
Pennsylvania’s investigation of possible cheating on state tests in Philadelphia is entering its second year with no results announced and with little information about its scope and depth.
So far, no area educators or school officials have been publicly charged with wrongdoing. Both the School District of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s Department of Education (PDE) have vowed to take disciplinary action, but those actions can take place behind closed doors.