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.
In July 2010, when Saliyah Cruz was named principal of Communications Technology High, state test scores said the small citywide admission school in Southwest Philadelphia was one of the best in the city.
Everything else said something different.
How reliable are tests in measuring what really matters for 21st-century learning? And should high-stakes tests really be used as a punitive evaluation of teacher quality? With all the controversy surrounding standardized tests and cheating, it’s time for teachers, parents, districts and policymakers to consider alternatives.
The appointment of William Hite as our new superintendent has won praise from many in education circles. His performance in meetings with stakeholders, his credentials as an educator, high marks from the teachers' union in Prince George’s County, and his apparent effectiveness as an administrator of a large, poor and financially troubled school district all worked to his favor, especially given the weakness of his competition.
A few weeks ago, the School District quietly released a new feature on its website that staff members should have been shouting about from the rooftops. It's School Finder, a map that has neighborhood school catchment areas clearly labeled.
In a few weeks, thousands of Philadelphia public high school students will graduate. They will march down aisles to the familiar and always stirring "Pomp and Circumstance." It will be an exciting day for these students, one that will fill them with a sense of accomplishment and optimism about the future.
But based on the postsecondary enrollment data that the Notebook highlights throughout this issue, that future will include a college education for only a few of those students.
There are some glimmers of progress. The percentage of Philadelphia high school graduates who enroll in college immediately after finishing school is on the rise, from 40 percent in 2008 to 44 percent last year.
"It's low, but I definitely think we're moving in the right direction," said Fran Newberg, the District's deputy for accountability and technology
There is a gender gap in college-going rates in Philadelphia. The rate is 14 points lower for both White and African American males than for their female counterparts.
The variations by race are even greater. For instance, both Asian males and females enroll in college at double or more the rates of their Latino counterparts.