What does a woman have to do to get fired in this town? In little more than a year, Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman has responded with callous indifference to violence against Asian students in a South Philadelphia high school run by a known incompetent Ackerman foisted into the job, seen school violence rise despite pressure from HQ not to report incidents, tried to muzzle a critical teacher by placing her in the district's "rubber room" and threatening to fire her, sicced the police on a journalistwho had the temerity to call Queen Arlene at home, and responded to allegations of scandal by...firing the alleged whistleblowers.
And yes, I left a bunch of other stuff off that list.
But the pro-Ackerman crowd (amazingly there is one) keeps coming back to one thing. Who cares about her arrogance and her horrible record on academic freedom, etc. Students' test scores are improving! Leave Arlene alone!
But what if some of that whole "students' test scores are improving" turned out to be yet another sham?
In just two years, the 400 seventh and eighth graders at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown had jumped a stunning 52 points in math on a 100-point scale and 51 in reading on the statewide assessment known as the PSSA. The improvement was the best - by a considerable margin - of any comparable school in the School District of Philadelphia.
At a ceremony in August, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, then-Gov. Ed Rendell, and other luminaries heaped praise on principal Stefanie Ressler for turning around Roosevelt - deemed persistently dangerous by the state, with nearly nine of 10 students living in poverty and 25 percent needing special-education services.
But a group of Roosevelt teachers told The Inquirer that they believed the rise in scores had been achieved in part through cheating.
Several said they had witnessed apparent breaches in test security - from answers written on a blackboard to senior staff's encouraging teachers to drill certain concepts they knew appeared on the exam. One teacher reported seeing students, with test booklets and answer sheets out, all engaged in conversation with the principal.
This alleged cheating -- like so much of what goes on on Philadelphia schools -- only hurts the kids, and it only helps grown-ups like Ackerman and some cowardly administrators. Now that the last leg of the Ackerman chair has been ripped out, maybe Mayor Nutter should...do something? I know, I know, the schools superintendent is hired and fired by the state School Reform Commission and not City Hall, but you -- and apparently Michael Nutter -- would amazed at what one angry mayor can accomplish in this town, if he just tried. Nutter has no serious opposition in the 2011 election to force him to do the right thing. He will have to find that strength -- to launch a difficult but completely justified crusade -- on his own.