Teachers' Hotline

Two weeks ago, state Rep. Mike McGeehan urged state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis to create a whistleblower hotline for Philly school teachers with info about potential cheating on standardized tests that reflect marked improvement in pupil performance.

McGeehan said that after a recent "hair-raising" meeting with a number of teachers who told him about "rampant cheating" he's convinced the district isn't acting on such info and that teachers aren't coming forward for fear of retribution.

A state audit report of `09 test scores suggests irregularties in test results at 29 city schools. The district is reviewing that report. The state is also looking at other recent years.

Since higher test scores are at the heart of Superintendent Ackerman's argument for continued tenure, are offered as "proof" that increased school funding under Gov. Rendell improved schools' performance and are used by district advocates' to argue for more money, the issue is critical.

Tomalis tells me the department has not yet installed such a hotline but that "we are looking at it now."

He says 3,000 schools across the state take such tests and the normal procedure regarding complaints is to refer reports or irregularities back to the district involved.

But he also says that while the department reviews the possibility of a hotline, Philly teachers can call the department directly and be assured the state and not the district will look into complaints.

He said the department's office of chief counsel will take such calls. The number is 717-787-5500.

Getting to the truth isn't always easy, but trying to get there is always a good idea.