Schools under cheating scrutiny take a tumble

UPDATE, 2 p.m.

Across Pennsylvania, scores fell statewide for the first time since the PSSA was first administered, in 2002. Read the full story here.

UPDATE, noon.

Philadelphia School District officials, reacting to the state's release of PSSA and AYP data that shows big drops for city schools, said they will be conducting a "full review" to determine what may have caused scores to drop.  They will look at both test security and the implications of decreased funding to schools.

"These results are clearly disappointing - and they simply remind us of the work we have ahead in developing a strong system of schools in Philadelphia and in supporting our students' learning,” William Hite, the new superintendent, said in a statement.  “We must continue to focus on the basics that will allow our students to succeed in the classroom and that is to ensure the best possible teaching and learning environments, supporting our teachers and principals, and empowering our parents."

Speaking to cheating allegations, Hite said that “the allegations of cheating that have clouded the PSSA test results are disturbing.  Adult cheating is a great disservice to our students.  It will not be tolerated and there is no room in our District for any adult involved in cheating.  We plan to take aggressive action against any individual found to have committed this type of injustice on our students.”

District officials noted that while districtwide scores tumbled overall, individual schools may continue to show growth performance.

EARLIER: The results of the 2012 Pennsylvania System of Standards Assessment are in, and for the Philadelphia School District, they’re stunning.

Last year, 110 schools made “Adequate Yearly Progress.” This year, it’s only 33.

That’s a 70 percent drop.

That’s 13 percent of the district’s 249 2011-12 schools.  (There are fewer schools this year, with closures and conversions to charter schools.)

And after nine straight years of test score gains system-wide, the district's scores fell this year - 50 percent of student met state standards in math, and 45 percent in reading.  That's down from 59 percent of students hitting the mark in math last year, and 52 percent in reading.

The standards schools had to meet in order to hit “Adequate Yearly Progress” as measured by the federal No Child Left Behind law got tougher. That clearly drove the numbers lower.

The district lost hundreds of millions in funding last year; there were two brutal rounds of classroom cuts.  That obviously factored in, too.

But so did the fact that since the 2011 PSSAs were administered, a cheating scandal was exposed and for the first time, the state and district imposed unprecedented security measures - everything from forbidding teachers from administering test to their own students to requiring teachers and test administrators to sign documents acknowledging if they cheated they’d be subjected to criminal penalties.

The schools that made AYP are: Academy at Palumbo, AMY NW, Barton, Bodine High, Bridesburg, Carver High School for Engineering and Science, Central High, Comly, Constitution High, Conwell Middle, Cook-Wissahickon, CAPA High, DeBurgos, Dobson, Fitler, Anne Frank, GAMP, Greenberg, Hancock, Hill-Freedman, A.S. Jenks, J.S. Jenks, LaBrum, Masterman, McCall, Meredith, MYA, Parkway West, Penn Alexander, Phila HS for Business and Technology, Powel, Science Leadership Academy and Shawmont.

Of those schools that met state standards, about half, 16 of 33, are special admissions school where students must meet academic standards to gain admission.

Eleven schools saw passing scores decline by at least a third in one or both subjects from the year before.  Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson had the biggest single drop - 71 percent in math between 2012 and 2011.

At two schools where teachers and others came forward to The Inquirer to report that cheating occurred - Cayuga Elementary in Hunting Park and Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown - scores decreased dramatically.

Roosevelt fell 27 percent in math and 38 percent in reading, year-to-year.  Since 2009, the school’s math scores have plummeted - dropping 51 percent.

Cayuga fell 36 percent in math and 31 percent in reading.  Since 2009, the school’s reading scores fell 48 percent.
More to come.