State rep asks for answers on possible Philly SD cheating

Prompted by The Inquirer’s report of alleged PSSA cheating at Roosevelt Middle School, a state legislator is calling on State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis to release the results of a probe into possible testing improprieties.

“I would like to confirm that the investigations of the testing allegations made concerning Roosevelt Middle School and FitzSimons High have taken place and reports filed accordingly,” State Rep. Michael McGeehan (D., Phila.) wrote in a letter to Tomalis.  “If so, please provide me with copies of the findings.  If not, please provide a status of these and any other similar investigations concerning reports of test cheating with the Philadelphia School District.”

In May, my colleague Dylan Purcell and I reported that multiple Roosevelt teachers had come forward to us alleging that a remarkable rise in test scores was achieved through breaches in test security.  The teachers described mutliple breaches, from answers written on a blackboard to senior staff’s encouraging teachers to drill certain concepts they knew appeared on the exam.  The Roosevelt teachers said they also saw administrators giving back books to students to correct wrong answers.

Another teacher also talked about a breach at FitzSimons.  The teacher said staff there were given test booklets in advance and encouraged to drill their students on concepts that would be tested, a violation of security.  The teacher brought a 2011 PSSA test booklet into the Inquirer newsroom.

The Philadelphia School District said investigated all claims of cheating, describing its monitoring system as “robust.”

McGeehan, a frequent critic of the district and Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman, also wants to know how deep the investigation went.  In particular, he’s asking for “erasure analysis,” a method that was used to determine widespread cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools recently.  That scandal allegedly involved 216 educators and principals.

“The credibility of our education system depends on reliable and accurate testing of our students,” McGeehan said.

State education office officials did not immediately return a phone call for comment.