State: scramble test proctors to prevent cheating allegations

UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.

A fourth grade class from Francis Scott Key Elementary in South Philadelphia has weighed in on the state's ruling.  And they're not happy.

When her students came to her with concerns about the new policy, teacher Jasselle Cruz encouraged them to do something constructive - write persuasive letters.

“ will be better for us if our teachers are there with us because we will be more motivated before the test starts,” Anh Nguyen wrote. “...Our teacher doesn’t CHEAT!”

“We, kids, are like magnets to our teacher. We and our teacher are like a big heart, and if we go apart, the heart will break,” wrote Daylen Tep.

Cristina Valenzo-Castro, who signed herself “Sad Student” in a letter written in beautiful cursive, said that if her teacher “was here to give us the PSSA, I would feel more confident on the test. Also if another teacher gave me the PSSA, I would feel like I don’t know them.”

"We should have a constitutional right to pick if we do or do not want our teacher to be our giver.  Why are we being punished?  We didn't cheat," wrote Mikayla Blackwood.


The Pennsylvania Department of Education has ordered Philadelphia and four other districts and charters to scramble proctors for the upcoming state exams for test security reasons.

The Philadelphia School District, Imhotep Charter School, Philadelphia Electrical and Technical Charter, Chester Community Charter and Hazelton School District are all all under investigation for possible cheating on state exams.

The state has recommended that schools across the state prohibit classroom teachers from administering their own students' PSSA exams - a big departure from current protocol.  But that's not a suggestion in the five districts and charters - it's a requirement, said Tim Eller, a spokesman for the Department of Education.

"In order to protect the educator from possible allegations of mishandling, and to ensure the security and credibility of the exam, the department believes this is the best approach," Eller said Wednesday.

The edict could create a logistical nightmare for schools, who must now must redesign testing plans for an exam that begins March 12.

The news has many teachers panicked, too.

Eller said he understood some teachers believe their students will perform worse if the test is given by someone they don't know. 

"In extraordinary circumstances, the teacher is permitted to remain in the classroom, but another proctor would have to join them," Eller said.  He said teachers who want to pursue this option should raise the issue with their schools or districts.

The state's investigation of possible PSSA cheating in 2009, 2010 and 2011 is ongoing. 

Teachers at Cayuga and Roosevelt Schools have told The Inquirer there was widespread test cheating inside their buildings. 

(Some good reporting and interesting comments from The Notebook on this issue, too.)