The cheating scandal recently rocked Atlanta Public Schools has moved up the coast to Philadelphia. This large school district has recently dismissed two school administrators amid serious cheating allegations. Those involved in the investigation into Philadelphia schools have suggested that the two dismissals may not be the end of what looks to be another widespread cheating problem that could impact teachers and administrators throughout the Philadelphia school system.
This video from CBS This Morning reports on four Philadelphia teachers and a principal being charged with a felony for allegedly doctoring state test results.
Principals: The First Casualties in Cheating Investigation
The Notebook reports that two principals in Philadelphia are the first to face dismissal amid cheating accusations. The principals surrendered their city credentials in lieu of discipline by the district. Barbara McCreery worked as the principal at Communication Technology High, a school in Southwest Philadelphia that saw an exponential jump in standardized test scores in 2010. McCreery had recently moved to Bok Technical High School, where she was recently removed from her position as principal due to the cheating allegations.
Lolo Marie O’Rourke, principal at Locke Elementary School in West Philadelphia during the time cheating allegedly occurred, was also stripped of her city credentials. O’Rourke is currently serving as the language arts supervisor in Trenton Public Schools in New Jersey, according to NJ.com. The superintendent of the Trenton district has said they will also be looking into the allegations to determine whether O’Rourke is still eligible for her post in that school system.
This video describes how more than 30 teachers in Atlanta were accused of participating in what's being called the biggest cheating scandal in the American public school system.
Credentials Handed Over, Discipline Avoided
Philly.com reports that McCreery handed over her administrative credentials to the state’s Department of Education. The step means McCreery will never be able to work as a principal in Pennsylvania again. Although she keeps her teaching certification, she is also banned from teaching in Philadelphia. However, Philly.com also reports that for 10 full days after McCreery relinquished her paperwork, she remained on staff at Bok, continuing to collect a paycheck from the school. Some are investigating whether that act was legal, considering McCreery was not officially certified for her position during that time.
O’Rourke had also handed in her credentials in March, including her administrative license, letter of superintendent eligibility, and supervisory certificate. O’Rourke resigned from the district in August 2012 and went to work for the Trenton school district in September. Trenton Superintendent Francisco Duran told NJ.com he was unaware of O’Rourke’s involvement in the cheating problems in Philadelphia when he hired her to work as the district language arts supervisor.
By surrendering their credentials, both of the principals are acknowledging a degree of wrongdoing in response to the cheating allegations, according to Tim Eller, the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
“The department’s focus is to ensure the integrity of the state’s assessments,” Eller stated at The Notebook. "These individuals surrendering their certificates is indicative of the department’s commitment to preventing these activities from occurring.”
In this video, according to the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia, 138 Philadelphia educators have been found to have taken part in a massive test score cheating ring.
Long Education Careers Come to Abrupt Halt
McCreery had been with Philadelphia schools for 38 years when she was forced to hand over her credentials to the state. During her time at Communications Technology High School, test scores jumped to all-time highs, according to a report at The Republic. For example, math scores for 11th grade went from just 30 percent proficiency during the 2008-09 school year to nearly 70 percent one year later. Reading scores jumped from 53 percent proficiency to around 75 percent during that same time frame.
O’Rourke had been with the Philadelphia school system for 14 years before leaving her post to take the position in Trenton. She was the principal of Locke Elementary between the 2009-10 and 2011-12 school years. During that time, PSSA scores at Locke increased by 29 percentage points in reading and 27 percentage points in math.
After the principals left their respective schools, test scores at both institutions plummeted. In 2012, with stricter test security measures in place, scores dropped 32 percentage points in reading and 42 percentage points in math. Test scores at Communications Technology dropped 45 points in math and 38 points in reading after McCreery left the school to move to Bok.
More Action to Come
The Notebook also reports that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has filed complaints against 140 other educators in Pennsylvania school districts where cheating has been alleged. However, the investigations into such allegations take some time to complete, leaving some wondering when those investigations will finally come to fruition. The Philadelphia investigation has been underway for two years, and these two administrators are the first ones to be singled out amid the allegations.
Robert McGrogan, the head of Philadelphia’s collective bargaining unit, told The Notebook he is unsure how many more teachers and administrators in the district might be implicated in the ongoing investigation. After sitting in on many of the hearings for administrators in nearly all the Philadelphia schools that have been under investigation, McGrogan told The Notebook, “This will be far from done. I don’t know how many more will be coming. I really don’t know.”
The Republic reports that a district investigation of 19 schools in Philadelphia is supposed to be completed within a matter of days. The state’s investigation, which involves at least a dozen schools in the district, is ongoing at this time. While in the thick of the cheating issues, it is difficult to say now whether the cheating allegations will reach the level of the Atlanta scandal. It is also unknown whether accusations of cheating will stop with the Philadelphia school district or spread to other districts around the country.
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