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Roosevelt Middle School: State Testing Cheating
 
  by: Rebel - Havertown, PA
started: 09/05/11 10:36 am | updated: 09/05/11 10:36 am
 
Philadelphia School District investigators found evidence of "several violations" in state testing protocol at Roosevelt Middle School, supporting teachers' assertions that cheating occurred at the school.

The report contradicts statements by senior officials that allegations of cheating at the East Germantown school were "unfounded."

One student's exam was completed and turned in even though the girl was absent the day of the test, according to the report.

The report identifies Roosevelt's principal at the time, its testing coordinator, and assistant principals as engaging in problematic testing practices during the 2010 and 2011 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.

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"They have never named a name," Fran Newberg, the district's deputy chief of accountability and educational technology, said at a news conference last month.

The report explicitly describes administrators coaching students and staffers looking at tests and giving back unfinished papers to pupils for them to complete.

In just two years, the school's scores on state exams skyrocketed 52 points in math and 51 in reading. The improvement was the best of any comparable school in the district.

In the report, administrators denied all allegations.

In just two years, the school's scores on state exams skyrocketed 52 points in math and 51 in reading. The improvement was the best - by a considerable margin - of any comparable school in the district.

Numerous teachers "put their necks on the line" to give names and details, and students named specific administrators, one teacher said.

"What does the district want? That we 'come forward' again, taking yet another risk, so they can ignore us again?" the teacher asked.

Ressler, Roosevelt's principal until June, has not responded to interview requests. While teachers' allegations of cheating were dismissed, she was lauded for her performance at Roosevelt by then-Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman and moved to a larger and better-performing school.

On Friday,9/2 a School District spokesman said the district had not stopped looking at Roosevelt.

"We are not writing off the allegations of improprieties," said Fernando Gallard.

"We are continuing to investigate and follow all leads."

Before Ackerman left the district, she warned against reading too much into a 2009 state study of PSSA testing that flagged Roosevelt and 27 other city schools among 89 schools across the state for possible cheating.

"We're talking about erasure marks," Ackerman said. "We're not talking about cheating parties or, you know, wholesale cheating in a school or in a classroom."

The previously unknown state study, which surfaced this summer after the Roosevelt investigation was conducted, contained a sophisticated examination of erasures, and while Roosevelt stood out, so did several other city schools, such as Strawberry Mansion High School and Wagner Middle School.

The internal school report, however, focused on Roosevelt's testing climate. Investigators said that while they had not found "culpable proof" of staff misconduct, they had concluded that administrators fostered an environment where cheating could occur. Roosevelt, the report said, "tolerated and enabled non-sanctioned PSSA proctoring."

One key finding was that teachers said they had been told by Roosevelt's principal and test coordinator to "hand back" to students or "not to accept" test booklets with unanswered or incomplete items.

The district report also did not address statistical anomalies in test taking. For example, two-thirds of seventh graders reading below grade level, according to school records, while 73 percent tested proficient or advanced on state exams.

82 students at Roosevelt - one-quarter of the school's seventh and eighth graders tested - had statistically suspicious patterns of changing answers on state tests in 2009.

One seventh-grade student erased answers 35 times, changing them from wrong to right every time. The odds of that happening naturally are greater than 1 in 100 trillion.
 
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