Daniel Denvir, crack investigative journalist in Philadelphia, reports that the state has dragged its feet on an investigation of a major cheating scandal.
Despite evidence of high rates of erasures, the state has done nothing and refuses reporters’ requests for information.
“Over the last two years, inquiries were closed or altered with little explanation, and state and school administrators refused to answer basic questions about the investigations’ nature or methods. Some schools were left to investigate themselves. Only a handful of administrators and one teacher have been publicly held to account.
“It’s dragging on at an incredibly slow pace compared to investigations elsewhere,” says Bob Schaeffer, public-education director at FairTest, an organization critical of high-stakes testing. “And it makes you wonder: What’s going on?”
“The Notebook and, to a lesser extent, the Inquirer have covered each turn in this story. But despite continued questions, few answers have been forthcoming. “Some people probably want this story to go away,” says Notebook editor Paul Socolar. “Some people may think it has gone away because there hasn’t been a lot of information coming out about what actually happens. That’s not for lack of effort. We’re not getting a lot of information from the authorities about what they found out in their investigations.”
“After all, politically, the state would have a great deal to lose by prosecuting cheaters. Some of the most damning evidence of cheating has come from Philadelphia, a district run by the state since 2002, and from charters, including a Chester school run by a prominent leader in Pennsylvania’s self-described school-reform movement who is a backer of Gov. Tom Corbett. But more than that, bubble tests have become the high-stakes centerpiece of American public education; when the scores are tainted, it could throw an entire way of running schools into question.
“Given the scope of the issue and the lack of action since, it appears Pennsylvania is covering up one of the country’s largest cheating scandals — and doing so in plain sight.”
The pursuit of ever higher scores, Denvir reports, has produced not only massive cheating, but also intensive test prep, narrowing the curriculum, unjust firings and school closings.