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Erased answers and other signs have exposed another school cheating scandal in Pennsylvania. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A new cheating scandal is unfolding in Pennsylvania, as evidence has exposed the second major cheating scandal of 2011. Teachers in Philadelphia allegedly corrected answers on state standardized tests in order to boost average test scores on tests administered in 2009.

City of Brotherly Love latest city to harbor cheating on tests

When President George W. Bush spearheaded and passed the No Child Left Behind Act, more weight was placed nationwide on standardized test scores, and incentive schemes were created for teachers to do well, including rewards for teachers with high-scoring classrooms and punishment for teachers with low-scoring classrooms.

Since the enactment of that legislation, there have been a number of cheating scandals in public schools, the most recent being the Atlanta public school cheating scandal. Cheating was found to have occurred in 44 Atlanta schools, reports MSNBC. This involved 178 teachers and administrators, of whom 82 confessed. Evidence was recently uncovered that schools in Pennsylvania, many in the Philadelphia area, have also likely engaged in cheating on school tests in a similar manner. According to the New York Times, there is virtually no chance that cheating failed to occur.

Obscure report breaks case open

In April, a report concerning test scores and possible cheating on state-administered standardized tests landed on the desk of Dale Mezzacappa, an education reporter who used to work for the Philadelphia Inquirer but currently works for The Notebook, a news organization that covers Pennsylvania public schools. The report concerned test scores from 2009. It was found that 89 schools, 28 of which were in Philadelphia, had posted unusually large gains in math and reading and abnormal amounts of erased answers, both of which are serious red flags. Data analysis found the odds that the tests weren’t doctored to be 100 trillion to one.

The worst cheating is believed to have occurred at Chester Community Charter school. In 2009, 65.4 percent of Chester eighth grade students were proficient in math. In 2008, Chester eighth graders scored 22 percent. Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis has ordered analyses of the state’s 2010 and 2011 scores.

Isolated incidents or chronic problem

Experts believe that the number of cheating scandals suggests America’s schools have a chronic problem. Cheating scandals have been uncovered in Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Florida and Texas, according to the Norwich Bulletin. Cheating reportedly even occurred in Washington D.C., during the tenure of noted reform superintendent Michelle Rhee.

Critics argue that test performance incentives for teachers encourage cheating in under-performing classrooms. For instance, an Atlanta teacher muses about it on, a post on CitizenEconomists argues those incentives will encourage cheating, and so does a blog post by Bob Sutton, a Management Science professor at Stanford University. New York City schools, according to the New York Times, abandoned performance incentives for teachers recently because incentives were found not to be ineffective.



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