Twelve of 56 city schools in state achievement-test cheating probe are in the Northwest

While allegations of cheating still hovered over their schools, children at Philadelphia School District locations in Northwest Philadelphia sat for the PSSA examinations on Monday.

This weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer listed 56 PSD schools as being under investigation for allegations of cheating on the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment), a statewide testing initiative used to gauge student and school performance.

Of the schools named as being under investigation in what the Public School Notebook labeled a widening probe, 12 — just over 20 percent — are located in Northwest Philadelphia, predominantly in the Germantown and West Oak Lane neighborhoods.

The breakdown

The schools identified as having anomalies on previous PSSA examination are ranked into three tiers.

Tier 1 consists of schools with the most serious allegations, with suspicious results spanning grade levels or subjects. In the Northwest, Eleanor Emlen Elementary, Theodore Roosevelt Middle, Martin Luther King High and Imhotep Charter schools were identified as those for which an investigation is being conducted by the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General.

Administrators from these schools were not available for comment on Monday.

Tier 2 schools are those with allegations limited to a grade or subject area. Northwest Tier 2 schools were identified as Anna B. Day and Robert Fulton Elementary and General Louis Wagner Middle schools. The PSD’s Office of General Counsel is tasked with these investigations.

Karen White, principal of Anna B. Day Elementary School in West Oak Lane, declined comment on the probe since it preceded her tenure at the school.

Still in her first year as principal, she is a 23-year veteran of the PSD who began her district career in Human Resources. White indicated that her school will adhere to testing guidelines this year.

“We’re following procedures as handed down to us,” she said.

Tier 3 schools are those whose PSSAs are still being reviewed. Pending the results of the investigation, the schools could be cleared of wrongdoing or be sent to a higher tier. They included Franklin S. Edmonds, Henry E. Houston, John B. Kelly and William Rowen Elementary schools and Morris E. Leeds Middle School.

Administrators from these schools were not immediately available for comment.

Geographic issue?

When viewed on a city map, the grouping of a dozen Northwest Philadelphia schools looks to be an unusual concentration, exceeded only by the geographically larger area east of Broad Street between Market Street and the Roosevelt Boulevard.

Asked whether proximity played into the issue, Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the Philadelphia School District, said the district has not looked into any such relationship.

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