Three Philly principals face SRC termination vote related to PSSA cheating investigation

    The School Reform Commission is hearing a presentation on testing integrity at its meeting tonight — likely the result of its long-awaited probe on test cheating in dozens of city schools.

    And on a personnel resolution also up for a vote, three principals are up for termination, effective Friday: Michelle Burns, Deidre Bennett, and Marla Travis-Curtis. All three worked at schools under investigation for cheating on the PSSA exam.

    Burns, now principal of Kensington Urban Education High School, was principal of Tilden Middle School when the alleged cheating took place. Bennett, principal of Cassidy, was on the staff at Huey Elementary. Travis-Curtis has been the principal of Lamberton Elementary School.

    Sources said that these terminations are related to the investigation, which the state Department of Education initiated after the Notebook drew attention to a forensic analysis of test results in 2009 that showed high probability of cheating in many schools statewide based primarily on statistically improbable wrong-to-right erasures in answer sheets.

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    Tilden, Huey, and Lamberton were all so-called Tier 2 schools, which means that the District conducted its own investigation into evidence of widespread adult cheating. The state Department of Education investigated another set of Tier 1 schools. There are also 22 Tier 3 schools that have not yet been investigated.

    At Huey, proficiency rates on the PSSA dropped 43 points in math and 34 points in reading in 2012 after new security measures were put in place by the state and district. At Lamberton, scores dropped 31 points in both math and reading. At Tilden, scores dropped 28 points in both math and reading in 2011, the year after Burns left Tilden and was reassigned to Kensington Urban Education Academy.

    Sources have said that scores of Philadelphia educators may have sanctions placed against them as a result of the cheating investigation, which started more than two years ago, although not all of them as severe as termination.  

    Superintendent William Hite, General Counsel Michael Davis and Chief Talent Officer Naomi Wyatt will be delivering the presentation to the SRC on testing integrity at the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

    This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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