The Blog

Passing the Tests, Cheating the Kids

2:05 PM, Jan 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

In school, the intense pressure to do well on tests creates a temptation to cheat. And in Philadelphia, it seems that teachers and their supervisors succumbed to it.  As Stephanie Banchero of the Wall Street Journal writes:

Nearly 140 teachers and administrators in Philadelphia public schools have been implicated in one of the nation's largest cheating scandals, according to district officials who also said Wednesday that they expected to discipline or terminate several school-based employees over the next few weeks in connection with the allegations.

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office also is conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Philadelphia Enquirer staff writers Jeff Gammage, Kristen A. Graham, and Dylan Purcell have been reporting on the scandal and write:

The 53 schools that have been investigated for possible cheating - one in five of all district schools - come from every part of the city and span every grade level. Some had been labeled "Vanguards," a Philadelphia School District designation for its highest-achieving schools, and one that gave them flexibility in curriculum and budgeting.

The scandal is not unprecedented.  More, in fact, like a part of a pattern.

In recent years, testing scandals have erupted in Washington; Cincinnati; Baltimore; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; and Newark, N.J., among other cities. Since 2009, cheating has been confirmed in 37 states and Washington. The Philadelphia scandal has drawn comparisons to one in Atlanta, where last year a Fulton County grand jury indicted 35 educators, including Beverly Hall, a former school superintendent. The allegations touched at least 44 schools.

(More here on the Atlanta scandal.)

Students would appear to be the victims of this sort of thing since they are not only being indifferently educated but also conned into believing otherwise. Still: 

Robert McGrogan, head of the union that represents Philadelphia school administrators, said he does not condone cheating under any circumstances. But, he said, during the years of the alleged cheating, the district was a pressure cooker. "Do you know how many of us sat in meetings with our bosses and were told, 'You have to bring your scores up'?" said McGrogan, a principal at the time. "There was no how-to book given to us.” Supervisors warned principals that if they did not meet state standards, "you're not going to be a principal next year," McGrogan said.

And in the Journal, Ms. Banchero writes that:

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he doesn't condone cheating …

But, "there was a mood in the district that people knew they have to improve student outcomes or they would be in trouble.”

The tests are to blame.  

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers