28 Philly Schools Flagged for High Exam Erasures

High number of erased and changed answers on state exams, according to report

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    Twenty-eight Philadelphia schools, out of 89 schools in Pennsylvania, have been flagged by the state for a high number of erasures on state exams, according to a 2009 study of state standardized test scores.

    The Notebook, a Philadelphia education newspaper that originally broke the story, reports that roughtly 60 schools had "suspicious results due to multiple statistical irregularities" on the tests. The statistics do bring up questions of why there are so many erasures on the exams, where wrong answers were changed to correct answers, however the report says the numbers are not definitive proof of cheating.

    "These flagged or identified schools or students may have earned their scores unfairly. However, they also may have earned them fairly," the report states. "The combination of many indices may give strong evidence for a testing irregularity, but they do not provide definitive evidence of such behavior."

    But the report also states that "if a school is flagged for erasure analysis, there are likely many
    students who were also flagged. It is these schools and students that may warrant further
    investigation."

    The Notebook asked UPenn's dean of the Graduate School of Education to review the report. He's an expert on testing, according to The Notebook, which writes:

     

    Porter stressed that statistical analysis alone, without witnesses or confessions, cannot definitively prove that there was cheating. But he added that the report "describes a reasonable approach to identifying schools where there may have been cheating."

     

    Chester Community Charter is one of the local schools flagged the most for high numbers of erasures in the report. In addition to erasures flagged in the report, the school reported 65.4 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math in 2009, according to the Notebook. That’s one year after only 22 percent scored proficient in 2008.

    The New York Times challenged Gov. Tom Corbett to conduct such an investigation, following the example of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue who looked into reports of erasures as intensely as a police investigation.

    Perdue's investigation into Atlanta schools after similar reports of high erasures on state exams ended with 178 teachers and principals accused of cheating, and 82 confessing.

    But Corbett has a bit of a challenge in this, the NYT reports. If he launches a thorough investigation, this would include Chester Community Charter School, which is run by Vahan Gureghian -- Corbett's biggest individual campaign contributor. Gureghian gave more than $300,000 to Corbett’s campaign.

    A call for comment from Chester Community Charter's CEO, Deputy Superintendent and spokesperson was not returned.