Pa. looking into possible cheating on state tests

In Pennsylvania, the PSSA is given annually in various grades to assess math and reading skills.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is looking into a report that has surfaced highlighting possible cheating on state standardized tests in at least 35 districts and noting aberrant scores in dozens of others, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The forensic analysis of the 2009 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment results does not assert cheating occurred, but says certain answer patterns and erasures make the results suspicious.

Among the school districts identified as having multiple testing irregularities are Philadelphia, Hazleton, Connellsville and Lancaster. Many other districts were cited for one or two inconsistencies.

The department was unaware of the report–issued in July 2009 under a previous administration–until it was published Friday by The Notebook, an independent news service covering the Philadelphia school district, said Timothy Eller, a spokesman for Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis.

“It’s very frustrating to the secretary that nothing was done in the past with it,” Eller said. Tomalis became education secretary earlier this year in new Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.

Then-Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak, who served under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and is now superintendent of the Allentown schools, declined comment on Eller’s remarks. He said he had not seen the report, but such assessments are conducted routinely by the company that administers the tests, and any subsequent investigation would be handled by a standards and practices commission and the results noted in their annual reports.

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