Pa. looking into possible cheating on state tests

“These are not unusual,” he said. “These are normal things…I can almost guarantee you that many superintendents would say to you ‘Yeah, we’ve been notified about people trying to influence inappropriately the PSSA work.’ It’s something the department and the state does very, very well–investigate and get to the bottom of complaints.”

The news comes days after officials in Georgia revealed a massive cheating scandal in Atlanta, with nearly half of the city’s 100 schools involved. State investigators said 178 educators had fudged standardized tests used to meet federal benchmarks dating back to 2001.

That same week, the U.S. Department of Education began looking into cheating allegations in Washington, D.C. Over the past several years, such scandals have surfaced in school districts in Baltimore and Houston, as well as Texas, Michigan and Florida.

Experts say many districts can feel pressured to meet testing standards to avoid penalties under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, or to ensure positive results for teachers who are rewarded based on student performance.

In Pennsylvania, the PSSA is given annually in various grades to assess math and reading skills. Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp. analyzed scores from 2009 and found hundreds of aberrant results, and singled out in the report about 90 schools with the most flags.

Based on statistical properties, the report said the suspect results were “highly improbable.”

It noted that any possible fraud could have been perpetrated by students, teachers or other officials. But the company also stressed that the scores could have been obtained fairly.

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