Days after the July 5, 2011 New York Times and the Associated Press reported widespread tampering with standardized test results by teachers and administrators at Atlanta Public Schools, Huffington Post reported on July 11th that similar tampering may have occurred at schools in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia. According to the New York Times article, the Atlanta test tampering occurred at 44 of Atlanta’s 100 schools, involved at least 178 teachers and principals and may extend as far back as 2001. The Associated Press reported that the Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent, who was hired in 1999 and resigned in June 2011, was aware of the cheating, which included helping students with the answers to test questions or changing the answers after the tests were turned in. The special investigators in the Governor’s Office who conducted the investigation stated that they found “organized and systemic wrongdoing” in the school system. The Huffington Post noted that the rigor and scale of the Atlanta investigation may be the most in-depth look into teacher-cheating in U.S. history.
On July 8, 2011 the Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook blog on the Philadelphia Public Schools website reported that, in a 2009 report, 225 Pennsylvania schools, including 99 in Philadelphia, were flagged as potentially cheating on State tests and that the report inexplicably “languished” for two years. According to the Notebook, the report was based on a statistical analysis that identified highly improbable test score gains and suspicious erasure patterns on tests. The Notebook stated that, for one Philadelphia school, the odds that the wrong-to-right erasure patterns on students’ test sheets occurred purely by chance were “1 in 100 trillion.” On July 14th Education Week reported that, on July 13th, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that it is ordering an investigation into potential cheating at 90 schools across the State.
The July 11th Huffington Post article stated that, on July 8th, the District of Columbia Public Schools released its test scores showing a positive trend; however, one day prior, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it is joining a probe into the school district’s unlikely scoring patterns and alleged cheating incidents between 2008 and 2010. Further, after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to all U.S. state education commissioners stressing the importance of test integrity, the CEO of Baltimore schools acknowledged evidence of cheating in two of its elementary schools.
According to the Associated Press, experts believe that cheating problems have mounted “as teachers and school administrators – particularly those in low-income districts – bow to the pressure of the federal No Child Left Behind requirements and see cheating as the only way to avoid sanctions” that can be expensive and disruptive to school operations.