School District's Pssa Test Scores Drop

Posted: September 23, 2012

THE PHILADELPHIA School District says tighter controls to prevent cheating may be a factor in the first decline in state test scores since the statewide exam began in 2002.

But public-education activists said sharp cuts in the budget for city schools, in particular, is also key.

Only 33, or 13 percent, of Philadelphia's 250 schools met state benchmarks in reading and math, according to results released Friday of the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA.)

That is down from 44 percent of the schools meeting the standards, commonly known as meeting "Adequate Yearly Progress."

In the city overall, math scores dropped 8.7 percentage points, from 57.8 percent to 49.1 percent and reading scores dipped 7.1 percentage points, from 51.6 to 44.5 percent.

"These results are clearly disappointing - and they simply remind us of the work we have ahead in developing a strong system of schools in Philadelphia and in supporting our students' learning," Philadelphia school superintendent William Hite said in a statement.

State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis told the Inquirer Friday tighter controls were used in 10 school districts and five charter schools where cheating was alleged in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In Philadelphia, 53 schools are being investigated for past cheating.

"It's not just about whether they cheated, but a climate of relentless pressure on students, on family, on teachers," said Helen Gym, of Parents United for Public Education. "Then we cut a billion dollars out of schools, and what do we think is going to happen?

"Do people really think this will result in stunning success? The cheating scandal is terrible but is it really that much of a surprise? What do people expect in a system which sets our kids up for failure? It should outrage every single one of us."

Darren Spielman, executive director of the Philadelphia Education Fund said: "It is obvious that the lack of resources is going to impact ability of the schools to perform."

Hite also addressed the issue by calling the allegations "disturbing . . . "Adult cheating is a great disservice to our students. It will not be tolerated . . . . We plan to take aggressive action against any individual found to have committed this type of injustice on our students."

Contact Valerie Russ at or 215-854-5987. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.

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