Officials from the Philadelphia School District's accountability office said today that they had "many concerns" about the data analysis used by the state to flag 28 district schools for possible 2009 PSSA cheating. Still, they said, the district will cooperate with the state and hopes for more complete information. Among the data it wants before coming to any conclusions are forensic analyses of the 2010 and 2011 PSSAs.
Of the 28 schools the district was directed to analyze, 13 schools bear further investigation because they have big jumps in test scores and flags for erasures on exams. The district declined to name the schools, and said it hopes the state helps conduct those investigations when the time comes. The rest of the schools do not merit further investigation, officials said.
Fran Newburg, the district's Deputy Chief of Accountability and Educational Technology, said the district "takes very seriously these allegations" but stressed that most principals and teachers are honest and do good work. Newburg encouraged any staffer with information about cheating to come forward to the district or the state with specifics. In many cases, "I think what we have is very vague allegations against schools," said Daniel Piotrowski, Executive Director of Accountability and Assessment.
Newburg also said that even if the 13 schools are taken out of the picture, the district would still have nine straight years of test score gains.
In other news, the district recently said that it is recalling 325 teachers who were laid off in June. It has 1,335 teaching positions to fill for the upcoming school year. "Over the next couple of weeks, additional teachers may be invited to return to positions in the school district," spokeswoman Elizabeth Childs said in a release. "This process follows the collective bargaining agreement providing teachers with the most seniority within a subject area priority in the re-hiring."
The Philadelphia School District has called a 2 p.m. press conference to discuss its response to a state report that flagged 28 schools for possible irregularities on the 2009 PSSAs. The district was given 30 days to investigate and respond to the report.