Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said yesterday that the state will investigate 49 school districts across the state, including Philadelphia, for alleged cheating on state standardized tests taken since 2009.
An independent contractor responsible for auditing the Pennsylvania System of Standards Assessment will analyze test scores of 90 schools.
The districts will have 30 days to respond to the Department of Education's request for cooperation, said department spokesman Timothy Eller.
Officials expect to get the results by early fall.
Beginning next school year, state officials will conduct a forensic analysis on all exams in all schools in the state to detect irregularities.
A state report from 2009, which was never made public but was recently reported by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, flagged possible cheating in schools across the state, though no one school was charged with impropriety.
But state officials didn't investigate further. In Philadelphia, an internal investigation found the allegations unfounded.
"That was adding insult to injury," said state Rep. Michael McGeehan, a district critic, who had met recently with teachers about cheating at their schools.
"With this forensic analysis of the PSSA, you won't see the high jumps or lows [of scores] with these particular schools."
The Education Department will wait for the results of the investigation to determine how it will proceed, Eller said.
A district spokeswoman said that officials will cooperate, but cast doubt on whether the investigations would be effective.
"Re-opening or starting new investigations into allegations would be challenging for the following reasons: staff turnover, tested students no longer there, questions about accuracy of two-year-old recollections," said the spokeswoman, Jamilah Fraser.
McGeehan commended Tomalis for his proactive approach and called for the creation of a hot line for school personnel to report testing irregularities, issues with procurement practices and other matters.