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Test score investigations due Monday

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The investigations ordered by the state into statistically unlikely 2009 test results in 89 Pennsylvania schools, including 28 in Philadelphia, are due Monday, August 15.

A School District of Philadelphia spokesperson said that the District would have an announcement then about the results of its internal investigation.

"The statement Monday will have information on the investigation and a summary of the findings," said spokesperson Elizabeth Childs via email. "More specifics will be provided after [the Pennsylvania Department of Education] receives and has an opportunity to review the information we provide."

The schools flagged for the state’s investigation include 28 District schools and seven charters that are located in the city. The state flagged schools for investigation based on a 2009 forensic analysis of test results. Included on the list of 89 schools are 10 charter schools and schools from 38 other districts.

The analysis looked for suspicious erasure patterns and unlikely jumps in scores and in the percentages of students reaching proficient levels.

PDE spokesperson Tim Eller said that once the investigations are submitted, the state will "do a thorough review of all reports and data." No results will be released until the state review is completed. He also said he could provide no timeline for when that might be.

He also didn’t elaborate on what standards were set for the local investigations. Generally, investigations into potential cheating involve interviews with students and employees at the time. When allegations or suspicious score patterns that could indicate potential cheating turn up, a typical procedure is to ask the school district – or charter organization – to investigate itself, which is what is being done in this case.

Independent investigations, such as those that took place recently in Atlanta, are less common. It is unclear whether PDE’s follow-up will be that kind of independent investigation.

"Once the reports are received, the department will review and conduct its own analysis of the forensic data and compare it to the reports to determine if any further investigation or inquiry is warranted," Eller said.

The forensic analysis of 2009 test results was not acted on until the Notebook asked about it and made it public after it was provided by the state.

Since then, PDE has said it would do a similar analysis of 2010 and 2011 results. They are due in September, Eller said.

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