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Two former District educators surrender licenses in wake of cheating scandal

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

The former principal of Elverson Military Academy and a former teacher at John Welsh Elementary School surrendered their credentials last month as a result of allegations of cheating on standardized tests.

Notices of the disciplinary actions against Robert Manning and Michael Reardon were posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website Tuesday.

Manning, 62, was principal of Elverson when scores soared in 2011 and then plunged the following year after stricter test protocols were put in place.

The Notebook reported in August 2012:

In 2011, 96 percent of Elverson’s 11th graders scored proficient or advanced in math.

But last fall, a state-commissioned erasure analysis found that four of every five student response sheets for math exams administered at the school that year had huge numbers of incorrect answers that had been erased and changed to the correct answer.

After the District imposed tough, new test-security measures at Elverson in 2012, the school’s math scores dropped 71 percentage points in a single year.

The notice of the action against Manning said that he "violated the integrity and security of the PSSA by failing to investigate and report allegations of testing improprieties when notified and attempting to hinder the subsequent investigation of alleged testing improprieties." The action was taken on May 22.

The discipline notice said that Reardon, 61, "violated the integrity and security of the PSSA by engaging in multiple PSSA testing administration violations over the course of multiple subjects." That action was taken on May 20.

At Welsh, scores in 2012 declined by more than 20 points in both reading and math after new testing protocols were in place.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed that neither man was currently employed by the District, but he didn’t know the circumstances of their terminations.

Manning and Reardon are the fourth and fifth Philadelphia School District educators to be disciplined by the state. A year ago, two former principals lost their credentials, and a teacher from South Philadelphia had his credentials temporarily suspended.

In addition, a charter school assistant principal had his credentials suspended. The state has also taken action against a handful of educators from other districts across the state.

In addition, the District terminated three principals in January as a result of the scandal, and five educators from Cayuga Elementary School have been criminally charged by the state attorney general for misconduct in connection with the probe.

District officials said in January that investigations so far in more than 30 of the 53 schools flagged for possible cheating had implicated some 138 educators. Eleven so-called Tier 1 schools — where evidence of cheating was most glaring — were investigated directly by the state and 20 Tier 2 schools by the District. Probes are underway at 19 Tier 3 schools.

Both Elverson and Welsh are Tier 2 schools. Action against the educators proceeds on two fronts. The District can discipline or fire them and also recommend that the state revoke their credentials. In those schools investigated by the state, the state can take action directly.

The schools were pinpointed by forensic analyses of test score booklets between 2009 and 2011 that showed statistically suspicious patterns of wrong-to-right erasures.

Pursuing disciplinary actions against educators can be a painstakingly long process, as cheating can only be proven through eyewitness accounts and confessions.

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