This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Early in the morning, before anyone else arrived at Communications Technical High School, Barbara McCreery would sit in her office as principal and redo some of her students’ standardized test booklets – 15 at a time, she says, with an answer key in hand.
McCreery, now a former principal, details this in a grand jury report released this week by Pennslyvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, as she and former Bok Technical High School principal Arthur "Larry" Melton were arrested on charges of forgery and tampering with public records.
Bok and Comm Tech are among the 11 Tier One schools under state investigation. A 2011 state forensic analysis found evidence of an improbably high number of wrong-to-right erasures on tests at 89 schools statewide.
In separate reports, both principals said schools were under intense pressure to raise scores in following federal, state and District edicts that ramped up accountability measures. McCreery called the expectations "unrealistic."
Schools that didn’t meet testing goals would be in danger of closure.
"I can say that there was extraordinary pressure during that period of time for students to make extraordinary gains," said Robert McGrogan, leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA).
McGrogan says those pressures have tamped down over the years, but points out that now, during the budget crisis, principals face a new set of impossible strictures.