2 Pittsburgh teachers reprimanded for 'testing irregularities'
Share with others:
Pittsburgh Public Schools has reprimanded two teachers and agreed to train teachers in 11 schools on test procedures as a result of a state investigation into excessive erasure marks on state tests in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Carolyn Dumaresq, deputy secretary of the state Department of Education, last month wrote the district that the department accepts the district's investigatory report and resulting actions. The state had ordered the district to look into "potential testing irregularities."
However, the department has not yet decided whether there will be a change in the student scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test or the adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, status of the schools.
The state initially investigated 38 school districts and 10 charter schools, clearing some and finding cheating in some others.
The investigation focused on excessive erasures that changed wrong answers to right ones.
In the letter, Ms. Dumaresq named 11 schools for which the department found at least one grade had "a high number of students with a high number of wrong-to-right erasures in at least one of the identified years."
The schools are Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5 in Lawrenceville, Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville, Dilworth PreK-5 in East Liberty, Faison PreK-5 in Homewood, Fort Pitt PreK-5 in Garfield, Fulton PreK-5 in Highland Park, Liberty K-5 in Shadyside, Montessori PreK-8 in Friendship, Roosevelt PreK-5 in Carrick, Schiller 6-8 on the North Side and Stevens K-8 in Elliott.
Ms. Dumaresq's letter did not say how many teachers were investigated nor how many would receive training, but school superintendent Linda Lane in September said the state had asked the district to look into 19 teachers whose student answer sheets were said to have atypical erasure patterns.
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said, "I think the investigation by Pittsburgh was done properly, done with union representation, and I'm glad it's over."
Of the teachers who were investigated, Ms. Esposito-Visgitis said, "A lot of these people who were called in had perfectly logical explanations. One person was on maternity leave for one of the years."
The district's chief of staff, Lisa Fischetti, declined to name the two teachers who received letters of reprimand in their files and said they were not suspended.
She said the training for the identified teachers will be scheduled before the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests are given in the spring.
The letter from Ms. Dumaresq also notes that the district has "implemented stricter test protocols."
Those protocols took effect in spring 2012 and were so strict that Ms. Lane thought teachers were afraid to offer even permitted help.
When the district released disappointing state test results in August, district officials said one possible reason for the decline was state-required test security measures may have made testing so uncomfortable, particularly for young children, that it may have affected performance.
Ms. Esposito-Visgitis said, "They made people so paranoid. ... You can't give the test properly. You're too stiff. Your kids know that."
She thought test security already was strict before the addition of more restrictions, including prohibiting teachers from giving the tests alone to their own students.
As a result of the statewide investigation, the state Department of Education has filed more than 140 complaints against educators, but the department has not indicated who they are or where they work.
In an email, Tim Eller, spokesman for the State Department of Education, said, "Since the investigation continues, I cannot say if more will be filed, nor can I say what districts the educators are in."
The investigation is continuing in three local education agencies in Philadelphia: Philadelphia School District, Imhotep Charter School and Philadelphia Electrical and Technical Charter School.
First Published December 29, 2012 12:00 am