msnbc.com news services
updated 8/1/2011 12:02:30 PM ET 2011-08-01T16:02:30

As the Atlanta school district continues to grapple with the fallout from a widespread school cheating scandal, evidence uncovered by reporters suggests schools in another state are facing similar problems.

According to the New York Times, reporters from The Notebook, a community newspaper and website that covers Philadelphia's schools, have found evidence of cheating in Pennsylvania.

According to the report, 89 schools — 28 of which are located in Philadelphia — were flagged by the state for an improbably high number of erasures. Additionally, questionable gains on reading and math tests were noticed by officials.

Benjamin Herold, a local public radio reporter who assisted with the report, calculated that the odds of the erasures happening randomly at some of the schools were one in 100 trillion.

Stories printed in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Notebook cited unnamed teachers who said they witnessed others cheat.

Story: 'Run like the mob': US school cheating scandal details emerge

"No one was willing to speak on the record, name individuals, times or locations,” Jamilah Fraser, a district spokeswoman, told the New York Times, after Inquirer articles cited a local middle school.

The cheating scoop — reportedly buried in a massive data file provided by the state — puts Pennsylvania in dubious company. Testing irregularities came to light in Atlanta after a local newspaper reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

According to The Associated Press , astate report concluded that half of Atlanta's schools allowed practices that inflated students' scores to go unchecked for as long as a decade.

The report revealed that schools turned a blind eye to — or even condoned — teachers who erased wrong answers on test sheets or encouraged students to copy off one another.

Video: Cheating scandal tests Atlanta public schools (on this page)

Administrators — pressured to maintain high scores under the federal No Child Left Behind law — punished or fired those who reported anything amiss and created a culture of "fear, intimidation and retaliation," according to the report, which was released two years after officials noticed a suspicious spike in some scores.

The Atlanta report named 178 teachers and principals, and 82 of those confessed. Tens of thousands of children at the 44 schools, most in the city's poorest neighborhoods, were allowed to advance to higher grades, even though they didn't know basic concepts.

The Associated Press and the New York Times contributed to this report.

Video: Cheating scandal tests Atlanta public schools

  1. Closed captioning of: Cheating scandal tests Atlanta public schools

    >>> there is disturbing news out of atlanta , georgia, tonight about a major academic cheating scandal in the city's public school system and the alleged cheaters here are not students. there are nearly 200 administrators, principals and teepers who are accused of doctoring the results of standardized tests . now their jobs are on the line, and what's been discovered in atlanta may be just the tip of the iceberg . our education nation report tonight from nbc's ron mott in atlanta .

    >> reporter: it's the cardinal sin of education -- cheating. in a scathing report about atlanta 's public school says it's not the students but the adults hired to teach them who are guilty.

    >> that, i think, is the most sinful thing that we can do.

    >> reporter: the governor called it a sdadark cloud where wrong answers were routinely changed to right ones on scan dard itandardized tests. the results found tainted tests in 44 of 60 schools probed.

    >> and educators have failed to uphold the public trust and students are harmed in the process, there will be consequences.

    >> reporter: for years, atlanta school district officials denied cheating allegations, but a former teacher who sounded an alarm said it was met with silence and cost him his job.

    >> at that point, it became my problem, my fault. there was nothing that was going to be pursued by the school district .

    >> reporter: testing scandals are nothing new, of course. though they seem to be growing in number and significance around the country including one in the nation's capital recently that generated national attention. at least ten states use test scores as the primary evaluator of teachers with large bonuses on the line for top performers whose students score well.

    >> when test scores are the only thing that matters in education, teachers feel that they have to boost those scores by hook or by crook.

    >> reporter: no child left behind, the 2002 law tying academic performance to federal funding has been blamed for an overemphasis on test scores . today, education secretary arnie duncan said high standards aren't to blame.

    >> what you want to do is make sure you're evaluating students each year, but the way to get good results is through good teaching. the vast majority of folks around the country do it the right way.

    >> reporter: a big test of confidence in public education . n mott,

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