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Pennsylvania is latest to face school cheating scandal

/ Source: msnbc.com news services

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.

"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.

, a state 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.

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.