PHILADELPHIA – Two former city school principals caught up in a widespread cheating probe have surrendered their administrative certifications in lieu of discipline, state education officials confirmed Wednesday.
District officials said they supported the outcome of the cases against Barbara McCreery and Lola Marie O’Rourke, who no longer work for the school system.
“There must be severe consequences for adults that have violated testing integrity protocols in schools,” the district said in a statement. “... (T)here is no room in schools for any adult involved in cheating.”
Neither McCreery, who resigned Wednesday, nor O’Rourke, who left the district last school year, could be reached for comment.
State officials had been investigating claims that McCreery erased and changed student answers on standardized tests, known as the PSSAs, while leading Communications Technology High School in 2009-10. She also allegedly created an answer key and manipulated student data.
Accusations against O’Rourke, now ex-principal of Locke Elementary School, included changing answers as well as giving answers to students, directing others to review secure testing documents and storing exam materials in an unsecure location.
The allegations stem from a nearly two-year probe by the state Education Department into scores on the 2009-11 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams. A routine forensic report on the tests – which are given to students statewide in grades 3-8 and 11 – had revealed statistical anomalies and high percentages of wrong-to-right erasure marks.
So far, officials have found evidence of tampering in at least 15 districts or charter schools, resulting in more than 140 misconduct complaints filed with the state’s Professional Standards and Practices Commission. Philadelphia is the only district still under investigation.
The commission posted notice of the actions against McCreery and O’Rourke on its website Tuesday. The site indicates O’Rourke surrendered her administrative credentials on March 7, while McCreery ceded hers on March 20. Both retained their teaching certificates.
At Communications Technology High School, math results for 11th graders spiked from nearly 30 percent proficiency in 2008-09 to almost 70 percent in 2009-10. In reading, scores jumped from 53 percent to about 75 percent in the same period.
McCreery left the school in 2010. She resigned her current position as the principal of Bok High School on Wednesday, according to district officials. She had been with the system nearly 38 years.
Similar spikes and troughs could be seen for all grade levels at Locke in both math and reading.
For instance, third grade math scores skyrocketed from about 26 percent proficiency in 2008-09 to about 73 percent the following year.
The results jumped even higher, to about 85 percent, in 2010-11 before plunging to below 20 percent in 2011-12.
O’Rourke, who is listed as Lolamarie O’Rourke on district websites, left the district after the 2011-12 school year. She had been with the system 14 years.
The district statement says its own investigation of 19 schools suspected of cheating will be completed this week. The state’s probe of about a dozen other city schools is ongoing.
The developments come just a few days after 35 Atlanta educators – including the district’s former superintendent – were criminally charged with a broad conspiracy to facilitate cheating on standardized tests.