Another Philly Educator Charged in Cheating Scandal

The former principal of Alain Locke Elementary School is the eighth person charged.

2015_01_07_PSSA-DavisORourke-400x400The former principal at Alain Locke Elementary School has been charged with “creating an environment ripe for cheating” on state assessments — the eighth Philly educator to face court in the long-running scandal.

Lolamarie Davis-O’Rourke, who was principal at the school from 2009 to 2012, faces one count each of tampering with public records or information; forgery; tampering with records; and criminal conspiracy.

The press release from Attorney General Kathleen Kane reports:

The Criminal Prosecutions Section presented evidence of criminal activity before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges being filed today against Lolamarie Davis-O’Rourke, 43, 716 Saddlebrook Drive, Williamstown, New Jersey.

The grand jury found that while principal at Alain Locke Elementary School from the 2009-’10 to 2011-’12 school years, Davis-O’Rourke allegedly created an environment ripe for cheating on the annual PSSA by: proctoring students to change answers from wrong-to-right, directing teachers to help students switch answers and rewrite written responses; and changing the locks to a storage room so that only she and the building engineer could access stored test booklets.

Davis-O’Rourke also changed answers and instructed some of her staff to correct wrong answers, according to the presentment.

The full press release and grand jury report are below.

Eighth Philadelphia School District educator charged with PSSA cheating

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced her office has arrested a third former principal in the Philadelphia School District for allegedly changing answers on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) in order to boost test scores. It is the eighth public corruption arrest in Attorney General Kane’s ongoing investigation into widespread cheating in the district and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

“This type of public corruption in our education system deprives children of opportunities for learning,” Attorney General Kane said. “It undermines educators’ abilities to evaluate progress and set a course for our children’s successes. This Office will continue to hold accountable corrupt school employees who put their own interests ahead of those of students in the classroom.”

The Criminal Prosecutions Section presented evidence of criminal activity before a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the charges being filed today against Lolamarie Davis-O’Rourke, 43, 716 Saddlebrook Drive, Williamstown, New Jersey.

The grand jury found that while principal at Alain Locke Elementary School from the 2009-’10 to 2011-’12 school years, Davis-O’Rourke allegedly created an environment ripe for cheating on the annual PSSA by: proctoring students to change answers from wrong-to-right, directing teachers to help students switch answers and rewrite written responses; and changing the locks to a storage room so that only she and the building engineer could access stored test booklets.

Davis-O’Rourke also changed answers and instructed some of her staff to correct wrong answers, according to the presentment.

All teachers were required to provide Davis-O’Rourke with a list of how each of their students were expected to perform, according to the presentment, and to identify “bubble students” or those with potential to increase their PSSA proficiency level.

In addition to elementary students, Davis-O’Rourke also proctored special education students, and arranged for one such student to return to Locke elementary after being transferred out for the sole purpose of taking the PSSA in “a favorable testing environment,” according to the grand jury.

PSSA tests and grades are produced by Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), which flags improbable answer change patterns for the Department of Education. DRC found that in 2011 when Davis-O’Rourke was principal, the probability that erasure patterns occurred naturally for four grades and subjects was less than 1 in 100,000,000, according to the presentment.

The grand jury found that after the district instituted greater monitoring of PSSA testing irregularities, the percentage of students who scored advanced/proficient on the PSSA at Locke elementary dropped dramatically across most grades and subjects.

Davis-O’Rourke was taken into custody Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015 and charged with one count each of: tampering with public records or information; forgery; tampering with records; and criminal conspiracy.

The case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It will be prosecuted in Philadelphia by Senior Deputy Attorney General James Goldsmith and Deputy Attorney General Michelle Laucella of the Criminal Prosecutions Section.

Anyone with information regarding suspected cheating on standardized tests in Pennsylvania is encouraged to call the Office of Attorney General at (610) 631-5987.

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)