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Principal accused of helping pupils cheat



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pupils said the woman gave them correct answers for a state test.

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) -- An administrator in the problem-plagued Chester Upland School District has been placed on a paid leave while officials investigate allegations that she helped pupils cheat on standardized tests.

Jayne Gibbs, a principal and administrator with the for-profit education company Edison Schools, was suspended Thursday after some eighth-graders reported that she had given them the correct answers to questions on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.

The test, required by the state, is used to measure a school's performance. Schools that don't improve can face repercussions.

The alleged irregularities on the tests were reported by pupils at the Edward E. Parry Edison Junior Academy, according to the district's director of assessment, Wayne Emsley.

"We were made aware of it by students," Emsley said. "I think that's to their credit. They were uncomfortable with some of the things they were asked to do and they brought it to a staff member's attention."

Attempts to contact Gibbs were not immediately successful Saturday.

Investigation

Edison spokesman Adam Tucker confirmed that an investigation is under way and said the company will cooperate with the probe. Edison has had a contract to run most of Chester Upland's schools for several years but had recently announced that it was severing its relationship with the district.

Gibbs was Edison's vice president for achievement in Chester. She was also an acting principal at Parry.

She had previously served as principal of the district's Showalter Middle School, where she had received glowing praise after pupil test scores improved dramatically during her tenure.

Between 2002 and 2003, the percentage of pupils at that school testing proficient in math on the PSSA exam jumped from 11 percent to 71 percent. The percentage of pupils testing proficient in math leaped from 57 percent to 82 percent.

SAT-9 scores

While under Gibbs' leadership, Showalter also reported huge improvements in pupil scores on the standardized SAT-9 exam. In 2002, pupils at the school had average scores that were in the 20th percentile in reading and the 32nd percentile in math. By the next year, they had jumped to the 75th percentile in reading and the 85th percentile in math.

Chester Upland was taken over by the state 11 years ago, but a series of reform efforts have failed to pull it out of trouble. In recent months, its finances have nearly collapsed, necessitating a $4 million state bailout and prompting an investigation into possible fraud.

An acting principal at the district's high school was charged this month with having consensual sex with a 16-year-old female student twice in the school auditorium.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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