In 2009, Strawberry Mansion High School appeared to be something of a miracle.
A neighborhood high school in a rough part of North Philadelphia, Mansion saw more than two-thirds of its students score "proficient" or above on that year's state standardized tests. Today, though, compelling evidence indicates that Mansion's unusually high test results were driven by adult cheating.
Documents obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook show Mansion students raised alarms about cheating as far back as 2005. Suspicious patterns of "wrong-to-right" erasures on test sheets, a tipoff for adult cheating, have also been spotted in both reading and math for the 2009 and 2010 testing cycles.
Now, Lois Powell-Mondesire, the principal who presided over the school's testing gains, is no longer there, and Mansion's test scores are back in the tank. Barely 10 percent of students scored proficient or above on last spring's exams.
But Powell-Mondesire wasn't disciplined. She was promoted.
In 2010, Powell-Mondesire was tapped for a new central office position advising other principals on how to turn around struggling schools. While Mansion struggles to get back on its feet, Powell-Mondesire will make more than $145,000, just shy of the top possible salary for a Philadelphia principal.