Monday, February 28, 2011

 Giving Kids a Session In Cheating Is Not Funny; If the Adult Educators at Crescendo Charters Get Away with This Deceit Then the Students Just Absorbed One Scary Lesson
By Diana L. Chapman
Students at Crescendo’s six charter schools in Los Angeles learned the most extraordinary lesson ever recently. If you cheat, like some of the adults at their schools apparently did, you can get off the hook and still keep your job.
In a story broken by the Los Angeles Times, I was infuriated to read that Crescendo Charters – whose top official encouraged its principals and teachers to cheat by using the actual questions its students would face in state exams – were simply reprimanded by top administrators of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In fact, no one even lost their jobs – despite overwhelming  evidence of cheating, the Times said, which allowed Crescendo charters test scores to improve dramatically and place them at the top of the charter chain.
After investigating, school district officials gave the charters less than a slap on the hand and agreed to let them continue running their facilities after the charters demoted the director, suspended the principals for 10 days and agreed to overhaul Crescendo’s board.
The matter goes before the Los Angeles Unified School Board Tuesday and I’m hoping it will do the right thing:  Refuse to renew  contracts at two schools that are up for the extension, Crescendo Charter Academy in Gardena and Crescendo Conservatory in Hawthorne.
 Los Angeles Unified has the responsibility to protect its nearly 700,000 kids under its wing  from many things – including cheating. This type of cheating promotes lies to the parents, lies to the students and has to lob into question what kind of education Crescendos students are truly receiving – if any at all.
Should the school board renew the contracts, I’d suggest Crescendo needs to revise its mission statement which currently says its goal “ is to produce a community of scholars who desire to be lifelong learners.” Perhaps it should read that the goal of the adults there is to produce a community of scholars who have learned how to cheat for a lifetime.
The good news is that some teachers were honest; They stepped up and blew the whistle and deserve a medal. No they deserve more than medal for their honesty. They risked their jobs to do so.
But what if they hadn’t?
In my book, nothing less than this should happen if the contracts are renewed:
Each principal, who apparently participated, and the now demoted director, Allen,  must be fired. Crescendo’s seven-member board needs to be entirely overhauled and must have at least three parents – not just one. Parents are one of the few watchdogs that exist for public schools -- especially charters.
What bothers me the most is adults inability to understand just how intelligent children are. They absorb what’s going on. By now, they’ve already figured out what happened and are likely wondering if it’s OK to cheat. That’s why this is much more tragic than the embezzlement charges of an administrator. This is more horrific than a teacher being bad.
 This is about laying down an entire system that shows students a nasty game plan to dupe the educational system.
This is more than unacceptable; it’s criminal and grossly unfair and neglectful to students.
Crescendo has been considered a top-notch organization, with test scores making magnificent leaps in 2010. For example, the Crescendo Charter Academy leaped from 57 percent in 2009 to 74 percent in language arts in 2010 at the second grade level.
The second grade class also earned great strides in math as well for the same time period, jumping from 86 percent to 91 percent.
While its third graders actually did a severe drop in test scores, the fourth grade class ascended dramatically from its 2009 45 percent in English rate to an astonishing 85 percent. The third graders  also made significant leaps from 70 percent to 90 percent in math.
If these 2010 test scores were received through cheating – which appears so – then we are not doing these students any favors.
We are sending them out to face the rest of the educational system without the proper skills – not to mention the world.
I can’t think of anything more wrong and negligent than that – to pretend we are just educating our kids.