Monday, July 23, 2007

Cheating At A Charter

This isn't an anti-charter school post, as I'm a big fan of charter schools. I'm not a big fan of cheating and fraud, however, and when one of the good guys commits cheating and fraud, I call them on it.

In spring 2006, teachers' records for an 11th-grade boy at University Preparatory Charter Academy in East Oakland showed an F and five D's.

His report card for the same period featured three D's and three C's.

His transcript -- the one received by the California State University campuses that accepted him -- glowed with three A's and three B's.

That's pretty blatant, and there are more examples in the article.

Let's skip the moral argument or right and wrong for a moment, because anyone who would do what was reported obviously would not be swayed by such arguments. Let's try a completely practical, utilitarian approach.

Why would school officials change grades? One possible reason is for the school's stats to look good. No one, in the light of day, will try to defend such a proposition. Even if someone were to try, changing a teacher's grade is against California ed code. It's illegal. No argument there.

So there's only one reason left that I can come up--we want to help the boy get into college. If you only fe-e-e-e-e-e-l, instead of think, I'm sure you can justify such behavior as doing a good deed for some poor, downtrodden soul. But is a good deed really being done? Is there any reason to believe that someone who gets D's and F's in high school is going to be able to succeed at collegiate academics? Isn't it far more likely that the student will get to college and fail there--at great emotional and financial cost? Isn't the school, then, just setting this student up for failure?

If there's a good answer to that argument, one that would justify violating the law by changing grades, I'm listening.

You know what would be a far better way to help the boy get into college? Teach him the material he isn't currently learning, material in which he's earning D's and F's.


Anonymous said...

Public schools have cheated for years, but I'm not making excuses for the charter school. Yes it is a blatant tactic, and easier to detect than the subleties of traditional public high schools who give high grades to students who have low standardized test scores.
If the test scores were high, or at least good - and the grades were low...that again is not unusual. Many high school students are receiving high test scores and low grades due to the inequities in teaching styles, grading rubrics, etc.
My son has a high math/science SAT scores in math (almost perfect consistently), and yet gets a D and an F in Algebra II. His excuse is that the teacher does not explain anything, or answer his questions (even with tutoring). Yet he still scores high on the PSAT and the SAT and the ACT.
I guess I'm asking what his college entrance scores were (since I didn't read the article)?

Darren said...

The article doesn't say, but I think you missed the point. The grade the teacher assigned isn't the grade that's on the report card, and neither of those grades is the one on the transcript.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Two points stand out here. The first is that your point is well-taken, any grade changing, even done for altruistic reasons, only sets-up the student for failure. As for lilian's post, if the teachers were failing to teach, her son's standardized grade would be low. It stands to reason that her son is learning the information somewhere. The disparity in grades may stem from some other reason, such as low homework or in-class work grades. It appears that her son is understanding the material very well. That then would seem to be the only logical reason for the disparity.

Ellen K said...

The reason I quit teaching the first time around was because I had a star athlete who was being heavily recruited by major Big Universities in the area. He even had a nice new white Camero with a horned frog sticker on the back...well. The kid hardly even showed up for class, rarely turned in assignments and so I failed him with the lowest numeric grade the district would allow, a "23". I would never have known the grade was changed except he came by to THANK ME! I went to the counselor who confirmed it, and the head administrator who told me my class was "just an elective" and we wouldn't want to "hold this student back from his chance for higher education." Wow. Great backup there. I quit that summer, although I returned since no pass/no play was instituted. Now I just get angry emails from parents. I think if you looked more closely at kids from privates, charters and small schools with very insular communities, you would find more of this kind of fraud than you want to think.

KauaiMark said...

"So there's only one reason left that I can come up--..."

I was going to posit a 2nd reason something along the lines of ellen k

Fame trumps honesty...

Anonymous said...

I suppose I did miss the point. And it does seem strange.
Law and Order Teacher is probably correct in his analysis of my brilliant, but low GPA son. He's a gate student who feels that the homework is boring, etc. I don't think he is particularly challenged at his high school, but he does consistently score high - since primary grades. I had to fight to have him tested for GATE, and they found out that he is extremely bright, but they have done little to nurture it, or differentiate his instruction.
HOwever, I also know kids who get A's in their classes, and they score below basic on State Tests. I suppose people will say that they are 'poor testers'.
These are the disparities that concern me, though - and I'm sorry I didn't read the article very well.
Just disregard everything I've said...:-))

allenm said...

I'll post the same question here as I did at Joanne Jacobs blog: why isn't this being treated as criminal fraud, i.e. investigation by police, arrest, booking, indictment, grand jury, true bill, trail, the whole nine yards? I read two articles on this and neither mentioned any criminal investigation.

Am I missing something here?

Darren said...

Lillian, you make too many good points to disregard everything you've said. And Allen, I wish I could answer your question.

Anonymous said...

You're too kind, Darren...

You are truly an advocate of Leaving No Comment Behind.

Love it!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Allen. This is clearly a crime.