Sunday, January 26, 2020

Today in Creative Headlines

Someone trying to alert me to the perfidy of teachers tweeted this headline at me the other day: FBI probes allegations of deep rooted academic fraud in NYC Schools. It sounds pretty scary, doesn't it? Boy, those teachers must be really terrible. Clearly they don't give a damn about children and are only concerned with themselves.

That's the stereotype you get hit with if you spend your days trying to help city children, and as if that's not enough, they accuse you of hating them because you oppose "school choice." It makes no difference that charters do not, on the whole, do any better than we do. It's of no consequence that they almost never accept students like mine, teenagers learning basic English for the first time. It doesn't matter that they don't take a whole lot of kids with special needs or that they dump inconvenient kids back into the public schools.

Nope, we all suck, and we all ought to be fired. That headline ought to be enough evidence for anyone. The FBI? That's some serious stuff right there. They don't come out just for fun. We're under some serious scrutiny now, and if we weren't all criminals, why would they need to call the FBI? But wait, if you read the actual story, you start to notice things:

Holden turned over records compiled by former and current faculty members at Maspeth High School in Queens, where teachers say administrators encouraged cheating on exams, enforced a “no-fail policy,” and retaliated against staffers who didn’t play ball.

Haven't we heard about that school before? Is this not, in fact, a new scandal? And hey, if it's so "deep-rooted" in NYC "schools," why is there only one school mentioned? Doesn't "deep-rooted" mean widespread? And then there's this:

In Atlanta, eight educators were convicted under a RICO statute of manipulating student test scores and sentenced to prison in 2015.

I'm not exactly sure that eight indicates, "deep-rooted." Nonetheless, I'm assuming that means in New York, zero educators were convicted of any such thing. Scary stuff, huh?

Still, the actual headline is not as strong as it appears. FBI "probes allegations" does not, in fact, indicate that anything whatsoever has been proven. It looks like a councilman simply called a meeting with FBI and asked them to check some things. Not nearly as sexy, is it?

As for academic fraud and corruption, I'm not gonna sit here and pretend there isn't any. It's all over the system, to one extent or another, legal or illegal, direct and indirect. Why does it exist? That's simple. In any system, when you press people for results, they are going to go out of their way to deliver them. The more pressure there is, the more people will resort to shading the results. That's what Campbell's Law says.

In New York City, when Eva Moskowitz drives children out of her programs, she does so to protect her results. When charters claim 100% of their students are accepted to four-year colleges, they don't bother to tell you about the 80% of students they started with who didn't end up in the graduating class. The 20% success rate doesn't look all that impressive.

When schools are faced with closure for poor performance, the stats are juked. Sometimes there are ways to make that happen within the rules, and sometimes not. The rules are changed all the time to make things easier or harder. It depends what needs to be proven. When it's time to make Mayor Mike Bloomberg look like a genius, the tests are dumbed down. When it's time to say the schools are an abysmal failure, it's time to fail a huge number of students and to declare Common Core the savior of humanity.

Yet no one calls out the geniuses in Albany for corruption, ever. It's always the teachers who are convicted. They're the ones doing the dirty work. The top of the heap, the Michelle Rhees, the John Kings, the Merryl Tisches just glide on and become US Secretary of Education, Miracle Gro salespeople, or whatever. The people who direct this nonsense, like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, just send their kids to schools where this high-stakes nonsense figures not at all. They want their children to be children.

And blame is for the little people. That would be you and me, those of us who wake up early each and every morning to work one on one with children who need all the help they can get.
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