Friday, July 15, 2011

A Culture of Cheating

A recently released report accuses Beverly Hall of "ignoring a culture of cheating". Perhaps, but how could she not? It isn't like she created it.

Let's be clear when we talk about "cheating" as revealed by the recent investigation into APS CRCT results. In this context cheating is defined as:
lying about the actual performance of one of more students
This cheating of students has been going on for over thirty years and the "culture of cheating" has long been well established and entrenched in our Public Schools.

In its earliest form it was called "social promotion" and coincided with educator's adoption of "self esteem is more important than actual learning" as a model for modern schools. When called upon to explain the value of social promotion the educrats whipped up studies justifying the compromise of schools' original and heretofore primary mission by claiming more harm is done to failing students by keeping them back than by pushing them along and hoping for the best. Of course this comes with utter disregard for the negative impact on those students who were performing and who now must slow down so the laggards can appear to keep up.

When it turned out that not only the intellectual door-stops were being socially promoted educators found it necessary to advance to "grade inflation" as a mechanism for processing students without actually teaching anything. Grade inflation removed significant friction from the entire process since it was universally applied and not subject to question. After all which student or parent will complain about 'A's?

And this worked well...until some idiot, obviously not well aligned with the education industry, came up with the idea of testing students' knowledge.  Even worse, these tests are driven by real, highly acclaimed curriculum standards. We have long known that public school graduates are not prepared for college work, if only by the incredible growth in college remediation, but these tests reveal that remediation is needed at every step in the K-12 process.

The extent and duration of this cheating cannot be over stated. This has been going on for decades in every Public School in America. This means that most, if not all, of the current crop of teachers, administrators, principals, counselors, Board Members and superintendents have been "cheated through" the system. One only has to look at the relative percentage of "education majors" graduating magna or summa to realize they've been "cheated through" college, and probably graduate school as well. As the product of cheating it should come as no surprise that they create a "culture of cheating" with which they are quite familiar and comfortable.

And there really is no surprise. It is not surprising that many teachers leave the field within the first few years, nor is it surprising why. The entrenched "culture of cheating" defends itself from non-cheaters by driving them away, leaving only those who embrace that culture to join and grow that culture. Like toxic bacteria in a petri dish.

Don't believe it? Suppose there were a newly minted teacher who escaped the gauntlet of corruption and entered a position believing that students should work hard for a good grade, that a "B" is good, an "A" is outstanding and the average student's work merits a "C". How would this teacher react when informed of the "No 'F'" policy? Or when told the most commonly awarded grade is an "A" and a "B" is the new "D"? Or that no child fails, some just move to the next level with "excess potential"? Would a person of integrity embrace this insanity or flee in terror?

Again, this has been going on for decades. We're on our second or third generation of those "cheated through" and these folks are now cheating others through. The cycle is complete.

And what will the collective "we" do about this?

Most likely, we'll punish a few scape goats, pay for "ethics training", make a couple of "policy changes" and call it "job well done". We'll trot out public figures to proclaim "we have tossed out all the bad apples" and further declare "our educators are of the highest ethical and moral character". Right. And the public will fall for it because when it comes to Public Schools they have an amazing ability to believe what they know is not true.

But most importantly we'll stop the "high stakes tests" insinuating that it was the tests themselves that caused the cheating and it is only by eliminating these tests that we can fully restore the integrity of our educators and our schools. This will return us to the glory days of grade inflation enhanced by fuzzy evaluations that elevate intangible "skills" like "critical thinking". It won't matter that your child's ignorance of arithmetic means he will never be able to balance a checkbook because he will be a "critical thinker"--just ask his teacher.

But under no circumstances will parents demand that their children learn, especially if they receive 'A's without what we now all know is optional effort. Taxpayers, for whatever reason, show no signs of demanding an end to this fiscal fraud. And "educators" will maintain dominance over the political landscape of Public Schools thereby advancing their interests ahead of students'.

If Beverly Hall is to be blamed for anything then let it be for triggering this tedious charade by inadequately covering up Public Schools' longstanding and incurable culture of cheating.