Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lessons Learned

There has been a lot of handwringing and lipflapping over the APS cheaters, the trial, their conviction and their soon-to-be-announced sentences. Some want to "put this behind us and move forward", educrat code words for "sweep it under the rug." Pre-trial APS and Bev cheerleaders from the political and business communities would like to see tarnished reputations mellow into a soft patina. Some parents are actually happy ignoring the systemic issues and comfort themselves with the notion that "we've caught ALL the cheaters, everything is fine now."

But there is much to be learned from this experience.

Let's start with race and get that out of the way. It appears that well educated, respected black defendants can no longer reliably expect acquittal with an octoroon jury. In this case the jury was otherwise adequately black yet all but one of the defendants was convicted, with those found guilty being convicted on at least the RICO charges, if not additional charges. Nonetheless these defendants, who had turned their noses up to a plea agreement were sincerely stunned when they were found guilty by a "jury of their peers." It was these defendants' judgment that no matter how damning the facts of the case that a "black enough" jury would never convict a black educator. Wrong.

Then there is the "of course they cheated" defense mostly offered by APS and public education apologists attempting to deflect blame towards "high stakes" testing. The implicit "as anyone would" should be noted, because there is perhaps a bit of truth in that.

When one defines "cheating" as "not providing children with the education that taxpayers have purchased" one realizes the system they  built is structured to support such cheating and will likely drive out anyone not aligned with those goals. It is a system that advances students without regard for accomplishment and the educators leverage the transient nature of failing students and mask their activity with grade inflation. This makes the argument that these few convicted APS bad actors stole "opportunity" for access to tutoring or early intervention/remediation by changing test answers ring hollow. From the educators' point of view remediation belongs exclusively in the early years of college and apparently the University System agrees.

That leads us to the another part of these educators' ecosystem that makes cheaters of them all: colleges of education. While universities generally offer remediation to teach "everything you should have learned thru high school" in a few short semesters, colleges of education combine grade inflation (everyone gets an 'A') with watered down content, particularly subject matter content. They aren't pumping out legions of 4.0 wielding graduates because education attracts the best and brightest. Instead it is because that is what sells, and in fact is required, in the education marketplace. Should any college break ranks and award meaningful grades students would flee to colleges that know and play the game. From pre-K to retirement these folks are somehow involved in the little lies we know as grade inflation.

It should come as no surprise that newly minted educators do not join a work place instituted as a meritocracy. They've never encountered one before. In fewer years than it took to get the college degree they will enjoy quasi-tenure and no matter how obvious their incompetence they are immune to dismissal. And teaching is a bit like pornography--you can't define good (or bad) teaching but you sure as hell know it when you see it. And so does everyone in education, including the bad teachers. So it turns out that everything they know they did learn in kindergarten: everybody gets a gold star--which only amplified their shock when the jury did NOT award them the easy A, a gold star or just give them a pass.

So will they, those that remain, cheat? Of course. That's what they've always done, what they are doing and what they will be doing for the foreseeable future. No matter how distant your sight horizon. But would they falsify documents? THEY ALREADY ARE! Every time a grade report is submitted with an inflated grade someone has falsified a state document. Every time they cash a paycheck knowing full well they have not, cannot and will not provide the service for which they are being paid, they commit theft. If a true professional, say a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, did only once what our educators do on a daily basis they would lose their license and very likely go to prison.

Which brings us to the sentencing phase...

Now that they are tried and convicted they await sentencing. Some say jail time is too harsh. That these career educators should not be housed with hardened criminals. That we must temper justice with mercy. There must be a second chance. But are their soon-to-be-colleagues "hardened criminals" or are they simply former students--product of the pre-K to prison pipeline these "educators" have operated for years? Perhaps that is the second chance. The opportunity to educate those students they failed during their careers as unindicted felons.