Archives for category: Cheating

Billy Townsend writes in the Tampa Bay Times about how Florida politicians game the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores to boast about unearned “success.” The gaming consists of bragging about fourth grade scores (which are high) while ignoring eighth grade scores (which are unimpressive).

The big Florida trick is third grade retention—holding back the children in third grade who have low reading scores. This artificially boosts fourth grade scores. But then comes the eighth grade scores, and Florida falls behind. They can’t hide the low-scoring students forever.

He writes:

A close look at ‘the Nation’s Report Card’ shows how Florida fails its students as they move up through the grades.

A few years ago, just before COVID hit, a Stanford University study of state-level standardized tests showed that Florida’s “learning rate” was the worst in the country — by a wide margin.

Florida has the worst learning rate, according to a Stanford study.
Florida has the worst learning rate, according to a Stanford study. [ Provided ]

Florida students learned 12 percent less each year from third to eighth grade than the national average from 2009 to 2018. The next worst state was Alabama, according to The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University. Florida’s political and education leaders completely ignored that finding.

Contrast that deafening silence with the hype and misinterpretation that comes with the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the Nation’s Report Card.” When those results came out last fall, Gov. Ron DeSantis crowed on Twitter that, “We kept schools open in 2020, and today’s NAEP results once again prove that we made the right decision. In Florida, adjusted for demographics, fourth grade students are #1 in both reading and math.”

Tellingly, DeSantis ignored the eighth grade results, which came out far worse than fourth grade — just as they have in every NAEP cycle since 2003.

The “Nation’s Report Card” is a snapshot of group proficiency taken by different cohorts of kids every two years in reading and math in fourth grade and eighth grade. It produces state-by-state results and proficiency rankings. It does not track individual kids year over year. But it does tell you how Florida’s fourth and eighth graders compare with students in other states. I crunched the data, and here’s the bottom line: Florida’s students perform worse as they move up through the grades. There is consistent, massive systemic regression with age. And the gap is widening.

This is a state failure, not a local one attributable to individual districts. Yet, in every NAEP cycle, Florida politicians and education leaders brag about fourth-grade NAEP results in press releases.

But ignoring the eighth grade results or the “learning rate” study does not change these facts:

· Florida kids regress dramatically as they age in the system. Since 2003, Florida’s eighth grade rank as a state has never come close to its fourth grade rank on any NAEP test in any subject.

· The size of Florida’s regression is dramatic and growing, especially in math.Florida’s overall average NAEP state rank regression between fourth and eighth grade since 2003 is 17 spots (math) and 18 spots (reading). But since 2015, the averages are 27 spots (math) and 19 spots (reading).

· No other state comes close to Florida’s level of consistent fourth to eighth grade performance collapse. In the last three NAEP cycles — 2017, 2019 and COVID-delayed 2022 — Florida ranked sixth, fourth and third among states in fourth grade math. In those same years, Florida ranked 33th, 34th and tied for 31st in eighth grade.

· For comparison, Massachusetts typically ranks at or near #1 among states on both the fourth grade and eighth grade NAEP for math and reading. Its eighth grade rank has never been more than one spot lower than fourth.

· Florida has never matched the U.S. average scaled score on eighth grade math NAEP.

· In COVID-marred 2022, Florida’s eighth grade scale scores in reading and math both lost 8 points relative to the national average, compared to fourth grade. That’s larger or equal to the overall collapse of NAEP scores nationwide attributed to COVID.

To restate, what happens every NAEP cycle between fourth and eighth grade in Florida matches and mostly exceeds the negative impact of COVID. Overall, recent NAEP cycles show Florida collapsing from elite test scores in fourth grade reading and math to abysmal in eighth grade math and average in eighth grade reading, even after its much-hyped approach to COVID in 2022.

And, worse, there is no reason at all to believe Florida’s test performance regression with age stops at eighth grade. The only two years the NAEP tested 12th graders — 2009 and 2013 — the Florida collapse worsened significantly with further age, but against a smaller pool of states.

Willful ignorance, useless testing

So what to make of this?

You can rest assured that your top education officials know all about Florida’s eighth grade NAEP and learning rate failures, which is why they never discuss them. I suspect these test data realities helped drive Florida to drop its big state growth test — the Florida Standards Assessment — and move toward a “progress monitoring” regime this year that may or may not create functionally different data reporting models.

The discourse around Florida’s NAEP performance — and the catastrophic learning rate that we ignore on our state tests — makes me deeply skeptical of standardized tests and their use in our education systems and society. I see them as punitive political and social sorting tools, rather than “assessments” designed to help individual children reach their potential.

Forget whether test results are valid or biased. We can’t even accurately describe what the test results say — on their face — about the success of our state school system. So what use are they?

Florida’s politicians, education leaders, policy community and journalists should look at these results and ask this basic question: The data tells us your child will regress dramatically every year he or she stays in the Florida system. What’s going on?

If we can’t do that, then why do we force standardized tests on kids at all?

What we should be studying

I’ve been attempting to draw attention to this dramatic Florida regression dynamic for years. So I was pleased to the see the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board and Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis notice and publicly address the massive drop in test performance between fourth and eighth grade in Florida on the 2022 NAEP. But I was puzzled by suggestions that it was something new, caused by COVID. It isn’t; and it wasn’t.

Indeed, if we took standardized tests seriously as diagnostic and development tools, we would have long ago started asking: What causes this? What changes need to be made beyond rebuilding and supporting a developmentally focused teacher corps? What are the system quirks of Florida that cause this dynamic?

Here are some good questions to ask and study:

· Why doesn’t “learn to read, read to learn” work in Florida?

One of our treasured education cliches is “learn to read” so you can “read to learn.” It’s essentially the policy justification for imposing mass retention on third graders, as Florida does. And yet, although Florida routinely ranks high fourth grade NAEP reading, our readers immediately lose massive ground relative to other states. The data shows that Florida’s often punitive emphasis on “learn to read” by third or fourth grade creates no benefit in “reading to learn” in later grades — in math or reading. Why not?

· What is the role of mass third grade retention in Florida’s fourth grade peak and subsequent collapse?

Florida pioneered mass third grade retention based on reading standardized test scores in 2003. This prevents the lowest scoring third grade readers from taking the NAEP with their age cohort in fourth grade. And when that low scoring third grader finally takes the fourth grade NAEP, retention has made it as if he or she is a fifth grader taking the fourth grade NAEP.

Florida law theoretically subjects more than 40 percent of Florida’s roughly 200,000 public school third graders to retention because of low scores. A smaller — but still significant — number is actually retained. Florida does not appear to publish that actual total number of third graders retained.

· What is the cost to the individual children and overall system performance?

Essentially all data shows that ripping kids away from their age cohort because of testing leads to significant human harm and increased drop out rates over time.

Is that affecting Florida’s learning rate for older kids and the eighth grade NAEP collapse? A 2017 study of a cohort of southwest Florida students showed that seven years after retention, 94% of the retained group remained below reading proficiency. It also showed that third and sixth graders find retention as stressful as losing a parent.

· How many voucher third grade testing refugees are there? What effect do they have on the fourth grade NAEP?

Third grade retention is not Florida’s only way to get low scoring fourth graders off the books for the NAEP. It’s been well-established that Florida over-testing and third grade retention is a primary sales tool for vouchers.TheOrlando Sentinel’sPulitzer-worthy “Schools without Rules”report in 2017 about voucher schools reported: “Escaping high-stakes testing is such a scholarship selling point that one private school administrator refers to students as ‘testing refugees’.”

How many testing refugees are there? And how does Florida’s massive voucher program — America’s largest and least studied — affect performance on the NAEP by allowing low scoring kids to duck it?

· What effect do voucher school dropouts have on scoring when they return in massive numbers to public schools?

At the same time, 61 percent of voucher kids abandon the voucher within two years (75 percent within three years),according to the Urban Institute, in the closest thing to a study ever done on Florida vouchers.

Enormous numbers of “low-scoring” kids duck third and fourth grade tests and then come back into the public system to be counted in the eighth grade NAEP and other yearly tests. That’s likely a recipe for score collapse. But there is no hard data to analyze. Florida is long overdue for such a study, and voucher advocates know it will be a data bloodbath.

Perhaps that’s because independent studies of smaller state voucher programs — with much greater oversight — shows attending a voucher school will “meet or exceed what the pandemic did to test scores,” according to Michigan State researcher and former voucher advocate-turned-critic Josh Cowen.

· Does chasing test scores kill test scores over time?

Test-driven instruction isn’t engaging. Kids come to understand how useless these tests are to their lives; and they behave accordingly. Teachers come to hate the test-obsessed model and leave the profession. How has that affected test scores?

A longstanding waste of human potential

For me, the eighth grade NAEP and “learning rate” failures are evidence that we’ve wasted a generation of human potential and severely damaged Florida’s teaching profession. Will anyone “follow the data” where it leads? Will anyone ask: Should our kids peak at age 9 and decline inexorably from there?

I believe Florida has long had one of America’s worst test-performing state school systems because of its governance model and intellectual corruption and pursuit of useless measures and fake accountability.

I

Billy Townsend was an award-winning investigative reporter for The Lakeland Ledger and Tampa Tribune. He oversaw education reporting as an editor for The Ledger. He has been an independent writer and journalist since 2008, focused on Florida history, education and civic systems. He was an elected Polk County School Board member from 2016-2020. Today he writes the Florida-focused email newsletter “Public Enemy Number 1.” He can be reached at townsendsubstackpe1@gmail.com.

The New York City Department of Education wants students to do their own writing, not to submit essays written by a computer program.

Michael Elen-Rooney wrote in Chalkbeat:

New York City students and teachers can no longer access ChatGPT — the new artificial intelligence-powered chatbot that generates stunningly cogent and lifelike writing — on education department devices or internet networks, agency officials confirmed Tuesday.

The education department blocked access to the program, citing “negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content,” a spokesperson said. The move from the nation’s largest school system could have ripple effects as districts and schools across the country grapple with how to respond to the arrival of the dynamic new technology.

The chatbot’s ability to churn out pitch perfect essay responses to prompts spanning a wide range of subjects has sparked fears among some schools and educators that their writing assignments could soon become obsolete — and that the program could encourage cheating and plagiarism.

“Due to concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content, access to ChatGPT is restricted on New York City Public Schools’ networks and devices,” said education department spokesperson Jenna Lyle. “While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success….”

The education department’s ban will only cut off access to the chatbot in some settings. Students can still get on the site on non-education department devices or internet networks.

Hmmm. So students could download essays from ChatGPT at home and copy it.

Jack Hassard, a retired science educator, has watched Donald Trump’s actions closely and even written a book called THE TRUMP FILES.

Hassard, Jack. The Trump Files: An Account of the Trump Administration’s Effect on American Democracy, Human Rights, Science and Public Health (p. 65). Northington-Hearn Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.

In this post, he links to an in-depth study by scholars at the Brookings Institution, who examine Trump’s efforts to overturn the Georgia election results.

Hassard prints an excerpt from the Brookings report:

The researchers who wrote the Brookings report of the Fulton County Investigation of Trump’s election interference conclude:

We conclude that Trump’s post-election conduct in Georgia leaves him at substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes. These charges potentially include: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud; intentional interference with performance of election duties; conspiracy to commit election fraud; criminal solicitation; and state Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations.

Please open the link and read the rest.

This is part 3 of the USA Today expose of the charter school grab of federal COVID funding intended to save small businesses. The series was written by investigative journalist Craig Harris. Even the lobbyist for charter schools (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) pulled in nearly $700,000. Should the money be returned?

He writes:

  • USA TODAY found 1,139 U.S. charter schools had $1 billion in PPP loans forgiven.
  • The investigation found nearly all – 93% – lost no money during the pandemic.
  • Critics want Small Business Administration to get PPP repayments from charter schools.

The Biden administration has promised to go after those who may have abused federal financial assistance during the pandemic, and charter schools could be one of the industries under scrutiny.

The publicly funded but privately operated schools that teach a fraction of U.S. children obtained more than $1 billion in forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic.

A USA TODAY investigation found more than 1,100 U.S. charter schools had those loans forgiven, but 93% of them may not have needed the money because they were in states that continued to fund their operations at the same level as before the pandemic, or at even higher levels in some cases.

The loan program had enough leeway to allow small businesses, including charter schools, to qualify without showing any financial need. Federal regulations only required businesses seeking the loans to say they faced “economic uncertainty” and the money was necessary to support ongoing operations.

A congresswoman and fiscal watchdogs are calling upon the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which administered the loan forgiveness program, to claw back some of that money.

Charter schools’ PPP loans

USA TODAY examined documents from the Internal Revenue Service, SBA, state Departments of Education and charter schools, and interviewed dozens of people, including education experts and watchdogs to find:

►The range of forgiven loans for 1,139 charter schools in 37 states was $150,746 to $9.8 million.

Some charter schools used the money to increase savings accounts or, in one case, hand millions of dollars to an investor.

A small San Diego charter chain that serves low-income children turned down a $3 million PPP loan, saying taking the money was unethical because California cut no funding to public schools.

►One California charter chain obtained $32.7 million in PPP loans by using 12 separate nonprofit companies that are linked to different schools to get the money. All of the loans were sent to the same address in Lancaster. The chain, Learn4Life, denied any wrongdoing.

KIPP, one of the largest charter chains in the country, saw its bottom line swell by $27 million in fiscal 2020. However, 14 of its affiliate organizations across the country had $28.4 million in PPP loans forgiven. KIPP said its affiliates had additional financial needs.

Tomorrow at 9 a.m., the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Abolitionist Teaching Netwotk will host a press conference at the Fulton County Courthouse. They will be asking the judge and district attorney not to send nonviolent educators to prison during the middle of a pandemic.

Shani Robinson contacted me this morning to ask if I would be willing to send a statement of support. I read Shani’s book None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators and was convinced that Shani was unjustly prosecuted and convicted. Investigators pressured her and others to confess or to name others. She maintained her innocence. As a first grade teacher, she was not eligible for a bonus based on student scores. She was convicted by a racist judge who had the temerity to claim that the cheating scandal was “the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town.” Not slavery. Not murder. Not Jim Crow.

I wrote the following letter. If you read the book and are as outraged as I am by the prosecution and conviction of Shani Robinson, please send a letter of support for Shani today. You may also contact elected officials on her behalf.

Here is my letter:

A Letter to the Judge and the District Attorney:
Honorable Officers of the Court and the Law in Fulton County:

I am a recently retired Professor at New York University and a historian of American education.
I am writing to urge you not to imprison Shani Robinson and other nonviolent educators.

I have read Shani’s book, which persuaded me that the state wrongly used RICO statutes to prosecute educators accused of changing student answers on standardized tests. Cheating of this kind has been documented in many school districts, and no other district has invoked a federal racketeering statute to prosecute teachers. The usual punishment is termination.

Shani taught first grade, where the tests have no stakes for students or teachers. She had no motive or reason to cheat.

I believe she was unjustly prosecuted by overzealous investigators. She could have pleaded guilty or accused others to avoid prosecution but she insisted on her innocence.

I believe her.

I believe her prosecutors wrongly pursued her, using tactics that were intended to coerce false convictions. Her conviction was unfair and racist.

I urge you not to send her to prison in the midst of a pandemic. Not now, and not ever.

I urge you to reopen and review her case.

I believe in Shani Robinson’s innocence.


Diane Ravitch, Ph.D.

A few years ago, I reviewed Shani Robinson’s book “None of the Above,” about the Atlanta cheating scandal. Teachers were charged as racketeers for allegedly changing answers from wrong to right. When questioned by investigators, they were offered immunity if they confessed or accused someone else. Shani pleaded innocent and accused no one. She was sentenced to prison, although there was no evidence against her other than an accusation. She was a first-grade teacher whose student scores did not affect the city’s ratings, nor was she eligible for a bonus. She has appealed and is waiting, years later, to learn whether she will be sent to prison.

Valerie Strauss posted this story and wrote the introduction.

Back in 2015, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers of racketeering and other crimes for cheating on student standardized tests, one of many such scandals reported in those years in most states and the District of Columbia. The fallout continues.

The key difference between all the other scandals and the one in Atlanta: Prosecutors used a law ordinarily used to prosecute mobsters — the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO — to go after those they deemed guilty.

A grand jury in 2013 indicted Beverly Hall, the now-deceased superintendent, who was accused of running a “corrupt” organization that used test scores to financially reward and punish teachers. Thirty-four teachers, principals and others were also charged. All but one of the charged was Black. Many pleaded guilty. Twelve went to trial; one was acquitted of all charges and the 11 others were convicted of racketeering and a variety of other charges.

The cheating scandals — including some broad-based ones in the District of Columbia over several years — came during a time when standardized test scores had become the chief metric to evaluate teachers, principals, schools and districts because of federal policy during the Bush and then the Obama administrations. Teachers’ jobs were on the line if student test scores didn’t improve (despite questions about whether the tests really showed improvement in student achievement).

In Georgia, the prosecutions were pushed by two Republican governors, one of whom, Sonny Perdue, used the test scores that resulted from cheating to win federal funding in President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top school reform initiative.

This post looks at the current state of things in this scandal. It was written by Anna Simonton, who is a journalist for the Appeal, a worker-led nonprofit newsroom covering the U.S. criminal legal system. She is the co-author with Shani Robinson of “None of The Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators.” Simonton says she is a proud graduate of Atlanta public schools.

Robinson is one of the teachers who was indicted and who maintains her innocence. “None of the Above” is revelatory about how the prosecutions were handled — the news media virtually ignored the many times the case was nearly dismissed as well as clear examples of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge in the case called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town,” never mind slavery, Jim Crow laws and their continuing effects, the dismantling of public housing, etc.

Here’s Simonton’s piece.

By Anna Simonton

Teachers have faced unprecedented burdens during the coronavirus pandemic — the risks of teaching in person, the challenges of online schooling, and the furor over critical race theory. Now another threat looms on the horizon for a group of former educators in Atlanta: prison.
The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal rose to national attention in 2015 when 11 Black educators were convicted of racketeering and conspiracy for allegedly cheating or enabling cheating on students’ standardized tests. The reaction from many corners was outrage.
Commentators asserted that charging teachers with RICO — a federal statute which was originally designed to prosecute mobsters — was overreaching and harsh, that Black educators were scapegoated for a widespread problem, and that sending them to prison wouldn’t solve the systemic failures that led to cheating.

Eventually, the news cycle moved on, and the case was largely forgotten outside of Atlanta. But it’s far from over.

Seven educators who maintain their innocence are still appealing their convictions in a process that has moved at a glacial pace. Last month brought the first major development in several years: Former principal Dana Evans had her appeal rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court on Jan. 11. Evans will soon be incarcerated for one year, followed by probation, unless the trial judge agrees to modify her sentence.
Retired Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter has the power to resentence these educators to time served or any number of alternatives to prison. Now local education advocates are petitioning Baxter, District Attorney Fani Willis, and other elected officials to bring a just resolution to a case that legal experts have called “a textbook example of overcriminalization and prosecutorial discretion run amok.”

It all began in 2010, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) launched a state investigation into Atlanta Public Schools because he wasn’t satisfied with the district’s internal probe into a suspiciously high number of wrong-to-right erasures on standardized tests.

The problem was widespread — 20 percent of Georgia’s elementary and middle schools were flagged in a 2009 erasure analysis — but Atlanta became the focal point. Less than a week after launching the investigation, Perdue announced the state won a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant for school reform from the Obama administration. What he didn’t mention was that the grant application touted those same test scores, attributing the rise to “higher standards and harder assessments.”

Meanwhile, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents interrogated teachers without lawyers present, trading immunity for confessions and accusations against fellow educators. The result was a dragnet that hooked innocent people along with those who cheated. When the investigation concluded by implicating 178 educators in cheating, it was up to the local district attorney at the time, Paul Howard, to bring charges.

At that point, cheating had become commonplace in school districts across the country, due in part to federal laws like No Child Left Behind, which punished schools that didn’t increase test scores each year. In most places, the consequences for cheating amounted to suspended or revoked professional licenses, fines, and community service. When Howard indicted 35 educators (who were almost all Black and all people of color) on RICO charges in 2013, it sent shock waves through the city.

Howard stretched the bounds of RICO — which concerns crimes committed for financial gain — to allege that educators conspired to cheat to receive bonus money awarded to schools that scored well on standardized tests. The indictment was so broad that two teachers at different schools who cheated without any knowledge of the other’s actions could be cast as conspirators. And the claim about bonus money didn’t square with the state investigation, which had found that bonus money “provided little incentive to cheat.”

The 12 educators who went to trial had garnered a total of only $1,500 in bonus money, and some never received any at all. One defendant was a teacher whose students didn’t even pass the test.

Others taught first and second grade, where tests were only taken for practice and didn’t count toward the metrics schools were judged upon. That was the case for Shani Robinson. She was accused by a colleague who was granted immunity by the GBI. A testing coordinator had instructed Robinson and other teachers to erase doodles students had drawn on their test booklets, a practice that was allowed under testing regulations. It wasn’t hard for her accuser to twist the scene to fit what investigators were looking for.

The trial lasted eight months — the longest criminal trial in Georgia’s history — and was marred by unreliable testimony. Most educators who were indicted had taken plea deals that required them to confess, accuse, and testify in exchange for community service instead of prison. Witnesses for the prosecution made contradictory statements so often that at one point the judge said, “Perjury is being committed daily here.” Two people even recanted on the witness stand.

At the end of the trial, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort to convince the jury that educators cheated for financial gain by claiming that their salaries — forget the bonus money — justified a RICO conviction. They reiterated that educators could be conspirators without knowing it. And where reason fell short, they relied on emotion, making impassioned declarations like, “America will never be destroyed from the outside! If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves!”

As if Atlanta educators were responsible for the downfall of democracy.
That was the tenor of the media surrounding the trial as well. Politicians and pundits used the case to paint public education as a failure and peddle corporate-friendly reforms. On the day the prosecution rested, and the cheating scandal dominated headlines, then-Gov. Nathan Deal (R) announced a plan for the state to take over “failing” schools and turn them into charters.

Even if cheating did signal a need for sweeping change, throwing the book at teachers hasn’t led to a better education system. Some students whose tests were manipulated have said the cheating didn’t take a toll on their academic achievement in the first place. The school district’s remediation program for those who have struggled wasn’t very impactful. And new cheating allegations have surfaced because the policies at the root of the problem have not been addressed.

Instead, two educators have served prison sentences and others are headed that way. Changing their sentences and keeping them out of prison would represent a real step toward rectifying the Atlanta cheating scandal.

Richard P. Phelps was hired by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to oversee testing, which was a crucial element in her plans to “reform” the district and raise test scores. During his time there, outsiders raised questions about whether there was widespread cheating on tests.

Phelps addresses those questions in this post.

He begins:

Ten years ago, I worked as the director of assessments for DCPS. For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as chancellor.

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average U.S. school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons:

–in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

–test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time;

–after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

–after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven.

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.

Phelps’ articles were originally published at the Nonpartisan Education Review. They were reposted on Valerie Jablow’s blog.

Good Jobs First has studied the distribution of COVID relief funds in depth. It created a site called COVID Stimulus Watch. It published an article about the depth of corruption in the Trump administration, which distributed COVID relief funds.

In this post, the researchers at Good Jobs First reveal the federal funding in the Paycheck Protection Program for all 50 states, distributed to charter schools, religious schools, and private schools.

As you review the funding for your own state, please bear in mind that public schools received an average of $134,500 each. Also, public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. Charter schools were, however, allowed to get a portion of the public school funding and then to apply for PPP funding as if they were small businesses.

Check out your own state. You will find that elite private schools with high tuition and large endowments received grants that often were millions of dollars.

Richard Phelps was in charge of assessment in the last year of the reign of Michelle Rhee as superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools. In this post, he describes how difficult and time-consuming it is to identify test cheating and how little the D.C. leadership cared about making the effort. Phelps was supposed to monitor test security and expand testing.

He writes:

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons:

· in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;
· test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time;
· after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and
· after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven.

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.

He punctures Rhee’s claim that the test security agency Caveon never found evidence of “systematic cheating.”

He writes:

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.

A group of civil rights and education organizations have filed suit against Betsy DeVos, who seeks to divert public funding to private schools. Say this for DeVos: She is maddeningly consistent in her efforts to fund private schools. Whether authorized or not, she presses forward on behalf of the private school sector. She doesn’t care about public schools or their students. She wants them to open in the middle of a pandemic without regard to safety of students or teachers.

DEVOS SUED BY PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS, NAACP, AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO BLOCK ILLEGAL RULE THAT DIVERTS CRITICAL COVID-19 AID FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS

A rule issued by the U.S. Department of Education this month coerces school districts to use an illegal process to inflate the amount of federal COVID-19 aid they must share with private schools. The rule will drastically diminish the resources available to support public school children and historically underserved student populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed today by public school parents, districts, and the NAACP. The lawsuit seeks to block the rule.

The lawsuit, NAACP v. DeVos, explains that the rule imposes illegal and harmful requirements on the emergency relief funds allocated to public school districts under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the rule, school districts must divert more funding for “equitable services” to private school students than the law requires or face onerous restrictions on the use of those funds in their public schools. Both options violate the clear language and intent of the CARES Act and will undermine district efforts to adequately serve students who desperately need services and supports due to the impacts of the pandemic.

The CARES Act directs public school districts to calculate the amount they must set aside for private schools based on the number of low-income students enrolled in private schools. However, DeVos’ rule forces school districts to comply with one of two illegal options, either: (1) allocate CARES Act funds for private schools based on all students enrolled in private school, which includes students from affluent families, or (2) allocate these funds based on the number of low-income students at private schools, but face severe restrictions on how the rest of the district’s CARES Act funds can be used, including a prohibition on their use to serve any students who do not attend Title I schools.

The rule was first introduced in April as non-binding guidance from Secretary DeVos and received widespread criticism from education leaders and lawmakers that the guidance violated the CARES Act and would leave districts without resources essential to address the impacts of COVID-19. Several state attorneys general have also filed suit to challenge these new rules.

“Amid a national health crisis, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is robbing public school children of desperately needed relief and diverting it to private schools,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. “This is a new low, even for an administration intent on promoting inequality in education. Children and families across the nation are facing unprecedented risks to their safety and educational opportunities. COVID-19 has magnified the hardships for children from low-income households and diminished access to quality instruction, digital technology, nutrition, social development, and other vital resources. These are consequences that will last a lifetime.”

“Forcing districts to spend even more funding on private schools exacerbates existing inequities in Arizona,” said Beth Lewis, Title I school parent and teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District and cofounder of grassroots advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona. “Our public schools have been defunded for decades and already lose hundreds of millions of dollars to private schools via vouchers every single year. Secretary DeVos’s binding rule forces our neighborhood schools to give desperately needed federal aid to private schools that have already accepted small business bailouts. Meanwhile, Title I public schools like mine have to rely on local charities and donors to help us feed students and stock classrooms. This rule will harm the students and families who need resources the most.”

“Secretary DeVos’ new rule is plainly illegal because it violates the clear language and congressional intent of the CARES Act,” said Jessica Levin, Director of the Public Funds Public Schools campaign, a collaboration of the organizations that represent the plaintiffs in the case. “The impact on students and schools will be severe, as the rule shows complete disregard for the reality that public schools need increased resources as they continue to serve 90% of our nation’s students during this incredibly challenging time.”

The coronavirus pandemic has focused the nation’s attention on the essential role public schools play in the lives of families and communities. Since closing buildings in March, public schools across the country have worked tirelessly to maintain instruction and provide students with meals, access to technology, health services, and social and emotional supports. Public schools now need more – not fewer – resources. Yet, Secretary DeVos continues to exploit the pandemic to promote her political agenda of funneling taxpayer dollars to private schools.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented pro bono by the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, as well as Education Law Center (ELC) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), all of whom collaborate on Public Funds Public Schools.

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org