Archives for category: Cheating

Shani Robinson is one of the teachers who was convicted of cheating in the infamous Atlanta case. In her absorbing book None the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators, Robinson makes a convincing case that she was railroaded by an over-zealous, unscrupulous and racist prosecution.

In this brief video, she explains what happened. She was teaching first grade, where there were no stakes, no rewards, attached to scores. One of her colleagues falsely accused her to avoid prosecution. The trial was a sham. Many cities had cheating scandals. Atlanta is the only one where teachers were tried (using a “racketeering” statute written for the Mafia) and sent to jail.

The video is part of a collection of over 1,000 videos by Bob Greenberg. Bob calls them “brainwaves.” He is a former teacher turned videographer.

Here are two more “Brainwaves” that Greenberg made with Shani Robinson.

Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black

Teachers Make a Difference


G.F. Brandenburg cannot understand the Washington Post editorial writer Jo-Anne Armao. When Michelle Rhee started her job as chancellor of the D.C. schools in 2007, Armao interviewed her and decided that she was the greatest educator ever. Nothing that has happened in the past dozen years has changed her views. To this day, she still writes lovingly, respectfully about the Miracle that was Michelle Rhee. All her initiatives have failed. A huge cheating scandal was covered up and forgotten. Charter scandals have come and gone. A high school boasted of its 100% graduation rate, but it was a fake.

No matter. The Washington Post editorial board has Rhee’s back, almost a decade after she left.

For a fun trip down memory lane, read the comments on the John Merrow post from 2013 that is included.


I just finished reading a compelling book about the famed Atlanta Cheating Scandal. It is titled None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators. I found it hard to put down.

It was written by Shani Robinson, one of the teachers convicted in 2015 of racketeering, for changing her students’ answers on a state test, and journalist Anna Simonton. It is Shani’s story, and with Anna’s help, it is a very good read.

Shani was a Teach for America teacher who taught first graders at Dunbar Elementary School in Atlanta. She was one of dozens of teachers and administrators accused of cheating to raise her students’ test scores. Being arrested, charged, threatened, tried, and convicted was an ordeal, which she describes in detail. Throughout this ordeal, she maintained her innocence. She very credibly insists that she never changed her students’ test answers. Her student scores were not counted towards the school’s “AYP” and had no bearing on the school’s rating because first grade scores were not part of the No Child Left Behind dragnet.

She never received a bonus or any other monetary reward. Yet she and other educators were accused and convicted on a racketeering charge (the federal RICO statute that was designed to snare members of the Mafia and other organized criminals). She did not conspire with anyone, she writes, and to this day she insists upon her innocence.

What is especially shocking is her account of the “justice” system. At every step along the way, she and the others who were accused were offered the opportunity to get out of the charges if only they agreed to plead guilty. They got off scot free if they were willing to accuse others. Repeatedly she was told that she had a choice: If you stick with your plea of innocence, you face 20 years in prison; if you confess your criminal behavior, you will get probation, community service, and a nominal fine. Those who were convicted lost their job, their reputations, their careers, and in some cases, their freedom.

Others whom Shani trusted confessed to crimes they had not committed. She insisted upon her innocence and refused to lie to win her freedom. She cannot help comparing the longest trial in Georgia’s history with the cheating scandal in Washington, D.C., where no one was charged and there was no trial or punishment, nor even a credible investigation.

Somehow the whole procedure sounds like a story from the old Soviet Union, but this is American “justice” as practiced in Georgia.

What makes the story even more interesting is the way she connects her personal dilemma with the history of racism and injustice in Georgia and with the manipulation of politics by corporate interests. She notes again and again that the media created a feeding frenzy because of allegations that educators cheated, but were not interested at all in reporting how corporate interests shifted or stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the schools for real estate development or gentrification.

She describes Atlanta’s history as the first city to build public housing, which became home to many thousands of black families, and the first city to tear down all of its public housing, ostensibly to woo middle class families back to the city (and to push out poor black families).

She became disenchanted with Teach for America as she saw its recruits—funded by out-of-state billionaires and trained by TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity– organize a takeover of the Atlanta school board so as to make way for corporate education reform, especially charter schools.

She details the efforts of for-profit Charter Schools USA to open a charter in Atlanta, and the determination of the black community to keep them out.


She writes:

“I tried to keep my cool as I came to terms with the fact that some very bad things had happened in my school district, worked to remain self-assured that my name would be cleared, and attempted to quell my outrage at the naked hypocrisy of some of the public figures who scrambled to condemn educators for ‘cheating the children.’ There were so many ways that children, particularly black children, were being cheated out of a decent life. During the decade that some APS staff members were tampering with tests, most teachers were doing the best they could with few resources for contending with kids who suffered generational trauma stemming from urban renewal, racialized violence, the drug epidemic, mass incarceration, and the obliteration of public housing. Meanwhile, real estate moguls and financiers were finagling ways to line their pockets with the education dollars that should have been going to the classroom.”

The most memorable line in the trial was uttered by the utterly reprehensible Judge Baxter, who said that the cheating scandal was “the sickest thing to ever happen in this town.” Shani wonders if he never gave any thought to slavery, Jim Crow, and the many other attacks on blacks as equally “sick.”

Shani Robinson’s appeal has not yet been heard. She may yet be sent to prison. Her book is a persuasive argument that some of the worst criminals in Atlanta were never tried for their crimes against the children of Atlanta.



Reflecting on the recentmassive scandal of rigging college acceptances, Valerie Strauss discusses the debate about whether the SAT and ACT are necessary. 

Research indicates that a student’s four year record reveals more about his or her college readiness than either of the two big standardized tests.

Wealthy parents have always had advantages, including the ability to pay tutors to help their children.

Now we see that some parents paid to have someone take the test for their childor change the answers from wrong to right.

Fairtest has long kept count of the number of colleges and universities that have gone “test-optional.” The number now exceeds 1,000. The elite University of Chicago joined the list.

One thing is clear: from NCLB To the SAT, American schools place far too much emphasis on standardized tests.



Mercedes Schneider tracked down the tax filings of the “charity” at the heart of the college admissions scam.

You will be interested to learn that the cover for the heist was a nonprofit dedicated to helping the “underpriviled.”

Well, you can’t open a charity for the “privileged,” now, can you?


When I first heard about a federal investigation of cheating and rigging of the college admissions process on behalf of wealthy people willing to pay, I completely misjudged the ramifications. I was not surprised.

Why was I not surprised? I was not surprised because admission to elite colleges and universities has long been rigged, though not as blatantly as the latest scheme. In the present story, ringers were paid to take the tests, and test answers were changed by proctors on behalf of students whose parents paid the price. That’s awfully blatant.

The old-time rigging was more subtle. Start with legacy admissions. If the college had eight applicants for every place, a student whose parent or sibling went to the same institution was likely to be admitted despite his or her grades or scores. That’s unfair.

Then there is the rigging that occurs when the college puts too much weight on the SAT or ACT, which favors students from wealthy homes, who have gone to the best schools and had advantageous life experiences. Numerous studies, including some released by the testing companies, acknowledge that the GPA (grade point average) is a better predictor of college success than the college admission test taken on a single day. That is why more than 1,000 colleges and universities have become “test-optional.” Go to the Fairtest website to see the list of test-optional institutions of higher education.

The scores on the SAT/ACT are also affected by tutoring, which is a function of parental income. So, not only do wealthy families begin with a big advantage, they can multiply their advantage by paying for tutors who are skilled in training students to raise their scores. Tutors can be very expensive. They may costs hundreds of dollars an hour. This skews the admissions process yet again towards those with money.

It would have been far simpler for the families involved in the present scam to pay a tutor $5,000-10,000, and they would have not been investigated by the FBI.

But there is one more way to get preferential treatment. Give a large gift to the college or university shortly before your child applies for admission. Daniel Golden, a journalist then at the Wall Street Journal, now at ProPublica, wrote a book in 2006 called The Price of Admission, about how wealthy people gave money to get their children into elite colleges. He referred to a little-known family named Kushner in New Jersey. A real-estate developer named Charles Kushner, who had graduated from New York University, made a gift of $2.5 million to Harvard in 1998. Not long after, his son Jared was admitted to Harvard.

Golden wrote:

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

Jersey Jazzman (aka Mark Weber) has been preoccupied both teaching and earning his doctorate degree, but fortunately he did earn the degree so he is blogging again, shining the light of accuracy and truth on inflated claims.

In this post, he reviews the bait-and-switch in Camden, New Jersey. Camden has opened charters called “Renaissance Schools,” which were required by law to be open to all the children in their neighborhood. The charters are run by KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Mastery, all of which have a history of skimming the students they want.

JJ reviews a state auditor’s report that chides the charters for gaming the system, picking the students they want, contrary to the law.

No surprise here. More broken promises from the privatization industry. They are not better than public schools, although they are better at picking the students they want.

A reader has collected the ways that test scores can be manipulated to make a school or a district look better or worse:

How to Manipulate Test Scores

1) Manipulate the standards

2) Manipulate the test items

3) Manipulate the cut scores

4) Manipulate the test takers

5) Manipulate the responses (i.e., change the answers, also referred to as, “The DC Rheeform Miracle” a tactic so successful that Atlanta gave it go.)

6) Manipulate the media

Number five is the only overt form of cheating, however, all the other methods are forms of de-facto cheating. Number 1, 2, 3 were used by reformers to prove that our schools were failing; numbers 4, 5. 6 are used by reformers to prove that the charter experiment is working. Six reasons why Common Coercion test-and-punish reform was a criminal enterprise.

Marshall Tuck’s billionaire funders have given his campaign $30 million, double what his opponent Tony Thurmond has raised.

Tuck’s campaign has used his money to run negative attack ads against Thurmond. Things got so bad that the ACLU OF Northern California issued a statement condemning Tuck’s PAC for misuse of its name in misleading advertising.

These vicious campaign ads raise an important question about Marshall Tuck’s character. Should someone who plays dirty be the education leader of California? Is Tuck so desperate to win that he will stoop so low? Are these Trumpian values appropriate for an educator?

Here is the Northern California ACLU statement.

The Thurmond campaign responded:

Contact: Madeline Franklin

ACLU of Northern California Condemns Pro-Marshall Tuck PAC EdVoice For Misleading Attacks on Tony Thurmond

Thurmond campaign called for TV ads citing ACLU to be taken down after ACLU of Northern California called EdVoice tactics misleading and damaging.

San Francisco – Thursday, November 1, 2018 – ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) Executive Director Abdi Soltani sent a strong letter to Bill Lucia, EdVoice Executive Director, condemning his organization’s decision to use the ACLU name in mailers attacking Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Thurmond campaign called on Marshall Tuck to join them in calling for an apology to California voters and to demand TV ads also using the ACLU name to be taken down.

“I am writing to express my strong disappointment in EdVoice’s decision to use the ACLU name in your direct mail in a manner that is confusing voters and harming the ACLU of Northern CA,” wrote Soltani. “We have already publicly clarified that we have nothing to do with this mailer or your campaign. EdVoice is not a fly by night organization, and with your decision, you have damaged your reputation and standing with the ACLU-NC.”

Mailers and TV ads attacking Thurmond and prominently featuring the ACLU name are paid for by “Students, Parents, and Teachers Supporting Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instructio 2018n, a Project of EdVoice,” which is a committee funded by several pro-charter school industry billionaires including Netflix CEO and EdVoice board member Reed Hastings.

The ACLU of Southern California also released a statement on the “misleading” mailer. Soltani demanded a meeting with Lucia and the board chair of EdVoice after the election to discuss their strong concerns, while the Thurmond campaign suggested that Tuck join in calling on EdVoice to publicly apologize and take down TV ads which are still using the ACLU name.

“It’s worst form of politics to exploit the ACLU name to mislead voters into supporting Marshall Tuck,” said Madeline Franklin, Thurmond’s campaign manager. “The sad irony here is that the ACLU of California gave Tony Thurmond a 100% legislative voting record. Tony’s spent his entire career as a social worker and public servant serving the same kids the ACLU fights for, including foster youth, students of color, and youth in the juvenile justice system.”

Franklin continued:

“If Marshall Tuck has any regard for the ACLU’s core values for individual rights, including Californians’ voting rights, he should join the Thurmond campaign in calling on his supporters to publicly apologize to the California voters who have been misled by these egregious ads and call for the remaining TV ads to be taken down immediately.”


A charter school in Florida may be forced to close because it opened a private school on its campus to remove low-scoring students before the state tests.

“Several days before the Florida Standards Assessments began near the end of the school year, 13 third-grade students suddenly transferred from the Palm Harbor Academy charter school to a newly created private school on the same school campus, run by Palm Harbor Academy governing board chairman the Rev. Gillard Glover.

“With one exception, all of those 13 students had one thing in common: They were at least one full grade behind grade level. Many of the children were multiple grades behind grade level. Another five students in other grades, all at least two grades behind grade level, were also transferred out of Palm Harbor and into the private school at around the same time.

“The students’ transfer to a private school meant that they didn’t take the state assessments required of public school students — and, therefore, didn’t drag down the school’s state scores and school grade. A failing school grade would have meant shuttering the school, School Board Attorney Kristin Gavin said, because the school got a D last year.

“The school district has portrayed the moving of the students as an attempt by Palm Harbor to skirt the school grade process, at a cost to the students: Those with disabilities who were moved were not being provided state-mandated support, district officials said, at the newly created private school, the Academy of Excellence.”