Archives for category: Cheating


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.”

Earlier this year, Adell Cothorne won the Kenneth S. Goodman “In Defense of Good Teaching” Award at the University of Arizona. I was not aware of this honor when it happened but wanted to take this opportunity to salute Adell.

Adell was the whistle-blower in Washington, D.C., who called attention to the cheating that was happening during the regime of Michelle Rhee.

This was the citation:

“Adell Cothorne, teacher, administrator, and teacher educator, is the 2017 winner of the In Defense of Good Teaching award

“The award is given every year, in honor of Dr. Kenneth S. Goodman, to an educator who has stood up for students at great personal and professional risk. Ms. Cothorne blew the whistle on standardized test cheating in one of Michelle Rhee’s “success story” schools in Washington, D.C. because she did not want her students to miss out on access to a high-quality education. This decision ultimately led to loss of her career in K-12 public education, reflecting how much she is willing to fight for her students.”

Cothorne was principal of the Noyes Education Campus from 2010-2011. She discovered cheating, reported it, and was fired by district officials. After she tightened test s3curity, the school’s test scores plummeted. She blew an inconvenient hole in the “miracle” of Adam.C. Success under Rhee. She was featured in John Merrow’s last PBS documentary.

Mercedes Schneider invited Adell Cothorne to tell her story here.

She joins the honor roll of this Blog.

In his retirement, John Merrow has turned into a tiger, pulling apart the frauds that are regularly reported by the mainstream media.

In this marvelous post, he punctures the great hot air balloon of “reform” in the District of Columbia under Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson.

It begins like this:

The current issue of The Washington Monthly contains an article by former journalist Thomas Toch, “Hot for Teachers,” the latest in continuing string of pieces designed to prove the “truth” of the school reform movement’s four Commandments: top-down management, high stakes testing, more money for teachers and principals whose students do well, and dismissal for those whose students do not.

Just as a hot air balloon needs regular burst of hot air to remain afloat, the DCPS ‘success story’ needs constant celebrations of its alleged success. Sadly, it has had no trouble finding agents willing to praise Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, and their work. Absent good data, Toch, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, philanthropist Catherine Bradley, Mike Petrilli of Fordham, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, and writers Richard Whitmire and Amanda Ripley have lavished praise upon DCPS, often twisting or distorting data and omitting damaging information in order to make their case.

In his article, Toch distorts or omits at least eight issues. The distinguished education analyst Mary Levy and I have written a rebuttal, which is scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Washington Monthly. In this blog post, I want to consider in detail just one of Toch’s distortions: widespread cheating by adults: He glibly dismisses DC’s cheating scandals in just two sentences: In March 2011, USA Today ran a front-page story headlined “When Standardized Test Scores Soared in D.C., Were the Gains Real?,” an examination of suspected Rhee-era cheating. The problem turned out to be concentrated in a few schools, and investigations found no evidence of widespread cheating.

There are two factual errors in his second sentence. Cheating–erasing wrong answers and replacing them with correct ones–occurred in more than half of DCPS schools, and every ‘investigation’ was either controlled by Rhee and later Henderson or conducted by inept investigators–and sometimes both. All five investigations were whitewashes, because no one in power wanted to unmask the wrongdoing that had produced the remarkable test score gains.

Four essential background points: The rookie Chancellor met one-on-one with all her principals and, in those meetings, made them guarantee test score increases. We filmed a number of these sessions, and saw firsthand how Rhee relentlessly negotiated the numbers up, while also making it clear that failing to ‘make the numbers’ would have consequences.

Point number two: The test in question, the DC-CAS, had no consequences for students, none whatsoever. Therefore, many kids were inclined to blow it off, which in turn forced teachers and principals to go to weird extremes to try to get students to take the test seriously. One principal told his students that he would get a tattoo of their choice if they did well on the DC-CAS (They could choose the design; he would choose the location!).

Point number three: For reasons of bureaucratic efficiency, the DC-CAS exams were delivered to schools at least a week before the exam date and put in the hands of the principals whose jobs depended on raising scores on a test the kids didn’t care about. This was a temptation that some school leaders and some teachers found irresistible. Test books were opened, sample questions were distributed, and, after the exams, answers were changed. Some schools had ‘erasure parties,’ we were reliably told.

Point number four: Predictably, test scores went up, and the victory parties began.

Contrary to Toch’s assertions, the ‘wrong-to-right’ erasures in half of DCPS schools were never thoroughly investigated beyond the initial analysis done by the agency that corrected the exams in the first place, CTB/McGraw-Hill. Deep erasure analysis would have revealed any patterns of erasures, but it was never ordered by Chancellor Rhee, Deputy Chancellor Henderson, or the Mayor, presuming he was aware of the issue.

Merrow followed Rhee closely for years. No journalist knows her methods better than he. It took a long time for him to figure out that the balloon was full of hot air, but figure it out he did.

El Camino Real Charter High School used to be a public school. It was always a good school. But now it’s embroiled in a financial scandal because its principal used the school credit card to charge lavish indulgences, including first class air travel, meals, hotels, and other items connected to his other job as a talent scout for a major basketball team.

The teachers are not happy.

Taxpayers should be picketing too.

Dave McKenna of Deadspin writes here about the release under court order of emails written by outgoing Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about his efforts to take control of the National Conference of Black Mayors, bankrupt it, and open a new organization that would promote charter schools. Johnson is married to controversial Michelle Rhee, who has been a beneficiary and advocate for charters and vouchers.

This is a must-read.

The emails come mainly from the early days of Johnson’s hostile takeover of the National Conference of Black Mayors—the mayor and his minions described their mission against the historic Atlanta-based non-profit as a “coup” when they launched it in 2013—and reveal lots of no-goodnik behavior from Johnson and his coup team, a clique of civil servants on the Sacramento payroll, staffers from Johnson’s huge web of nonprofit groups, at least three public relations outfits, volunteer hangers-on, and lots of lawyers from the firm of Ballard Spahr. (At least a dozen Ballard Spahr lawyers have worked pro bono for Johnson on NCBM litigation.) The records indicate that at some point Johnson changed his goal from running the NCBM to ruining it. Johnson’s team, for example, is found dispatching secret agents to spy on NCBM board members at hotels and restaurants while conspiring to sabotage a potential $2 million windfall for the NCBM scheduled to come just a few months before he filed to have the organization dissolved through the bankruptcy courts. The documents also appear to support detractors’ long-leveled allegations that Johnson mingled the NCBM’s mission with that of Michelle Rhee, his wife and fellow school-privatization demagogue.

The city clerk’s release of the documents completes a request made under the California Public Records Act in the spring of 2015 by Cosmo Garvin, a reporter for the Sacramento News & Review. Unlike the rest of the media in the state capital, Garvin covered Johnson tenaciously and aggressively. He knew Johnson was conducting business using Gmail accounts rather than his assigned government address, so he requested any records on the city’s public servers from those personal email accounts. On July 1, 2015, Johnson sued his own city and Garvin’s weekly newspaper to prevent hundreds of emails from being made public, claiming attorney/client privilege….

The bulk of the unsealed documents deal with Johnson’s takeover of the NCBM, a clandestine and ultimately disastrous effort that peaked in May 2013 when he succeeded in being named president of the group, only to be deposed by the group’s board of directors two weeks into his term. It’s been a non-stop legal battle ever since between Johnson and NCBM elders, with suits filed by and against the group’s executive director, Vanessa Williams, and a controversial bankruptcy petition all still pending. After civil litigation in Georgia courts, Johnson was restored as the NCBM’s president in early 2014, but was still clearly at war with his constituents.

Johnson’s only meaningful act after regaining the presidency was a request, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia on April 30, 2014 to have the NCBM dissolved under Chapter 7 of the federal code. Then on May 1, 2014, just one day after the bankruptcy filing and before he’d even resigned as NCBM president, Johnson founded a clone non-profit group, which he dubbed the African American Mayors Association (AAMA). He named himself president of the new group, and brought many NCBM sponsors with him. He installed AAMA’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.—just three blocks from the White House. (The just-released documents indicate that AAMA’s prime real estate was originally offered by former NCBM board member Clarence Anthony for use by the NCBM.)…

As expected, the latest batch of documents—totaling several hundred pages—shows that Johnson’s misuse of attorney/client privilege staved off potential political embarrassments, many of them NCBM-related. He was, to give one telling example, preventing the release of his schedule for Sept. 9, 2013, which included preparation for a trip to Birmingham, Ala. The listed rehearsals included a “Students First Session” followed by “NCBM Prep.”

StudentsFirst is the charter school advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee. (Johnson is also a major player in the school privatization movement.) The email that Johnson tried so hard to hide provides a reminder that he and Rhee went to Birmingham together to exploit the attention being given the 50th anniversary of bombing of the 16th Street Church. Amid the solemn commemorations of that seminal moment in the American civil rights movement, they co-hosted a town hall meeting promoting charter schools.

One of the reasons Johnson would presumably want this played down is that the NCBM has historically opposed charter schools, and didn’t like Johnson using their group to further an education agenda that both membership and leadership vehemently opposed. Former NCBM president Robert Bowser told me in 2014 that the group had made their stance clear to Johnson after he proposed a resolution to get the NCBM to endorse charter schools. “We took a vote and said, ‘Hell no!’ to his resolution,” Bowser said. “The black mayors are not buying the charter schools, period.” Rhee, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly despised by Washington, D.C.’s black residents when she ran its public school system from 2007 to 2010; any hint that the NCBM was being used to serve her ends would likely be toxic to the group’s core constituency.

The Birmingham meeting, as it turned, didn’t provide any obvious payoff for Rhee. StudentsFirst, which was a cash cow—the Walton Foundation, one of many deep-pocketed benefactors, gave Rhee’s group $8 million just a few months before the Alabama getaway—quietly folded earlier this year, without donating billions of dollars to education projects or meeting any of the other megalomaniacal goals Rhee loudly predicted for her non-profit on Oprah Winfrey’s show at its founding. It’s rather fitting that while StudentsFirst’s website is now largely defunct, its fundraising page is still running and ready to accept donations.