When I attended a public school — many decades ago, in a galaxy far, far away — teachers told students that cheating was unacceptable and would be punished.
Today, the idea has students laughing — all the way to graduation.
Last year, after DC Public Schools officials breathlessly announced massive improvements in graduation rates, several honest teachers broke ranks, and an investigation uncovered massive fraud: a whopping one of every three graduates across the city resulted from falsified records.
Many students played hooky for a third or even half the school year. Administrators also pressured teachers to improve grades to hike the graduation rate.
“The problem,” Washington Post columnist Colbert King concluded, “is systemic indeed.”*
You see, employment evaluations and cash bonuses for teachers and administrators were — and still are — tied in part to student graduation stats. It turns out that an incentive to good work can also serve as an incentive to cheat. Could it be that government employees grading their own work does not encourage honesty?
Just months after confirmation of the worst fears of public school corruption, new allegations against teachers and administrators at Roosevelt High School more than suggest fudging attendance records is ongoing.
“This growing environment of fear and mistrust,” asserts Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, “has never been addressed and continues to be a disservice to students and teachers.”
City officials have had plenty of time to address the issue. And of the common sense idea that the best way to avoid fear and mistrust is to follow the rules?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Nor is the fraudulent behavior limited to dishonestly boosting graduation rates. Former DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson resigned back in February after it became public knowledge that his daughter jumped 600 other students on a waiting list for her school. A recent Post story about enrollment fraud, whereby non-residents grab spots at prestigious schools such as the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, without paying the non-resident fee, was entitled, “Stop enrollment fraud? D.C. school officials are often the ones committing it.” Two-thirds of pending cases involve a current or past DCPS employee.