Monday, April 06, 2015

Diane Ravitch Wraps Up the Atlanta Cheating Scandal

At her blog, Diane Ravitch brings together three stories about the recent convictions and sentencing of 11 Atlanta educators who cheated to raise their students' test scores.  The eleven people were lead away in shackles, some to sentences up to 20 years. 

Let's just all agree that what they did was wrong.  But they were tried and convicted under the RICO Act.  You remember that one - it's the one the Feds like to use for racketeering.  So let's compare and contrast.

One was by Richard Rothstein. In this brilliant article, Rothstein argued that the 11 convicted educators were “taking the fall” for a thoroughly corrupt testing regime that set impossible goals and punished those who can’t meet them:
Rothstein writes:
Eleven Atlanta educators, convicted and imprisoned, have taken the fall for systematic cheating on standardized tests in American education. Such cheating is widespread, as is similar corruption in any institution—whether health care, criminal justice, the Veterans Administration, or others—where top policymakers try to manage their institutions with simple quantitative measures that distort the institution’s goals. This corruption is especially inevitable when out-of-touch policymakers set impossible-to-achieve goals and expect that success will nonetheless follow if only underlings are held accountable for measurable results.
The most widely reported recent instance of this corruption was the Veterans Administration’s requirement that its staff schedule appointments within 14 days of a veteran’s request for one. That it was impossible to meet this standard because there were insufficient doctors to see patients within that time frame did not influence the VA to change its standard. So, systematically, nationwide, intake staff cheated, for example by reporting that patients had only called for an appointment 14 days before they received one, not the months that may have transpired. Many staff members also lied to federal investigators looking into the cheating; lying to investigators is a crime for which Atlanta educators were convicted, VA employees have not been similarly prosecuted. Instead of being put on trial, supervisors who permitted such practices have been allowed to resign.
Last May, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who had ordered that appointments be scheduled within 14 days, himself resigned because of the scandal. I offer no opinion about whether similar accountability would be appropriate in the Department of Education.
 I will offer an opinion.  I think Arne Duncan should at least been pulled into Obama's office and asked, "What are we doing that the testing in our schools is this high-stakes as to drive teachers to commit illegal acts?"

Another article:

David Dayen of The Fiscal Times, writes:
One of the defining issues of this millennium has been the bifurcation of the criminal justice system, with one set of rules for ordinary people and another for elites. We’ve learned that justice is a commodity to be purchased rather than a universal value delivered without prejudice.

That’s the proper backdrop to the news of convictions in the Atlanta test cheating case. Eleven educators were found guilty of racketeering charges — something typically reserved for organized crime — for feeding students answers to standardized tests, or changing test sheets after they were turned in.
None of this excuses the misconduct, it sets a context for it.
 Comparing widespread mortgage fraud and the Atlanta cheating scandal:
When the loans predictably defaulted, mortgage servicing company employees were instructed to lie to customers, claim to have lost loan modification applications when they actually shredded them, and push customers into foreclosure, which maximized servicer fees. One set of workers at Bank of America testified that they received Target gift cards as bonuses for causing foreclosures among customers.

In the foreclosure process, these same companies, with help from “default services” specialists and “foreclosure mill” law firms, fabricated and forged the legal documents required to enforce the terms of the mortgage, because all that documentation was either lost or never recorded. Workers would sign each other’s names, use each other’s notary stamps, pretend to work for other companies, and assign mortgages from the company they didn’t work for to the one they did.
The outcomes:
“You don’t have to consider the Atlanta teachers innocent to know something has gone terribly awry in the country when filling in bubbles on Scan-Tron sheets can get you 20 years, but stealing people’s homes and defrauding pension funds can’t get you indicted. The only way you could see what the justice system has granted bankers as in any way commensurate with what it does to ordinary people is if you grade on a curve.”
Jason Linkins writes:
There’s really no doubt that those convicted did a Very Bad Thing — like, you know, The Worst Thing “since forever” OMG — if for no other reason than that their actions will scandalize other public school educators, who are currently described so frequently in media accounts as “embattled” it’s like their homeric epithet. The only people more demonized by political elites from either party are sadists who attempt to set up demented death-cult caliphates.

And sweet fancy Moses, did they ever lay the wood to those folks they convicted! Per the AP: “Over objections from the defendants’ attorneys, Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter ordered all but one of those convicted immediately jailed while they await sentencing. They were led out of court in handcuffs.”

They took them out in chains! That’s hardcore. That’s humiliating. That’s a sight that will make other people think twice before committing similar crimes — it’s what real accountability looks like.
He concludes: 
“In the end, I think that these Atlanta teachers have learned a lesson: Be a banker. Or a polluter. Or run a for-profit education scam. Or snooker people with predatory mortgage agreements. Or rip off people with penny-stock schemes. Or run a college sports cartel. Or create a super PAC. Or “torture some folks.”

“Just don’t ever change the answers on a standardized test.”


Anonymous said...

Teachers cheat students out of FAPE every year and district administrators condone the practice.

I think denying FAPE should result in resignations or jail time if you are a habitual offender.

Our puppy mill style public school system needs to change and I don't mean the SPS squeaky wheel parent method of change.

Eat Cake

Bingo said...

Yes! Prison time or even execution for teachers who don't agree with parents.

Off with their heads, Marie Antoinette!

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for this, Melissa. The way the Atlanta teachers have been treated has "felt" wrong to me--especially leading them out in shackles--but I've been unable to articulate why until now.

Also, I'm not entirely clear why people are focussing so much ire and anger at teachers. They are the middle-people in all of this. And they are the ones who are trying, seemingly against all odds, to try to teach our kids as well as they can in a broken system. While we have had our share of ineffectual (and wacky) teachers, for the most part, we are extremely grateful for the teachers and education our kids have gotten in the public school system.

North End Parent

Anonymous said...

I just read NEP comment and a little vomit came up. How dare someone hold teachers to any legal standard. It's not like they stole money or something illegal.


Anonymous said...

In Atlanta, teachers were convicted of raketeering, for getting extra money from inflated test scores. Pathetic.

Yeah right Cake Eater, would you be better off without a high school diploma? Call it a puppy mill if you like, but it works.


Anonymous said...

What's pathetic, the crime or the punishment?


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Section 1961(10) of Title 18 provides that the Attorney General of the United States may designate any department or agency to conduct investigations authorized by the RICO statute and such department or agency may use the investigative provisions of the statute or the investigative power of such department or agency otherwise conferred by law. Absent a specific designation by the Attorney General, jurisdiction to conduct investigations for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1962 lies with the agency having jurisdiction over the violations constituting the pattern of racketeering activity listed in 18 U.S.C. § 1961.[3]

In the U.S., civil racketeering laws are also used in federal and state courts.

The Atlanta scheme would never work in SPS, because SPS teachers don't ever listen to the principle. Atlanta must be non-union.


Anonymous said...

Wow 20 years?? That's ridiculous. A baseball player who got caught taking performance enhancing drugs to improve his stats got suspended for maybe 50 games. I understand that this is a little bit more serious because of the students involved but my god 20 years?? Crazy!!!


Anonymous said...

They muzzle teachers here don't they?

- seafarer

Anonymous said...

They're all black. Would they have received 20 years if they were white? Remember the poor black sngle mother who let her kid walk three blocks to the park instead of sitting in McDonald's while she worked, who got jailed and her kids removed by CPS? Recently there was a story on Salon about a white couple complaining about how the police contacted them three times (three different incidents) over their child riding a bike and walking several blocks alone. No jail, no CPS, not even a ticket - not that I think they should have been, just that if they were poor and minority they would have lost their kids! Sigh, just a few years ago I never noticed the rampant institutional racism, not until the news stories of the police killing all the unarmed black and Native Americans. Now it's hard to not see the blatant disparities. The horrible Chase CEO who lied and cheated and caused untold miseries and people losing their homes and savings - he didn't even lose his bonus or his job!

Anonymous said...

Comment at 8:55 is from CCA

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Interesting how many bankers lied about mortgages and cheated, and no one went to jail yet teachers cheat because they don't want their schools disrupted again, they go to jail. Better to be a banker than a teacher.


Anonymous said...

Comments like those from CCA make me wonder why I bother. I give up and will not support these type of ridiculous notions. The color of the teachers shin did not effect the black jury members or maybe it did? Just Maybe they are tired of seeing another black person on trial for a crime they did not need to commit. I personally do buy in to these ridiculous conspiracy theories. I also suppose the black principles were pressured by Mr White to force the teachers to cheat.

The extent of the test-cheating scandals around the country remains unknown because they are hard to find and prove. In Atlanta, the case developed only with the determination of two governors who allowed investigators to do their work with as much time and subpoena power as they needed.

Beacon Hill

Anonymous said...

Black and women. That's the rub. Remember Martha Stewart? How many men have committed insider trading and suffered less?

Black and women. Anybody who argues that is just plain ignorant.

just sayin'

lowell parent said...

what a bunch of pathetic liberals you all are.
The teachers and administrators systematicly got students to cheat and then covered up there actions.
They betrayed the children that they were tasked to care for. All of this so that they could get bonuses. It wasn't about impossible standards, it was about greed and corruption that went on for years.
Of course all the other corruption should also be prosecuted, but just because it isn't does not excuse a group of educators from stealing from children. Stop making excuses for bad teachers.

lowell parent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

Denial of FAPE is breaking the law. And it is stealing from children. Bingo ' s ignorance of that is a crime too.

Lionel said...

And then theres Beacon Hill!

Did that principal ever pay back the bonus?

Linda said...

Diane Ravitch posted a 4th article about the Atlanta Teachers, on April 15.

Before the convictions, the Guardian reported, "Atlanta Superintendent Hall (now deceased)gave principals 3 years to meet testing goals. Those who didn't were replaced. During her ten- year tenure, she replaced 90% of the principals. She received ($365,000) in bonuses."
The Atlanta Journal reported yesterday that the average bonus for charged teachers was $2,600.
The people who should be punished are those who created and drove the system and those who applied the screws so that people had to choose between their jobs or meeting impossible standards.