Another public-school cheating scandal in Philly?
posted at 2:43 pm on April 4, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
In Atlanta, federal prosecutors indicted 35 “educators” for a conspiracy to cheat standardized test scores in public schools to cover up their failure to actually educate. In Philadelphia, meanwhile, a similar scandal seems to have slid under the federal-investigator radar, at least for the moment. Two principals have been forced to resign, but they’re not even going to have to give up their pensions:
Two city educators have lost their administrative credentials in the first public actions taken in a widespread Philadelphia standardized test-cheating scandal.
Former Philadelphia School District principals Barbara McCreery of Communications Technology High School and Lolamarie Davis-O’Rourke of Locke Elementary both voluntarily surrendered their administrative certificates in lieu of discipline last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Education said Wednesday.
Both confessed to cheating, an official with firsthand knowledge of the investigations said. According to state records, McCreery erased and changed students’ answers, created an answer key, and manipulated student data; O’Rourke also erased and changed answers and gave students answers.
But hey, at least these dishonest public employees will never teach again and have access to those student tests again. Right? Wrong:
Though they gave up administrative licenses, McCreery and O’Rourke get to retain their Pennsylvania teaching certificates, but any potential employers would be notified they lost their supervisory credentials.
It also appears that McCreery and O’Rourke will keep their pensions.
Why not? Well, unless they get convicted of a crime related to their work, the pension system has to pay out their commitment. If they get jobs teaching again, the two will be able to add to that pension. So why not have police charge them, as the feds did with the “educators” in Atlanta?
Unlike the Atlanta cheating scandal, where 35 educators have been indicted on criminal charges, neither McCreery nor O’Rourke will be subject to criminal penalties, state officials have said.
Beginning with the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, educators had to sign affidavits acknowledging that if they tampered with tests, they would be subject to criminal charges; without that affidavit, officials don’t believe they had the juice to press charges.
Say what? I’d wager that most of the people in prisons for felony convictions never signed statements acknowledging that committing crimes such as fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud before being charged and convicted in court. Ignorance of the law is not a defense. If a defendant can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have criminal intent — and falsifying student tests in order to boost their own performance rating certainly qualifies as intent — then one doesn’t need a signed pledge from the defendant that they promise never to be criminals before charging them with crimes.
Nor are these isolated cases. Fifty-three schools in Philadelphia are under suspicion of having falsified their test results. The children in these schools have been cheated out of an education, and their parents and fellow taxpayers have been cheated out of the accountability they deserve for the expenditure of public funds in these schools. If the only outcome from that is early retirement with full pension for the cheaters, don’t expect that to stop any time soon.