Earlier this month we received the news that the Department of Education finally confirmed John Dewey High School was granting credit recovery to kids for doing virtually nothing in a program the kids called "easy pass". Then on Friday it came out that nineteen cops were fixing crime reports. Both incidents were considered big news.
I've got some news for the news media: Manipulation of government data is not really news.
Once government policy made job performance for precinct commanders, principals and teachers dependent on lower crime numbers and higher test scores as well as improved graduation rates, it was an invitation to cook the books since much of what happens in terms of crime on the streets and achievement in the schools is beyond the control of individual police and educators. People do what they have to in order to keep their jobs.
My brother Professor John Eterno along with Professor Eli Silberman have proven in a professional peer reviewed study how crime numbers in New York City are about as legitimate as $3 bills and the press has documented numerous reports of educators playing with grades. Those of us who work in either field have all heard stories about how making the numbers look good, not integrity of the statistics, is the goal of management. Teachers and cops do our best under the circumstances to do our jobs with dignity while many of us deal with direct or subtle pressure to keep the numbers looking right. One of the reasons Jamaica High School, where I worked for 28 years, was closed was because most of the staff refused to play the game and exposed transcript fixing as soon as it was discovered.*
Here is the major difference between crime fighters and educators: The police have real unions who defend their members with everything they have while educators are often abandoned by unions.
According to the Daily News, Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said the downgrading of crimes has been a systemic problem in the NYPD for years. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch was quoted in the same article also and he stood by his members: "Police officers follow the dictates of their bosses. Management has consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors."
Next we hear from Captains Endowment head Roy Richter on Lorenzo Johnson, the Precinct Commander who is being removed from his post: "He's well respected. He's been doing a good job."
Compare and contrast the police union responses to the reactions of teacher and principal union leaders when grade fixing in schools is exposed. Do they stand by their members who receive the same kind of managerial pressure to play with numbers by passing students no matter what? Here is the answer from Chalkbeat when the John Dewey cheating scandal was finally confirmed by the Department of Education:
"Representatives for the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents (John Dewey Principal Kathleen) Elvin, did not respond to emails seeking comment."
What about reaction to the grade fixing scandal in Atlanta?
Here is a portion of a piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2012 that quotes Randi Weingarten:
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the two major teachers' unions, told the AJC that the findings suggest the need for more investigation in many school districts across the country.
"It should go to another level," she said, such as systematic analysis of erasures on test papers and, if necessary, investigations by law enforcement officers--both of which helped prove widespread cheating in Atlanta Public Schools.
Note that there is no defense offered up by our union's President for the educators who ended up in jail. They certainly felt pressure from above.
You can bet the police won't end up in prison for doing essentially the same thing as the educators. Perhaps having strong unions that back their members does make a difference.
*Please note that I am not talking here about scrubbing where another set of eyes looks at a Regents paper that is close to passing to see if they can legitimately find another credit or two on an essay. If the score is off by more than one point after two readers in social studies have graded a paper, a third reader is in fact required. Scrubbing went on since the Regents exams began. Having bulges of 65% scores is not a scandal. The passing score is set in Albany and the conversion charts are certainly questionable as to what constitutes a passing grade. I am also not concerned about an appeal where the scoring rubric may have been applied inappropriately. Furthermore, I am not worried about administrators who question teachers who hold students to standards that are way above the grade level for the students they are teaching. I am referring to real pressure to pass students like having a passing quota or transcript fixing or erasures or giving the hard sell to grant credit on state exams for students who write nothing that any reasonable person would think is correct. The pressure to manipulate grades is widespread because of the consequences to educators if the numbers are not what the state says they should be. I understand, although I certainly don't agree with, what administration did at Jamaica.