Monday, February 27, 2017

WASHINGTON POST'S JAY MATHEWS ASKS FOR CREDIT RECOVERY STORIES

The worst kept secret in the schools is how credit recovery scams courses boost graduation rates. As we return from break, Jay Mathews, veteran education reporter at the Washington Post, is asking for more of the evidence.

The title of his latest piece is: "Teacher Sees how Cheating Can Boost Graduation Rate." To which many high school teachers in America, particularly those working with at risk populations, can respond by saying, "Duh."

Mathews' conclusion:

I have yet to find a school district that has data to show its credit recovery classes improve learning and help students achieve the mastery they failed to get the first time they took a course. Because graduation rates are such a popular measure of school quality, and credit recovery such a cheap way to raise those percentages, districts cannot be trusted to shake their addiction.

If there are other teachers and students with stories about credit recovery, good or bad, my email address is jay.mathews@washpost.com.

This information can certainly be used against us but let's face the reality that when credit recovery takes hold so students receive bogus credits and subsequently meaningless high school diplomas, nobody wins.

The first goal in reforming education should be to bring some integrity back to the schools. Unfortunately, that would almost positively lead to lower graduation rates and some politician would suffer the political fallout so expect the scams to multiply, not decrease. Mathews calls it an addiction. I have to agree.

School choice also accelerates the push to cheat as schools need to look good on paper to attract quality students.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chaz has been posting about "credit recovery" and academic fraud for years. Now the media is interested?

Anonymous said...

dont give the scank the information because the reporter will turn the story into how teachers give away free grades to students in public schools...fake news

James Eterno said...

Chaz has done fantastic work on this issue for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hey james if I receive a 1 year study sabbatical starting in the fall do I still get my retro in both oct 2017 and oct 2018. Sorry to be off topic but the uft can't be trusted to give me correct info

James Eterno said...

UFT can be trusted on this. That said, I will say that since you still are on payroll when on sabbatical, no reason why you should not get retro.

Anonymous said...

Ok thanks James

Anonymous said...

In my school like many others credits were handed out like candy at Halloween. It pulled our graduation rate way up but also allowed our principal to cut and excess staff members Since students didn't need to repeat classes less teachers were needed. It was a huge double win for the administrators as they earned their bonus money.

Anonymous said...

Dwarka from Bryant HS, Queens NY is Queen of credit recovery...and those that report it get a 3020A.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had a union, a union to protect me when I speak up.

Philip Nobile said...

Scrubbing Regents exams used to be the "dirty little secret" of the DOE. But the real secret was and remains that neither the DOE, nor UFT, nor NYSED, gives a damn about the baked-in cheating forever corroding our schools, betraying our neediest students, and turning teachers into cynics and criminals. False grading is against the law. See credit recovery and principals' pass quotas.

When I filled out my first report cards at Washington Irving in 2001 my supervisor ordered me to pass 80% of my Latin students--though 80% were failing. I refused and was let go. A jaded colleague kidded, "Didn't you see the sign outside the entrance: "Abandon All Ethics, Ye Who Enter Here"? On my next assignment at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies I witnessed wide-open orgies of Regents inflation as premeditated in AP Theresa Capra's email to me: "Let's try to focus on getting these kids a 65 … . In a pinch they can get points from writing any old garbage down, you are going to love grading time."

The watchdogs in OSI and SCI are part of the problem. They seemed trained to roll over when probing cheating allegations. I know a teacher who documented an SCI cover-up in a 276-page mandated corruption complaint submitted to the Department of Investigation that oversees SCI. Four months later he received a two-sentence response from DOI General Counsel Michael Siller who had refused to recuse himself from judging his own associates: "The Department of Investigation is fully prepared to conduct, where warranted, investigations of its own personnel, including high-level ones. In this case, however, DOI has determined not to take action on your complaint."

Sadly, whistleblowers are in short supply. Even Mulgrew squelched his proposed Truth Commission. I blame teachers, too. We could put a stop to cheating by just saying no and daring administrators to say otherwise. James, where are you and MORE on this issue?


James Eterno said...

It is a no win situation Philip. We exposed the truth at Jamaica and what did it get us? The school was closed. The UFT has to back people up but they either have no will or no power to do that.

waitingforsupport said...

Retaliation is real. Who wants to risk their pension by fighting a giant? Who cares about the graduation rate when the students can't get into a good college or training program w/o taking remedial classes. Dang it's so obvious.

waitingforsupport said...

You would have better luck getting to the moon via slingshot...sorry

waitingforsupport said...

Blame the teachers for what is bad, pat the DOE/UFT when things are good. Never include the parents or students in the equation--hurry up 55.. I don't give a bloop bloop about 25 years.

waitingforsupport said...

I wonder if they can close ALL of the schools if educators spoke up? Unfortunately many new teachers aren't in the game long term and/or don't care about their integrity.

James Eterno said...

It is a no win situation Philip. We exposed the truth at Jamaica and what did it get us? The school was closed. The UFT has to back people up but they either have no will or no power to do that.

Philip Nobile said...

James, I know you. You're not a no-win guy! And now you and your band of MORE and NA dissidents on the Executive Board have a pulpit, which means power and potential moral authority. Everyone in the system knows that the system is corrupt from top to bottom. Need we count the ways?

As for the crime of false grading, why does it persist in all its mala fides in our public schools? For the same reason it flourished in Atlanta until a state investigation exposed massive cheating, naming 178 principals and teachers. After interviewing 2000+ personnel and scouring some 800,000 documents, the final report concluded in 2011: "A culture of fear and a conspiracy of silence infected this
school system, and kept many teachers from speaking freely about misconduct.From the onset of this investigation, we were confronted by a pattern of interference by top APS [Atlanta Public Schools] leadership in our attempt to gather evidence. These actions delayed the completion of this inquiry and hindered the truth-seeking process." Sound familiar, Jim?

It's not easy blowing the whistle. Neither the DOE nor the UFT offers a Profile in Courage award to teachers who risk filing mandated corruption reports. Actually, the UFT discourages informing on cheating lest its members be badly affected. When I was chapter leader at Cobble Hill and intending to report obscene Regents scrubbing, my District Rep told me to shut up. "You hate kids," he screamed.

Here's an ethical best case scenario: you and your MORE and NA colleagues mount a campaign to end cheating from the inside. You start with basic research, a no-brain survey of members, active and retired, on the extent and practice of faking grades. The Chicago Teachers Union sponsored such a survey. So can we. After taking that first step, who knows? As Chairman Mao said, "Let a hundred flowers bloom." Isn't that why you were elected to the Board?

James Eterno said...

I am not on the Executive Board. I served for ten years but I could not commit to doing the full three year term after the 2016 election.

Anonymous said...

Mayor de Blasio announced the expansion of a pair of programs to keep students out of city jails on Monday, along with the publication of new data showing fewer arrests in city schools.
Great News, student behavior is improving...
The city will expand a program that allows cops to give teens warnings rather than summonses for small amounts of marijuana and disorderly conduct this spring, from 37 schools to 71, de Blasio said.

He also said the city will also expand a program that gives kids free legal advice to any public school that requests it.

That program had been in operation in a handful of Bronx schools and had shown good results, as did the warning program, city officials said.

“We are improving student behavior while keeping our teens out of trouble,” de Blasio said. “Crime is at an all-time low and graduation is at an all-time high.”

School safety data published Monday showed that the number of arrests for school-based incidents in the city fell to 373 in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 430 in the second quarter of the year and 436 in the first quarter of the year.

Year-to-year comparisons were impossible since this is the first year the city has tallied the data in this fashion.

The statistics are promising, but critics have accused de Blasio of cooking the books on crime in city schools.

Philip Nobile said...

James, could you expand on your comment?

James Eterno said...

You asked for a campaign from the inside. That means exec bd I think. I am not on the exec bd.MORE-NAC have 7 members on exec bd.

Anonymous said...


I agree with waitingforsupport. Fewer and fewer teachers seem to have any integrity. The young, less experienced, sincere teachers seemed to be shocked by the lack of morality and at some point make a decision to conform to the corruption or leave.

I don't think it is possible to be a moral administrator. These people are selling their souls to the DOE for the money, to get out of teaching, to screw people over, but certainly not for the children and education's sake.

The corruption is overwhelming. It is easier to turn a blind eye. Other than teachers, I am not convinced that anyone cares.

Philip Nobile said...

James, what's with your indifference to the stink of DOE corruption and the UFT's shameful go-along? So you're not on the Executive Board, but you have a powerful voice and a respected blog. How about helping me set up a survey of teachers, current and retired, regarding false grading that cheats our most vulnerable students decade after decade? Anonymous 6:31 just above says it all. What do you say back?

James Eterno said...

Most teachers have a story or two or three to tell.It would be interesting to see what people would say. Problem is I doubt teachers are willing to admit anything in public as putting their names to it is very risky. Teachers would be placing their livelihoods in jeopardy. We try not to put people at risk. Atlanta did not come out too well for the educators.

waitingforsupport said...

I overheard a once dedicated, experienced teacher who initially refused to "hand out" grades walk out of the principal's office, quietly talking to
himself and asking, "why does it feel as if I just made a deal with the devil"?
He later passed all of his students at the end of each semester. He even
announced in a grade level meeting, "an 80 is really a 65". He couldn't hold on to his integrity and his career so I guess he had to let something go...

waitingforsupport said...

Something needs to be done...
I wonder if folks can remain anonymous while providing documented proof that s*^* is happening and hardworking teachers are being blamed from all sides--DOE, UFT, the media, politicians, parents, students, the people on the left, the people on the right, the 7 new planets, cats, dogs and everything/one under the sun.

Philip Nobile said...

Jim,
You can't mean that teachers should do nothing to stop the cheating. After all, we are mandated corruption reporters, that is, whistleblowers.

(1) When I turned in my Cobble Hill AP and P--only after they ignored my appeal to cease the scrubbing--I made no admission because I didn't scrub.

(2)There are thousands of teachers, current and retired, who've seen what I've seen--I bet you're one of them--and whose hands are clean. Consequently, they have nothing to fear from coming forward with information.

(3) Guilty teachers could be immunized as they were at Cobble Hill at my request.

(4) For starters, how could you possibly object to an anonymous survey(and iceblog campaign) to get a grasp on the issue?

(5) Your bias shows when you write that "Atlanta did not come out too well for the educators." But it wasn't supposed to. The Atlanta educators were found guilty for false grading. Shouldn't our sympathy go to the victims, that is, the students who were cheated by their teachers and principals?

(6)If we seek, compile, and publish stories, attention will be paid by the DOE, UFT, and the media. Who knows what flowers will bloom, if we use our moral imagination?

(7)So can we count on you and your MORE and NA reformers? Pass the word.

waitingforsupport said...

Philip Nobile:
You seem like such a wonderful educator. I wish there were more educators around with your courage. Im on board with you

James Eterno said...

Philip Nobile wrote: "Your bias shows when you write that 'Atlanta did not come out too well for the educators.' But it wasn't supposed to. The Atlanta educators were found guilty for false grading. Shouldn't our sympathy go to the victims, that is, the students who were cheated by their teachers and principals?"

Your damn right my bias is to protect teachers. I am a staunch trade unionist. Where I come from solidarity is essential if we are to advance our interests.

As for the victims, the kids are cheated by the high stakes test and punish system and not by their teachers who are making a living in what is essentially a corrupt system. I would not put one teacher in jeopardy for being forced to play the game. It's not their fault. We are rated based on the test scores. Until we end high stakes accountability based on what are essentially flawed tests, this will continue.

James Eterno said...

I want the Education Transformation Act of 2015 and the 3012 C law repealed and I proposed resolutions at the DA to do this. High stakes testing to rate teachers, principals and judge schools is totally wrong.

Philip Nobile said...

James,
Here's an ethical, legal, and moral test for you:

You're sitting in a Regents grading room with your AP and a dozen teachers in the Social Studies Department. You and your colleagues grade the exams fair and square according to all the state rules and rubrics. But the results are awful. The AP makes a pile of fifty-plus booklets scored between 55-64 and hands out stacks to mostly untenured teachers with orders to turn the failures to passes which is easily accomplished by inflating the heavily weighted essay scores on the 0-5 scale. You know the drill.

Assuming you did not change scores yourself and that you were disgusted by what you witnessed because it destroyed the integrity of the system, enmeshed teachers in criminal activity, and cheated mostly black and brown students of a solid education, what would you do ?

1 say nothing because "solidarity is essential," more essential than fairness, honesty, and incorruptibility

2 say nothing because teachers "are forced to play the game" like Eichman, just cogs in the machine

3 say nothing because the "high-stakes tests" make teachers do it

4 all of the above

As you know, there are many means of combating cheating without jeopardizing teachers as listed in my email to the Washington Post copied to you this afternoon. I don't understand why you are so resistant to no-brain anti-corruption measures.

James Eterno said...

Where I come from teachers don't rat out other teachers. Case closed. You can set up some hypothetical ethical dilemma on whether I would rat out someone who was obviously very sick in some extreme case and I could answer that I might tell as we are mandated reporters. However, the teachers don't rat out other teachers, particularly those who are most vulnerable, is a basic union rule.

I wouldn't call OSI, SCI, the State Ed Department, NYPD, the FBI, CIA, NSA or the French Foreign Legion because a teacher was told to do Regents scrubbing and did it. The rubrics in social studies and English are as subjective as subjective can be and subject to interpretation. I wrote a number of appeals that were accepted and papers were re-scored back in the day. Scrubbing went on everywhere and still does just in different forms nowadays. Call me a criminal now if you like.

High stakes testing and rating teachers, principals and schools based on how students score on flawed exams is the problem. That is why there is massive grade inflation/credit recovery. Everybody knows it.This is where the change needs to be. Going after a symptom (scrubbing) won't change much. People will just find other ways to inflate the grades to make the schools, the principals and yes the teachers look good. Standards don't exist today because too many people will be in trouble if the kids don't pass. Kids know this. That is why I say that restoring integrity to the numbers is absolutely necessary. We have to get the high stakes out of this business.

Sorry but I can't agree with making more teachers the fall guys.

Philip Nobile said...


Your supposed high road, solidarity right-or wrong boast is morally bankrupt. Deep down I doubt you believe what you're saying. Ratting out teachers is not necessary and you know it. I didn't rat out teachers at Cobble Hill. I got them immunity. Instead I ratted out the AP, Principal, LIS, Superintendent, Deputy Chancellor, and SCI. Would your scruples allow you to go after the bigshots that pressure teachers to commit crimes and betray our most vulnerable students? If so, we can work together. That's honest solidarity. Cheating persists because teachers like you, along with Farina and Mulgrew, have neither the nerve nor the conscience to do the right thing. And it pains me to write such words about somebody I otherwise admire.

James Eterno said...

Did some teachers take the fall in Atlanta? From CNN:

The sentences
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's investigative journalism is credited with first examining the corruption within the city's public school system. On Tuesday, the newspaper published photos of each of those who took plea deals and the sentences they received.
* Donald Bullock was first. Witnesses testified that Bullock urged them to change test answers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The former testing coordinator was ordered to serve five years probation, six months of weekends behind bars, pay a $5,000 fine and perform 1,500 hours of community service. As part of his deal, Bullock agreed to waive his right to appeal.
* Angela Williamson, a former teacher, was ordered to serve two years in prison. She was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 1,500 hours of community service.
* Pamela Cleveland, a former teacher, was ordered to serve one year home confinement, pay a $1,000 fine and perform 1,000 hours of community service. "I am guilty of the charges against me," Cleveland said in court.
* Michael Pitts, a former schools executive, was accused of telling teachers to cheat and then telling them not to talk to Georgia Bureau of Investigators who were looking into the scandal. He was ordered to serve seven years in prison, perform 2,000 hours of community service and pay a $25,000 fine.
* Tamara Cotman, a former schools administrator, was ordered to serve seven years in prison, pay a $25,000 fine and perform 2000 hours of community service.
* Dana Evans, a former principal, was ordered to serve one year and perform 1,000 hours of community service.
*Tabeeka Jordan, former assistant principal, was ordered to serve two years in prison, perform 1,500 hours of community service and pay $5,000 fine
* Theresia Copeland, a former test coordinator, was ordered to serve one year in prison, perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
* Diane Buckner-Webb, a former teacher, was ordered to serve one year in prison, perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
CNN's Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

James Eterno said...

A truth commission would protect the teachers and administrators. My friend Marc Epstein called for one as did Mr. Nobile. Instead, the Bloomberg culture has just continued under de Blasio's Chancellor Farina.

James Eterno said...

By the way I believe what I'm saying. The primary job of the union is to protect its members.

Also, we exposed the fraud at Jamaica when kids were just given credits for nothing. We made sure it was done so that no UFT member was put in harm's way.

Ask the members at Jamaica if the UFT Chapter looked out for them.

Philip Nobile said...

James,
Here's your problem: abandoning integrity, ethics, morality, and presumably your own classroom standards (not okay for your students to cheat, right?), you say false grading is okay, even desirable because it protects teachers from retribution no matter the cost to the children, in particular, our Neediest Tenth. Better that we, their guardians, risk their chance of lives fulfilled than risk our professional comforts by doing or saying anything about the corruption corroding our school system.

You put yourself in league with scoundrels like my Cobble Hill AP who emailed me a month before Regents that I shouldn't worry that my Global kids weren't ready: "“Let’s try to focus on getting these kids a 65 … In a pinch, they can get points by writing any old garbage down, you are going to love grading time.” Is that how you feel when you are grading Regents? "Any old garbage," really?

From all you've said in this exchange, you've probably witnessed more that one scrubbing session in your career, and may have partaken yourself (because you didn't think it was wrong, of course). If not, why not, I wonder. As for the more current forms of false grading--spec., phony credit recovery and pass quotas--they're okay, too? Have you dabbled in either? Where do you draw the line?

P.S. You are a good sport to keep this exchange going. I know other bloggers who are afraid of the subject.







James Eterno said...

Philip Nobile said: "You put yourself in league with scoundrels like my Cobble Hill AP who emailed me a month before Regents that I shouldn't worry that my Global kids weren't ready: "“Let’s try to focus on getting these kids a 65 … In a pinch, they can get points by writing any old garbage down, you are going to love grading time.” Is that how you feel when you are grading Regents? "Any old garbage," really?"

Since I think the Regents Exams themselves do not measure much and I taught from the time before they were graduation requirements (we had the RCT as a backup and the local diploma), I look at things a little differently. We are arguing from two totally different perspectives.

Any competent teacher can tell you who deserves to pass and who deserves to graduate. Once the high stakes for schools, teachers and administrators were attached to the graduation rate and the Regents, the cheating was inevitable. You are not going to get the integrity back until you take away the high stakes.

Also for the record I now teach in a non-Regents school (except for English) and the standards are actually tougher than when I was in a regular school.

Philip Nobile said...

You are fixated on state exams, now all graded extramurally except in charters. But what about credit recovery and false course grades that are the basis of most cheating today? What's your tortured defense for passing kids who don't do the required classwork and homework? "Any competent teacher can tell you who deserves to pass and who deserves to graduate." Then why have objective standards at all?

I note that you're dodging questions about your own implied involvement in cheating and cover-up. As a advocate of false grading, you should tell your story. Let's hear it since you have no shame.

James Eterno said...

Totally oppose all the credit recovery scams, and that is what they are, scams. I don't advocate false grading or passing quotas either. Contract says teachers grades are to be respected.

As I said previously, I wrote appeals on Regents grades saying the rubric was misapplied and was able to get some re-scored. I followed the rules. The rubrics, as I also stated, are completely subject to interpretation.

You ever go to one of those extramural markings? "Holistic" marking is alive and well. I don't have to do it any longer (thank God) because I have worked in a consortium school since 2014.

You have decided to make this very personal calling me an "advocate of false grading." You also have me in a "league with scoundrels." No need to make it personal.

waitingforsupport said...

James
how did you guys ensure that no uft member is put in harm's way? Can that method still be used?

waitingforsupport said...

Great debate/discussion. Name calling doesn't help

James Eterno said...

Email me at a dress above please.

philip nobile said...

You don't advocate false grading (e.g., scrubbing Regents, credit recovery scams, pass quotas)? That's exactly what you do when you say above that you're down with teachers who cheat because they "are forced to play the game," and that "solidarity is essential," meaning more essential than honest grading, and when you wrap yourself in virtuous omerta re "ratting out" teachers, as if I recommended such, as if that were the only means of blowing the whistle. Your abdication of integrity, your trashing of your own classroom standards, and worst, elevating your professional interests over the interests of your desperate, low achieving students truly puts you in the company of my "any old garbage" AP. Explain how you are different from her ethically? And please answer my questions about your own experience with false grading as witness and/or participant. Since you're damn proud of your stance, you've got no reason to cover up.




James Eterno said...

I am not going to convince you that the high stakes tests are the problem.You keep making it personal by now comparing me with your any old garbage AP and asking me for more personal stories. I did my best to follow the rubrics but I believe they are very subject to interpretation.

For example, if one teacher rates an essay answer a 0 out of 5 and a second says it is a 3 then it goes to a third reader. If the third says it is a 3, do you say the third is an ethically challenged crook? Please don't tell me about norming. Some student answers don't look much like the sample ones the State Ed Department gives out. Anyone can interpret the rubric in a more lenient or less lenient way. I haven't scored in years but I could easily help a teacher defend most grades, high or low. The tests and their high stakes are the problem, not the marking.

I know this a real big issue for you Philip but isn't it possible that someone could disagree on part of it and have a defensible position? Or, are you going to hound me until I get frustrated and shut it down or admit I sat there with an eraser changing bubbled in answers to make kids pass. I never did it nor saw it. As for third readers reconciling scores as per rules, that is part of the process.

If your AP was smart, he could have just put all the at risk kids together in one or two testing rooms and steered their essay envelopes to the three most generous teachers. My point is there is no need to cheat. The rules give enough flexibility to get the results you are after, more or less, and stay within them. It is a little more complicated now that the grading is done offsite but the process can still be manipulated.

Philip Nobile said...

If calling you an "advocate" of cheating for arguing that false grading is a necessary survival tactic for teachers in a corrupt system, meaning that it's perfectly okay for us to silently and cowardly collaborate with the DOE's issuance of "meaningless diplomas" (your term) to our neediest students lest we risk harm to ourselves, is a rhetorical stretch, can you live with "apologist"?

You gave your ethically lax game away in your last reply where you volunteered a smooth and sneaky method of false grading in lieu of the flagrant heavy handed tactics of my Cobble Hill AP: "If your AP was smart, he [she] could have just put all the at risk kids together in one or two testing rooms and steered their essay envelopes to the three most generous teachers." Yikes.

Since high stakes tests are the real evil in this instance and you don't blame teachers for passing failures, it must okay for your students to cheat on them as well. Or do you have a double standard: cheating is all right for us but impermissible for students? See what happens when you trash honesty: anything goes!

You wrote in your post: "The first goal in reforming education should be to bring some integrity back to the schools." Undoubtedly, the quickest fix involves persuading teachers to say no to all cheating schemes. So what's your plan, James?

James Eterno said...

My plan is to end my part in this discussion which I should have done when you compared teachers scrubbing Regents to Eichman. Double Yikes!

Philip Nobile said...

Oh please. Be serious. I did not compare teachers to Eichmann. Rather I was spritzing YOU via comparing your just-following-orders excuse for teacher cheating when I quoted your remark that teachers were "forced to play the game," to which I added sarcastically, "like Eichman[m], just cogs in the machine." Clearly, I was referencing YOUR pretense that teachers have no choice. And just as clearly you are belatedly twisting my meaning because you realize that you cannot defend your ethical vacuum re elevating teacher interests over those of our most disadvantaged students. I pray that you will find the intellectual nerve to rejoin the conversation and rethink your position.