Who’s the Criminal?

In Akron, Ohio a woman who put her children in a better public school was sent to jail when private investigators hired by the school found that she did not live in the district.  Her father did and she sometimes stayed with him, but that was not enough to keep her out of prison for seeking a better education for her children.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta there is evidence of widespread cheating on standardized tests by teachers and administrators as well as a potential cover-up in the investigation of those accusations.  No one has gone to jail (and no one ever will) for robbing children of a quality education and then lying about their true achievement by cheating on the state test to hide that fact.

A few years ago Atlanta and other Georgia districts violated the state law to prohibit the social promotion of students who failed the 3rd grade reading test.  There was a procedure for exempting students if the schools and parents met and decided it was in the best interest of a student to be promoted, but many districts exempted virtually all of the students and did so without actually holding the required meetings.  They already knew what was best for children regardless of what the law said.

I could keep going with stories along these lines, but I think you get the idea.  So, who’s the real criminal here?

9 Responses to Who’s the Criminal?

  1. Ann In L.A. says:

    Has the research into retention changed in the last five to ten years? I have a stack of journal articles saying that retained kids never do as well as they would have done if they had been promoted.

    There is also a study (Pediatrics, Vol 100, No 4, Oct 1997, pp. 654-661) pointing out that teenagers who are old-for-grade tend to get into trouble (sex, drugs, crime, etc.) and drop out at a higher rate than kids who are not old-for-grade.

    At least one article pointed out the sad fact: whether you promote a poorly-performing student or retain them, they will never catch up without specific intervention and tutoring aimed at boosting their performance. That’s something few people are actually talking about.

  2. Hi Ann,

    Yes, the research has changed, including some work that I’ve done with Marcus Winters. (See “Revisiting Grade Retention: An Evaluation of Florida’s Test-Based Promotion Policy,” Education Finance and Policy, Fall 2007, Vol. 2, No. 4:319-340. )

    Besides, educators can’t violate the law because they’ve read something in a journal. If we are going to have government-controlled schools, then the people who work in those schools have to follow government policies even if they think the policy is mistaken.

  3. Daniel Earley says:

    This mother in Akron should become the next Rosa Parks. Seriously, this is a potent story.

  4. It’s a red herring. The fact that educators have been cheating and lying in no way excuses this woman from bilking taxpayers out of tens of thousands of dollars for her precious snowflakes. Though I agree that there ought be some teeth in laws that hold officials accountable for the money that is spent in their districts and on fair testing. I should rather not have schools, but as you said, if we’re going to have them, the people running them ought follow the rules. 🙂

  5. Greg Forster says:

    Hang on. Her father lived in the district, and she sometimes lived there with him. You’re telling me that for calling that her residence she deserves jail time? If she lied, let there be a penalty, but – jail? If it’s such a heinous crime, why not save all the taxpayer expense of imprisonment and just put her in thumbscrews?

    • I don’t buy the “sometimes lived” thing at all. If she actually LIVED there, all this would be perfectly legal.

      I know from enrolling my own children in preschool that the papers you must sign specifically state that you will be held liable for tuition and/or be subject to prosecution if you provide false or misleading documents as to residency in order to send children to school. The money spent per pupil makes what she did way beyond petty theft along the lines of stealing a donut or something.

      If I were to bilk some old lady out of $30,000 people would want my hide and I’d be in prison a good long time. JUST because the story is about a poor black lady and a better school district, that does not make it any more ok. Stealing is stealing. Just TEN days’ jail time and 3 years probation for $30,000 stolen from local taxpayers? Not much of a deterrent, but better than nothing.

      • Daniel Earley says:

        What a person can purchase or bilk another of in the free marketplace is one thing, but there’s something smacking a bit of fiefdoms complete with feudal lords when applying such logic to government services for alleged universal civil rights (even if not natural rights).

        Structuring society so that one class of person privileged by an arbitrary government boundary can “purchase” from his Lords a superior version of a “public good” to the exclusion of someone down the road of lesser landed gentry status … well, that converts education into a “club good.” The ability for a privileged class to exclusively buy such societal advantages from government doesn’t sit well with our American ideals when speaking of education.

  6. Point taken. I think our ideals are one thing, but no one really wanted to stick around in the cities when desegregation happened, did they? NO amount of social engineering is ever going to make things equal or even equitable. We will just move away from problem areas or pull our kids from school.

  7. […] Greene makes a basic case of compare and contrast to ask the powerful rhetorical question: “Who’s the Criminal?” Indeed. Opinion writers on the Left and on the Right make the case that Williams-Bolar could become […]

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