El Paso Cheating Scandal

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

One guy who isn’t going to be nominated for this year’s Al Copeland award is Lorenzo Garcia, disgraced ex-superintendent of El Paso schools. He’s at the center of the latest major cheating scandal connected to NCLB. From the New York Times:

Students identified as low-performing were transferred to charter schools, discouraged from enrolling in school or were visited at home by truant officers and told not to go to school on the test day. For some, credits were deleted from transcripts or grades were changed from passing to failing or from failing to passing so they could be reclassified as freshmen or juniors…

In 2008, Linda Hernandez-Romero’s daughter repeated her freshman year at Bowie High School after administrators told her she was not allowed to return as a sophomore. Ms. Hernandez-Romero said administrators told her that her daughter was not doing well academically and was not likely to perform well on the test.

Ms. Hernandez-Romero protested the decision, but she said her daughter never followed through with her education, never received a diploma or a G.E.D. and now, at age 21, has three children, is jobless and survives on welfare.

“Her decisions have been very negative after this,” her mother said. “She always tells me: ‘Mom, I got kicked out of school because I wasn’t smart. I guess I’m not, Mom, look at me.’ There’s not a way of expressing how bad it feels, because it’s so bad. Seeing one of your children fail and knowing that it was not all her doing is worse.” [ea]

Accountability systems don’t work when those being held accountable percieve the system as political and illegitimate. Schools need these systems but they’re not going to work as long as education is a government monopoly. More on that here and here.

Via Bill Evers

6 Responses to El Paso Cheating Scandal

  1. JDE says:

    What’s funny is that Diane Ravitch has been plugging this story, as if she’s blissfully unaware that it may not help her cause to highlight public school officials being (1) dishonest scumbags who 2) were dumping poor students on charter schools (the reverse of what she is always complaining about).

  2. allen says:

    Two things:

    1) This is just peachy. Cheating means there’s something to obtain or avoid that’s worth taking the risk of getting caught cheating. Not that long ago a lousy superintendent wouldn’t have cheated on the tests because he was indifferent to the results. Obviously, that’s no longer true in Texas.

    2) How do you “dump” students on a charter? Does the charter law in Texas allow district administration to force students on a charter? And JDE is right, dumping low-performing students on a charter is the polar opposite of cherry-picking charters are accused of.

  3. William says:

    Looks like JDE and allen have beaten me to it.

    The hypocrisy of Ravitch’s criticism (which is echoed by many) towards charter and voucher schools is pretty obvious in this scandal.

    I really wonder now how often this happens elsewhere. Could it be that some school choice programs have been sabotaged this way?

  4. Matthew Ladner says:


    Charter operators here in Arizona will tell you that some of the districts purge undesirable high school kids after count day. They have their funding for next year under the current antiquated formula, so it is not much of a loss to run them off.

    Sometimes it could be a bit more subtle. A principal could be having a suspension meeting with parents and recommend a “school down the road” that “specializes” in cases like little Johnny. Perhaps if you put in for a transfer, there would be no need to go through this difficult expulsion process…

    This is not the sort of thing that the state can collect data on, but the perverse incentives are certainly out there.

    • allen says:

      Well, that is Arizona which will have differences in its charter school law and the article said “Students identified as low-performing were transferred to charter schools”.

      “Transferred” certainly sounds like the school district could make the unilateral decision to dump a kid on a charter.

      Now I know that charters are precluded from selecting, students, selecting student being the privilege of school districts, but I was unaware of state law that allowed districts to force charters to accept students.

      I also know about “push-outs” the Detroit Public Schools district having been accused of the practice a couple of decades ago but the article’s wording suggests that charters in El Paso could be used a storage facilities for low performers which suggests either law or influence were on the side of the superintendent.

      I thought maybe you edu-mavens might know whether it’s just bad writing on the part of Manny Fernandez, the Times writer or whether there is, indeed, law in Texas that gives a superintendent the authority to force a student on a charter school.

      In any case, the very gratifying, and highly-educational, result is that this bum and some of his assistant bums are going to be serving time.

      Given that public education administrative personnel are not exactly cut from the same cloth as Mafia wise guys I expect the prospect a stretch in the pen will have a rather more salubrious effect on public education administrative personnel then it’s had on Mafia wise guys.

  5. From the Times story: “In June, Mr. Garcia pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. One charge was connected to the scandal, and the other involved his efforts to secure a $450,000 no-bid contract for a consulting firm run by his former mistress.

    Here in Hawaii, our former Superintendent, Paul LeMahieu, lost his job after he arranged for Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL, nee “Pacific Regional Education Laboratory”, a subsidiary of Northwest Regional Education Laboratory) to award a $200,000 non-bid contract to his mistress, out of a larger $600,000 contract between the Hawaii DOE and PREL. He also rigged test scores, by the simple device of switching the years tested from six to fifth grade and from tenth to ninth and expressing the result as reducations in the percent of Hawaii’s students below the national average. To see how this is “rigged”, just understand that poor performance compounds: Hawaii students lose ground against the US as a whole. Te deficit increases with every added school year. Since they start, at birth, at the national average, on average, comparing the position of this year’s fifth graders to last year’s sixth graders will create the (false) appearance of improvement with no real change. No one noticed this sleight of hand. Our nit-wit education reporters ate it up.

    He did lose his job for the mistress thing. He did not go to prison. PREL and the Hawaii DOE are still in business.

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