Several studies have shown that charter schools do not perform any better than traditional public schools and many perform much worse, yet pundits and profiteers continue to push them as the best solution to pseudo-problem of failing schools. Clearly, for the public to continue to buy this delusion, charter schools need to appear highly effective, better than traditional schools. To this end, the head of Crescendo charters, which operates six schools in Los Angeles, asked principals and teachers to open sealed state standardized exams early and let students study them before taking the very same exams. As a result, their annual gains on state test were 10 times higher than other schools.
Despite the fact that administrators were caught red handed, the Los Angeles Board of education is planning to reauthorize Crescendo’s charter. LAUSD officials said they believed that Crescendo’s governing board took appropriate measures to resolve the issue. However, no one was fired. John Allen, the founder and executive director who orchestrated the scam, only received a six-month unpaid suspension and then returned to work at his full salary of $161,333, despite denying that any cheating had occurred. The guilty principals were suspended for just 10 days.
While numerous principals either followed the illegal directive, or put up only feeble resistance, several teachers blew the whistle and alerted authorities, even though they expected retaliatory actions. They were not honored for their courage or honesty. The guilty administrators all received a slap on the wrist and were allowed back to work as foxes guarding the chicken coop. LAUSD blew a golden opportunity to take back some charter schools from a corrupt private company and reclaim some state revenues, which they desperately need as they plan to fire over 5,000 teachers to close their budget deficit. And Crescendo Charters gets to clear its name and carry on with its reputation intact, one more fine example of a noble business doing God’s work for the public good.