Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cheaters’ Prep

Posted at Joanne Jacobs.

This is one good reason why any teacher or administrator who is caught in one scandal should be immediately suspended and then thoroughly investigated for other possible incidents of fraud or inappropriate conduct.

Already accused of cheating on the state exam for two years in a row, an Oakland charter school also appears to have changed transcripts to qualify students for college. The San Francisco Chronicle has documents for five students.

In spring 2006, teachers’ records for an 11th-grade boy at University Preparatory Charter Academy in East Oakland showed an F and five D’s.

His report card for the same period featured three D’s and three C’s.

His transcript — the one received by the California State University campuses that accepted him — glowed with three A’s and three B’s.

A teacher at the school e-mailed me months ago to ask my advice on how to inform the hands-off board what was going on. Finally, eight former teachers blew the whistle, blaming Principal Isaac Haqq, the school’s founder, for altering grades, misnaming courses and blocking low-scoring students from taking state exams.

The 11th-grader’s records for spring 2006 show that his grade-point average jumped from 1.55 on his report card to 2.93 on his college transcript.

Besides the grade changes, his records also reveal morphed course names. What is called “math” on the teachers’ records becomes “math analysis” on the boy’s report card, and “trigonometry” on his college transcript.

“English” is changed to “English Literature” on the report card and “English 3″ on the transcript. “History” transforms to “World Civilization” and then to “U.S. History.”

Of the school’s 475 students, 279 are on independent study; they don’t attend classes. Teachers charge low scorers are dumped into independent study, which doesn’t cost the school much, and listed as 12th graders, which means they’re exempt from state testing. In fall 2006, 365 of the school’s 475 students were listed as 12th graders; only 100 seniors graduated in June and 40 went on to college.

Some graduates who got into elite colleges praise Haqq’s dedication. Teachers say he focused on the best students and set the rest up for failure.

Principal Haqq, who has a history of “breaking the rules,” as the Chronicle put it, has resigned. The school is likely to lose its charter in August, barring a miraculous turnaround.

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