A fortnight ago, my column focused on how Philadelphia’s schoolteachers have joined public-school teachers in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Columbus, New York and Washington in changing student scores on academic achievement tests. Teachers have held grade fixing parties, sometimes wearing rubber gloves to hide fingerprints. In some cases, poorly performing students were excused from taking exams to prevent them from dragging down averages. As a result of investigations, a number of schoolteachers and administrators have been suspended, fired or indicted by states attorneys general.
Most of these cheating scandals have occurred in predominantly black schools across the nation. At one level, it’s easy to understand – but by no means condone – the motivation teachers have to cheat. Their pay, retention and promotions depend on how well their students perform.
Very often, teachers must deal with an impossible classroom atmosphere in which many, if not most, of the students are disorderly, disobedient and alien and hostile to the education process. Many students pose a significant safety threat. The latest statistics available, published by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in a report titled “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012,” tell us that, nationwide between 2007 and 2008, about 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked by students.
Should any of this criminal behavior be tolerated? Should unruly students be able to halt the education process? And, a question particularly for black people: Are we in such good educational shape that we can afford to allow some students to make education impossible? A report supported in part by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, titled “Reducing Suspension among Academically Disengaged Black Males” suggests a tolerance for disruptive students.