Cheating is an unforgivable sin in any academic setting. In most cases, students caught cheating face, at a minimum, failure on the assignment -- and more severe cases can lead to suspensions or expulsion. And why not? You need to send that goddamned message early: You can't get ahead by cheating.
Unless you are a human person living on Earth.
Ah, but there's one little complication. It's not just the students that benefit from a good test score; federal funding is tied to test scores for programs like No Child Left Behind. So everybody has motivation to rig the game a little.
"What's this? A goddamn apple isn't going to secure my salary. Stop crying and get me a B-."
And so, in a classic case of "do as I say and not as I do," teachers in Baltimore and Atlanta school systems were caught changing scores on the standardized state tests. If you're thinking they did some complicated hack of the computerized records or distributed answers to students, they weren't quite that sophisticated. No, they literally went test by test, erased the wrong answers and filled in the correct ones. By hand. On hundreds of tests.
Granted, you can totally tell when an answer has been erased, and it doesn't take a rocket scientists to notice that virtually every changed answer was now correct. But, the teachers behind this apparently felt that no one would find it suspicious that hundreds of students had multiple moments of enlightenment in which the correct answer suddenly dawned on them.
They were wrong. The tests were flagged by the automated test checker that verifies the test results. What? You mean somebody checks these things?
George Washington Elementary alone estimated that "hundreds of state test booklets" had been altered, while the Atlanta schools found an estimated 250,000 answers changed. By hand. Hey, criticize their ethics, but these people were willing to goddamn work for it.
It's hard enough to get kids to come to school, and when they have to report to a dilapidated school system where they might, you know, get shot, it can be damn near impossible. And truancy can be a big problem for a school, as its funding is tied to how many kids are actually filling desks.
Great turnout today, guys.
Detroit Public Schools, however, found an answer to all of that. See, they lose money if kids don't show up, but the people in charge of the funding aren't there every day to keep count. No, Michigan funds its public schools based on the amount of students that report on two state-mandated "count days." These count days are announced in advance, and state funding equates to about $7,550 per student that shows up to school on that day, which translates to an assload of cash for the school system. Therefore, Detroit's schools pull out the stops to make sure that the kids show up on these days no matter what.
"I don't care if you and your sister are upset, your Grandma's death just cost us over $15 grand."
This means a "count day" will feature everything from free ice cream to in-class parties. Some schools hold basketball tournaments during school hours. Bethune Academy, among others, had a movie/popcorn day with the promise of lots of game playing. Duffeld School promised "free time and a day of fun" while Gardner Elementary was giving away "special gifts for attendance."
None of that boring learning for you today now that you're in school. Here's an Xbox.
That's right; when all else fails, bribe the damn kids to come to school. It's not like it's a law to attend or anything.
Most of the schools, in fact, were having raffles for door prizes throughout the day, including bikes and MP3 players. Detroit City High School even raffled off free extra credit; we're not sure how that doesn't constitute academic fraud, but hey, whatever works for them. On top of this, students also get entered into a larger raffle for prizes including a 42-inch plasma flatscreen TV or a laptop computer. And all of this is just for walking in the goddamned door.
"Well done for existing, Tommy! Have a lollipop."
Are they teaching the kids a bad lesson? We're not even sure any more. Because the lesson seems to be one that applies fairly well in the real world: When times are desperate, you do whatever it goddamn takes.
For more ways educational institutions have lost it, check out 8 Real Grade Schools That Went Completely Insane. And see what you should really be learning in The 10 Most Important Things They Didn't Teach You In School.