I just picked up the 600 pages of reports on wrongdoing and misconduct by city school employees that got sent to Chancellor Joel Klein in 2007 and 2008, but never surfaced publicly. The Post highlighted some of the contents: a Stuyvesant librarian’s unauthorized field trips to a Quiz Bowl, a substitute teacher who showed students a movie in which he appeared with a semi-naked woman.
But the biggest story is what is not in this file: Any investigations into top or even mid-level Department of Education officials, or any evidence of educators fudging student performance data to make their school look better.
The absence is matched by a similar drought among those investigations that have been publicized. The development suggests one of two conclusions. On one hand, the new reports could disprove critics’ concerns that growing pressure to produce higher test scores and graduate more students has led some educators to cheat. They could also squash the speculation that the Special Commissioner of Investigations, Richard Condon, somehow managed to cover up looks into higher-profile targets. On the other hand, the cynical conclusion is that high-level misbehavior and cheating are happening with little intervention from an office whose purpose is to investigate schools for misconduct.
We’ll have to keep digging to figure out where the truth lies. There’s another office inside the Department of Education, the Office of Special Investigations, that has its own set of investigators. It’s possible that OSI, to which SCI sometimes forwards tips, is taking the bulk of these more salacious (and damning) allegations.
What you can see in the SCI letters, which we obtained by a FOIL request, is a sense of what the office does investigate. Most of the cases report on school staff (usually not teachers) sleeping with students and staff finagling money from the school that they hadn’t earned. But there’s also an interesting report from May 2008, when investigators nabbed a Manhattan math teacher for sharing confidential student records with another teacher, without the consent of his principal.
The teacher, Carlos Grajales, said he was using the records to help assign students to a new algebra class, according to the report sent to Klein. “Grajales believed that if he conducted a comparison of the Math proficiency of the students, then he could properly identify the students who did not belong in the class,” the report says.
That means the worst-case scenario is that when teachers complain about principals and guidance counselors fudging results to make their school look better, no investigation happens. But when a teacher tries to use data to improve the educational situation for his students, he gets in trouble.